Can we rethink the narrative of a city?

Short interview before keynote about the future of cities.

1. How do you see smart cities in 2030?

Since I was a kid, every story about the future included flying cars, robots, automation and incredible landscapes. There was also the more apocalyptic, dystopian, Nineteen Eighty-Four type of future possibilities. In both cases, it was a future where beautiful technologies dominated and stood at the center of society. Here we are today, realizing that it is not so simple to predict the future. Yes, we have the technologies to build that dream (for good or bad), yet the biggest challenge is not technology for technology but our imagination or the lack of it, our ability to understand the new narratives and rethink our infrastructure to be able to carry society into the future.

Cities are the cradle of civilization yet for the past (more than few) years we let nations dictated the decision-making process of the urban “want’ and “needs.” 30 years from now most of the world population will live in urban areas, and we have but a small window of opportunities to stop and rethink the stories of the future, to redesign technologies to be invisible and transparent, to build new digital infrastructure and interaction interfaces.

I do not see smart cities in the future; I see learning cities, rejuvenation cities. Cities that act as an inorganic extension of the organic society that defines its existence. I see cities that govern by new economic models and further decision-making processes, ones that are anchored in code rather 18th-century laws. I see cities that hide technology and uses it to augment the city intelligence rather than outsource it. I see virtual landscapes that enable new productivity models, new materials that will allow a self-sustained utilization of energy and value generated from below zero environmental impact. I see a city that knows that the most significant assets we have as humans are our creativity and curiosity and a such knows how to harness these qualities to feed its potentials.

2. Can you give us an example where technology made a huge positive impact on the functionality of cities?

The steam engine

3. In which field we can make the most significant progress in your opinion? Is that traffic, science, technology in service of people or something else?

There is a difference between what we can do and what we should do. We should rethink our infrastructure. We should rethink the narratives of ethics, morality, and trust; so they can transcend the physical into the digital. We should rebuild our education systems. To do all of that, to step into the unknown, we have technology and science.