Too-smart cities? Why these visions of utopia need an urgent reality check

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Too-smart cities? Why these visions of utopia need an urgent reality check
Masdar City, under development in Abu Dhabi, is seen as meeting needs of businesses and designers rather than people / Photo: Foster & Partners
Too-smart cities? Why these visions of utopia need an urgent reality check
Masdar City, under development in Abu Dhabi, is seen as meeting needs of businesses and designers rather than people / Photo: Foster & Partners

Responsive urban technology sounds enticing but citizens must not be disconnected from plans drawn up on their behalf

I recently attended a government meeting about future cities and found that all the discussion related to branding, bio-tech innovation, hi-tech transport infrastructure and opportunities for universities.

I pointed out that at least half the population doesn’t engage with such things directly, if at all. Most people are more concerned with how to get by, and even how to survive in an increasingly hostile city. One civil servant replied, “Oh, you mean the dark underbelly …” This, it seems to me, is exactly how elevated mandarins in London see normal people who live in inner-city communities.

Over the past decade we’ve watched young people become increasingly immersed in social media. But while these technologies promise to allow us to connect with more people without geographical boundaries, the reality could be more a kind of digital enslavement. So as we develop our cities of the future, we need to think about who makes the decisions.

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