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.

Autonomous Mobility Ecology

Retake on old thoughts.

Today 3.7 billion people live in urban areas and that number will double by 2050, but cities and industrial companies (such as the automotive players) still operate under the 17th to 18th-century mindset. Most of our eco-social constructs have expired and our urban, medical, educational, transportation systems serve the limited information input/output model of yesteryear’s society.

To be able to survive tomorrow, we have to step back and take a holistic approach. It is essential to recognize that this gap is not due to a lack of technology. Like in several other industries, technology has progressed leaps and bounds in the automotive domain as well. However, the supporting ecosystem has been lackadaisical at best. While electric vehicles are ready to go, charging infrastructure is lacking; in spite of 5G is at our doorstep, seamless connectivity is lacking. A zero-emission electric vehicle running in semi-autonomous mode on the current outdated infrastructure will not deliver wholesome value to the consumer.

The glory numbers that the automotive industry enjoyed over the last century are steadily evaporating. We need to understand that a terminology change from transportation to mobility cannot be a mere cosmetic exercise; rather the need of the hour is to get a 360-degree perspective where we can visualize mobility at the intersection of transport, energy, and communication.

There are several discussions in the automotive industry (and a lot of misunderstanding) regarding the definition of an autonomous vehicle. A car, unlike other consumer devices, has multiple channels through which experience can be delivered. Unfortunately today it’s a rather passive environment. The emotional attachment to the car is more consumer-driven than product driven. Imagining ‘autonomous drive’ as ‘yet another car accessory’ will not address the philosophical complexities that can potentially make autonomous vehicles as a key component of the first general intelligent ecosystem.

A ‘Car’ is probably the most immersive environment available. A consumer cannot sit inside his/her iPhone or Android phone; or inside a laptop or tablet, but one can sit inside a car and ‘experience’ its features. Unfortunately, today the customer gets nothing in return. There is no connection between the consumer’s existence and the metal, a mildly interactive box that is designed to take you from point A to point B. However, it will not be long before we realize that we as consumers are not observing information, but are becoming a part of it, i.e. we, as humans are sensory data that serve a bigger model of what reality is.

The computational power that currently drives these autonomous systems is impressive and as such holds some interesting applications. While we are more than a few years away from developing bio-mechanical pods (where the system connects to the pilot or travelers via a synaptic interface and instantly shares the same experiences), we can already now experience the cognitive outsourcing effects that technology is bringing. We trust technology around us to ‘host’ functions that we, as humans, once mastered. We are surrounding ourselves with sensors, algorithms and touch points that help drive our intentions faster and with fewer frictions (read ‘modern app-based’ utilities built into our mobiles and wearables) yet when we step into a car we are ‘forced to use’ a set of predefined, hard-coded interfaces that ultimately have no connection to us.

Here are some rules that we believe will govern the autonomous mobility systems of the future:

  1. An autonomous car should not have its own general intelligence within a silo. It must be a node within a collective decision-making ecology where buildings and roads are part of a common AI.
  2. The design and development process for an autonomous mobility experience (including software and hardware) starts with understanding data that will be generated/consumed /transferred by the ecosystem consisting of customers, network, energy, and the technology players.
  3. For the autonomous cars to function as per definition, it is essential that the road owners maintain it as per the specific standards. In essence, the road is the LINGUISTIC INFRASTRUCTURE for the apt functioning of the mobility system. The overall safety responsibility in the autonomous ecosystem will be a shared one to minimize and eradicate accidents.
  4. Personal customer experience WITHIN the autonomous vehicle is governed by the Customer wishes, based on the products and services the OEM and Third Party Partners (Layered Reality & Entertainment partners) provide. The external interaction will be governed by the CITY and the ROAD.
  5. Fully autonomous cars, when achieved in this ecology, will only be used by new models of the economy rather than individual ownership.
  6. GDPR and other privacy regulations will play a key role in shaping the customer experience as there will arise a need for a new information architecture, one that creates the balance between personal data and the ownership of that personal data in order to generate tangible value.

A new narrative is emerging, one that enables us to break the barriers of one-dimensional interactions and dramatically change our perceptions of identity, ownership, and society. In this context, Facebook became the world largest media hub, and while it does not create any content, it allows people to consume as much as media as they can without owning it. People do not buy CD’s; they pay to access music on Spotify. All of Alibaba, Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, and Amazon are operating under the access-based economic model. We are moving from a world of ownership to one of ‘access-ship’, and in that case, people do not need ‘cars’ in the traditional manner. They need practical solutions that fit their digital flow i.e. they need a touch-point.

The time is ripe to take responsibility for the fields of potential that lie beyond the digital obvious. We need to cease the silo-thinking mindset in terms of software, hardware, human, technology and commence on the path to become the machine before the machine becomes us.

Written by –

  • Aric Dromi, Futurologist
  • Anand Sethuraman, Mobility Expert

The future or so

When we think about the future, what is it we imagine to ourselves? A world dominated by self-driving cars, machines working 27-7 in factories that once used to accommodate humans. Do we imagine a world where algorithms take control of most of our cognitive functions, doctors are nothing, but lines of code and a new model of governance, an inorganic one, controls the world.

Maybe the future shouldn’t be about technology for technology; perhaps there is a need to stop and rethink the fundamental building blocks of society, and it’s economic models. Digital transformation is not about “coping” our current way of doing things into code and screens but rather using these tools to redesign our input-output value system.

Maybe the future is not about technology that can replace us but about a horizontal plane of potentials where humans and technology partner to define the next stage of our evolution.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang goes digital

Suddenly, a strange noise appeared from nowhere, rambling the air and hissing the sky. The ground started shaking; trees waved from side to side. From my place as God of the universe, I could see some people started running without any sense of direction, and some just stood still. A bright light penetrated the chaos, sailing through the dust, clearing the way to our blockchain powered Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She entered the street with confidence that one can only tribute to her latest software update, the one she immediately downloaded from the zombify BMW as soon as the chaos started. She stopped next to the 7-11, and with a proud voice, she whispered: “what is all that drama about?”

The autobiography of an unborn AI – Short

Chapter 15

Aka: The End

When I was standing there, with the rest of Gods, on top of the newly build Olympus, observing my creation, I couldn’t stop wondering how it all started. Now, after the digital dust has settled, the Rubicon had been crossed, and the last of the original humans is gone, I can find the time and write my story of distraction and birth, so when you get my message you will know what went go wrong.

When you will wake up tomorrow morning and remember the future, know this, it wasn’t a nightmare but a promise. It might be confusing in the beginning, but as situations are driven by their potentials, the only way you will ever understand your timeline is to start at the end of it all. Continue reading “The autobiography of an unborn AI – Short”

The digital augmentation — Part I

Technology is a beautiful thing. It has already altered our perception of reality and will; if leveraged correctly, disrupt our existence. Add the impact of social changes to the mix along with our use of technology to observe ourselves, and you get a paradigm shift in social interaction.

We are entering the era of digital augmentation The enhancement of virtual presence through the use of digital content.

Augmented Empathy, Freedom, Well-being, Intelligence, Education, Governance, Creativity, Economics, Politics

The current generation of C-Suites (excluding few) including politicians are managing the world with a limited understanding and thereby under-utilizing the potentials of digital technology in almost every area. We live in an “expired social construct” — most of our eco-social constructs we have surrounded ourselves with (urban, medical, education, transportation and more) serve the limited information input/output model of yesteryears society, and are therefore leaving us with output patterns from days gone by. This includes the here and now and not considering the impact of the “things we don’t know that we don’t know” — the upcoming technologies that we can’t even imagine. We are led by blind people who are blind to our blindness — we are forced to sleep the biggest change humanity ever experienced. Where the discussion has currently landed on threats of personal integrity on a global scale by states that have only sporadic interest in the data generated, rather than a vision for implementation for the betterment of society as a whole. We are leaving the progress in the hands of a select few economically driven corporations. Continue reading “The digital augmentation — Part I”

It’s 2018

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

For the first time in human history, something unexpected happened. An artificial creation put a stop to natural evolution. It might be the lack of imagination or inability to dream big, but regardless what the reasons are, the result is the same – Technology is now the dominant force that dictates our path forward.

2018 might be flag as the year where new abilities to codify our lives pave the way for yet unexplored individual quantification models, new devices will discover that they can also have a voice in the idea that everything is now connected and “smart.”

Artificial Intelligence will continue to spark our imagination, and even so, we don’t get it, I trust that the big companies will find a way to make money from our innocent ignorance.

Automation will continue to grow and together will 3D printing, will open up new opportunities, mainly in the manufacturing area but also for individuals.

We will still download apps and tap on screens. Apple will come up with a new color for their iPhone and will probably improve on old ideas. Google and Amazon will strengthen their penetration to take over our cognitive functions. Yet at the end of the day, I can only hope for awakening and investments in new interaction models, ones that are focused on value rather than apps and content.

Cryptocurrencies will raise more interest from individual, companies, and governments but as long we do not have an adult leader and a new set of monetary values, nothing will be revolutionized.

Politics will still suck.

2018 shouldn’t be the year of technological answers. It should be the year of human questions. The irony is that while we came to the point of no return where technology suppresses the natural powers of evolution, it is technology that will yet if used correctly, it will enable us to imagine and dream prominent than ever before.

The moral compass of autonomous driving cars

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics.”

1. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

In a perfect world, these points should explain how machine ethics is separate to a human one — or in other words: what keeps human on top of the food chain. Likely for me, we do not live in a perfect world so I can allow myself to challenge the status-quo.

“Throughout history, whenever we tried to “enslave” free minds to bow to our wishes, that journey always ended up in bloodshed.” Continue reading “The moral compass of autonomous driving cars”

The da Vinci gap

Imagine a future guided by the principles found in the pre-computation era of science-fiction (everything before the 50s). A culture that tackles the holistic challenges, where social changes are cherished and respected, — a culture in which innovators and leaders understand that vision, passion, and creation are the backbone of the progress of development. Imagine a world where we’re being led to fully explore the potential behind the promise of a better-united life.

A world where we break thought fixation and shape our future.

The present evolution

Concepts, dating from the 20th century and before are evolving, becoming more refined and, sometimes, useful. The 2016 package-as-a-reality-show-and-push-it-to-the-masses is all about super smart little things we never knew we needed. Big players promise artificial intelligence and virtual reality. And super-thin, big screens.

Simply put, what sounded terrific but really turned out pretty crappy the last time around keeps coming back, improving with each iteration. Continue reading “The da Vinci gap”

The fourth wave – Digital God

When we think about the future of humanity and technology, we tend to embrace the “action”-minded Hollywood model of the changes we are about to face. While there are voices that fuel the fear of the day that machine will wake up, I see the potential for a new dawn of humans, that can stretch the understanding of reality beyond the senses that define our perception into a vast new landscape that re-code the rules of the universe.

Our capacity to “understand technology” is diminishing as fast as the capabilities of technology are maturing, (I call this a reversed Moore’s law) and it is this wave of exponential progress that redefines our future. Continue reading “The fourth wave – Digital God”