There are a million and one rankings out there scoring cities on just about every metric you can think of, and as someone who writes about these things, I am sent what feels like nearly all of them. They rarely hold too many surprises. 

Finland (or a near neighbor) is always the world's happiest country. Somewhere boring but pleasant like Zurich or Vienna is crowned most livable year after year. Everyone hypes various towns as the "new Silicon Valley," but Silicon Valley remains the world's top destination for entrepreneurs. 

But, after years of sameness, maybe the calculus of where to live is actually starting to change substantially. I give you two pieces of evidence: a new ranking with one of the least expected findings I've received in years, and thoughtful comments from super-VC Marc Andreessen, who has a great record of spotting macro changes set to reorder the world. 

Well done, Kansas City 

This latest ranking offers a very 2022 take on where to live. The list from Icelandair asks: What is the best city in the world for remote work and working vacations? The pandemic-related rise in remote work has meant locales around the world are desperately competing to attract newly location-independent professionals to boost the local economy. 

Which should you choose? Icelandair weighed factors like cost of living, safety, health care access, internet speed, average working hours, commute times, air quality, and data from the U.N.'s World Happiness Report to rank possible destinations from around the world. After all this number crunching, the city that topped the list was ... Kansas City, Missouri?

No offense to the home of great barbecue and (apparently) more fountains than any city except Rome, but I didn't see that one coming. Kansas City beat out more predictable choices like Copenhagen and Helsinki thanks to its depth of local culture, laid-back vibes, and abundance of leisure options. 

The bigger picture 

All of which suggests that the factors that make a destination a great base for remote work are very different from the concentration of talent and opportunity that traditionally drew the ambitious to hubs like Los Angeles and New York. If a great many knowledge workers retain the ability to work from anywhere (and that's a substantial if), that will radically reorder what cities they find the most attractive

That's not a wild conclusion. Plenty of people have observed the same thing before, but perhaps stating that people are going to want to live in smaller, cheaper, more pleasant places if work is uncoupled from the office doesn't go far enough in describing the changes in people's living patterns coming at us in the near future. 

Super successful VC Marc Andreessen certainly seems to think so. On the podcast of economist Tyler Cowen recently, he suggested the rise of remote work could represent "potentially a civilization-level change" and "an earthquake" in how we live.  

"For thousands of years, if you were a sharp, ambitious young person -- and this is true of the Medici, and it's true with the Greeks -- you had to go to the city to basically get opportunity," he explains. "If you don't have to do that, and in particular, if you don't have to all go to the same city, and if you don't have to all go to the same city that hates you, [laughs] and if, all of a sudden, economic opportunity is decoupled from that, then people are going to be able to choose how to live at different stages of their life in a fundamentally different way."

That means unexpected locales like Kansas City might see their appeal skyrocket. It also suggests architecture and design will likely see massive changes as people rethink what a home should look like when you're working out of it eight hours a day. 

How people think through larger life choices may also shift substantially. Nuclear families make sense when young people need to move away from relatives for economic opportunity. Who can afford to have Grandma and Grandpa tag along to Brooklyn? Not many of us. But when you can work from wherever, that calculus changes. 

"Should the home really be two parents and a couple of kids? Or should the home really be, again, a back to the future thing? Should it be three or four generations of people and a lot of cousins and aunts and uncles, and then a lot of kids running around? If everybody could still have access to great knowledge-work jobs online, maybe that's a fundamentally better way to live," Andreessen speculates (and many parents of young kids stranded far from family support nod along, myself included). 

So congrats to Kansas City for being such a pleasant place to live and work. But the city's unexpected first-place ranking may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to changes in people's calculation about where to put down roots. If Andreessen is right, we're about to see a wholesale rethinking of not just what homes and offices look like, but what family itself looks like too.