IBM 5 in 5 – smart city induced utopia?
Apparently, we are rapidly approaching the dawn of a technologically induced utopia – a promised land of sorts – a (not so) new claim that all of our problems are rapidly becoming a thing of the past…because overcrowded busses and late pizza will be resolved by the smartening-up of cities.
According to IBM’s 5 in 5 predictions:
“…cities can be hard unforgiving places to live…cities are tough, because they require us to live on their terms, but in five years the tables will turn. With cities adapting to our terms, with cloud-based social feedback, crowdsourcing, and predictive analytics, we’ll shape our cities to our evolving wants and needs, comings and goings, and late-night pizza hankerings. By engaging citizens, city leaders will be able to respond directly to our needs, and dynamically allocate resources…and pizza.”
No wonder there is an increasingly concerned chorus of critics objecting to the marketing language used by some proponents of “smart cities”, because they sense that corporate interests and government departments may well try to leverage the new technologies from the top-down, instead of the bottom-up approach preferred by an increasingly empowered citizenry.
There is a bit of truth mixed-in with the hype. It is true that bottom-up crowdsourced information feedback allows the city to self-organise – to dynamically adapt to both new and old opportunities and challenges – and to develop a sort of self-regulating city ‘consciousness’. But a more nuanced view is necessary when it comes to forecasting the end of all evils due to the the implied top-down mastery of all things complex… and this due to the somewhat simplistic notion of government officials sitting behind giant screens in new control centres.
A more rounded perspective can be found in new books by Anthony Townsend and Mike Batty, with a solid review (of both books) available from the New Scientist.
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