“Usefulness is inversely proportional to status,” Deyan Sudjic writes in his new book “The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects.” “The more useless an object is, the more highly valued it will be.”

The author is referring to the relative value of art versus industrial design – but the observation can be applied equally well to cities such as San Francisco. Think about it: The physical need to occupy a specific patch of earth has never been less important to one’s success. Everything we might acquire can be tracked down online; most culture we seek can be procured through a handheld device. Our 21st century equivalent of an office tower turns out to be a cafe with free Wi-Fi.