Tokyo Compression by German-born Hong Kong-based photographer Michael Wolf is a collection of images showcasing local commuters through the aperture of foggy subway car doors. at once a snapshot of the capital city's density, urban infrastructure, and societal makeup, the voyeuristic series captures subjects ranging from sleepy indifference to dazed confusion.
If we are to make it to the future, we need to be less like Seattle and more like Tokyo. And the good news is this: humans are adapted for dense urban life. We are the really social mammal. Recall the opening of Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's book Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding...
Each year 1.6 billion passengers fly to destinations around the world. Patiently we line up to be checked and patted down by someone we've never seen before. We file on board an aluminum cylinder and cram our bodies into narrow seats, elbow to elbow, accommodating one another for as long as the flight takes. With nods and resigned smiles, passengers make eye contact and then yield to latecomers pushing past. When a young man wearing a backpack hits me with it as he reaches up to cram his excess paraphernalia into an overhead compartment, instead of grimacing or bearing my teeth, I smile weakly, disguising my irritation. Most people on board ignore the crying baby or pretend to.
A little later in the book, Hrdy imagines if the plane were filled with chimpanzees:
Given the oddity of my sociobiological musings, I cannot help but wonder what would happen if my fellow human passengers suddenly morphed into another species of ape. What if I were traveling with a planeload of chimpanzees? Any of one of us would be lucky to disembark with all 10 fingers and toes still attached, with the babies still breathing and unmaimed. Bloody earlobes and other appendages would litter the aisles. Compressing so many highly impulsive strangers into a tight space would be a recipe for mayhem.
Here is what the great primatologist Frans de Waal has to say about human density...
Humans do not need to use space to resolve conflicts.