The need for sympathetic digital urbanism
March 20, 2013 3 Comments
(I’m a guest blogger on UBM’s Future Cities community; this article was published there last week. It builds on themes I first explored here in the article “Little/big; producer/consumer; and the story of the Smarter City“)..
Technology is changing how we understand cities, and how we will understand ourselves in the context of urban environments. We’re only at the beginning of this complex revolution.
Consider that scientists from Berkeley have used a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner to reconstruct images perceived by a test subject’s brain activity while the subject watched a video. A less sensitive mind-reading technology is already available as a headset from Emotiv. (My colleagues have used Emotiv to help a paralysed person communicate by sending directional instructions from his thoughts to a computer.)
Developments in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and advanced manufacturing show similarly remarkable interactions between information systems and the physical and biological world: solar panels that can mend themselves; living biological tissues that can be printed.
These technologies, combined with our ability to process and draw insight from digital information, could offer real possibilities to engineer more efficient and sustainable city systems, such as transportation, energy, water, and food. But using them to address the demographic, financial, and environmental challenges of cities will raise questions about our relationship with the natural world, what it means to live in an ethical society, and what defines us as human.
(The remainder of this article, which explores ways in which we might answer those questions, can be found on UBM’s Future Cities site, as “Make Way for Sensitive Cities“).