2017/10/22: Parent company Alphabet would provide services in response to data harvested. a city “where buildings have no static use”. Like biomass
Alphabet’s long-term goal is to remove barriers to the accumulation and circulation of capital in urban settings – mostly by replacing formal rules and restrictions with softer, feedback-based floating targets. It claims that in the past “prescriptive measures were necessary to protect human health, ensure safe buildings, and manage negative externalities”. Today, however, everything has changed and “cities can achieve those same goals without the inefficiency that comes with inflexible zoning and static building codes”.
This is a remarkable statement. Even neoliberal luminaries such as Friedrich Hayek and Wilhelm Röpke allowed for some non-market forms of social organisation in the urban domain. They saw planning – as opposed to market signals – as a practical necessity imposed by the physical limitations of urban spaces: there was no other cheap way of operating infrastructure, building streets, avoiding congestion.
For Alphabet, these constraints are no more: ubiquitous and continuous data flows can finally replace government rules with market signals. Now, everything is permitted – unless somebody complains.
Google Urbanism means the end of politics, as it assumes the impossibility of wider systemic transformations, such as limits on capital mobility and foreign ownership of land and housing. Instead it wants to mobilise the power of technology to help residents “adjust” to seemingly immutable global trends such as rising inequality and constantly rising housing costs (Alphabet wants us to believe that they are driven by costs of production, not by the seemingly endless supply of cheap credit).
2018/10/17: After industrialism, we have the opportunity to create a habitation society. Habitation encompasses all that is involved in creating and sustaining human communities. In a habitation society, the main economic priority would be building the physical and social infrastructure of communities in which the citizenry could thrive. In the industrial era, millions of people were uprooted from their earlier communities to move to find factory jobs. They tried their best to construct new communities, but habitation work was always subordinated to earning a wage and it was crippled by the class inequality of that time.
Today, however, the largest share of the labour force works at producing, sustaining, and improving human habitation as farm work and factory work have fallen to little more than 10% of all employment. People who work in health care, education, social services, construction, communication, and local government can be coded as habitation workers. So, also, can public and private sector scientists, engineers, and technicians working on developing new products and services since most innovations are designed to help communities and households accomplish their ends.
But all of this labour is being done within institutional structures inherited from the industrial era that treated habitation — except for the wealthy — as a wasteful luxury. So, in fact, decisions about what our towns and cities will look like and what infrastructure would be created were taken out of politics and handed over to unelected technocrats.
That report says almost explicitly that, starting next Monday, an awfully big lot of people worldwide should really just sit still and smell the roses, consuming as little physical resources as it is possible to do while still living a decent, happy, meaningful life. Deliberately or not, that report is the single biggest argument in favour of real Universal Basic Income (UBI) that I have ever seen. If that report is correct, it has just made UBI just like democracy: paraphrasing someone quoted by Churchill, after that report “UBI is the worst form of economy, except for all those other forms that have been tried”.
Speaking of (digital) buzzwords…
That report is also a death sentence for several things much more related to my main line of work, and a well deserved sentence, in some cases. That report says that:
we may still have stuff like Instagram or Netflix, but on the same smartphone we already have, until it physically falls apart. More generally, we should all:
stop now buying anything electronic, unless it is really, really, really necessary
never buy anything that is deliberately made impossible to repair, even if it comes from the “coolest” company on Earth
only use and tolerate software that does not pollute more than absolutely needed
something like at least 80% of what is currently being marketed as “Internet of Things” (IoT) should simply fade away as quickly as possible. IoT is the new plastic. Stuff like Juicero, or the Tapplock should never go into production.
Community-level Digital DIY, instead, makes even more sense than it already did
the really smart home is the one made in this way
the only “smart cities” worth building are those made with Open Standards, instead of blockchains, just because it’s trendy
none of the bullets above means living worst than today, when it comes to stuff that matters
2018/09/15: data from sensors located in vehicles have an important advantage over traditional data-gathering systems:
Currently, city managers and planners are faced with the challenge of relying on incomplete or out of date information.
A less obvious application of Geotab’s dataset is the ability to spot problems like potholes. Aggregated vertical axis accelerometer data from vehicles can be analyzed in near real-time to indicate areas in need of road maintenance. Other aspects of urban life that can be monitored in this way include areas where cars idle, thus wasting fuel and increasing air pollution, and roads where drivers are searching for parking places. Gathering this kind of data would be expensive using other approaches, but emerges naturally from aggregated traffic flows.
Huge datasets generated by sensors on connected vehicles offer interesting new opportunities for urban analytics. But there are naturally privacy concerns, too. Connected vehicles inevitably track the people who drive them. Analyzing the habits of drivers as revealed by their journeys can expose extremely sensitive information - think of repeated visits to a hospital, or unexpected overnight stays at private houses.
Smart City is a technology-led urban response to global environmental challenges.
Smart City may imply technological determinism, privatisation and depoliticisation.
ICT may open the prospect of alternative, non-capitalist urban transformations.
Degrowth should establish a critical dialogue with ICT-led urban transformations
2017/01/10: When we added up the replacement cost of all of the city's infrastructure -- an expense we would anticipate them cumulatively experiencing roughly once a generation -- it came to $32 billion. When we added up the entire tax base of the city, all of the private wealth sustained by that infrastructure, it came to just $16 billion. This is fatal.
It's obvious to me why this is fatal, but for those of you for whom it is less clear, let me elaborate.
To maintain just the roads and drainage systems that have already been built, the family in a median house would need to have their taxes increase by $3,300 per year.
Thus, Lafayette has a predicament. Infrastructure was supposed to serve them. Now they serve it.
The way this happened is pretty simple. At Strong Towns, we call it the Growth Ponzi Scheme. Through a combination of federal incentives, state programs and private capital, cities were able to rapidly grow by expanding horizontally. This provided the local government with the immediate revenues that come from new growth -- permit fees, utility fees, property tax increases, sales tax -- and, in exchange, the city takes on the long term responsibility of servicing and maintaining all the new infrastructure. The money comes in handy in the present while the future obligation is, well....a long time in the future.
All this infrastructure is a bad investment. America needs a different model of growth and development.
2018/03/31: the main focus of this website, and my work in general, is the impacts of software and digital technologies on quality of life. From that point of view, let me say that some of the main things we’d surely need to “empty half the Earth of its humans” in a way that IS good for everybody surely include...
A border is being drawn in the Middle East for a "new civilization." Spanning across Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, it will house Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s $500 billion vision for the future of living: a fully-automated megacity run on artificial intelligence (AI) called Neom. Here, there will be more robots than people, so residents will be free to spend time on what matters to them and lead happier lives. That is, of course, if the AI is friendly.
an independent data journalism series that aimed to dive deeper into data about Metro Vancouver's transportation system.
There are now twice as many people as 50 years ago. But, as EO Wilson has argued, they can all survive - in cities
The director of the MIT Media Lab said sci-fi visions of computers and humans emphasize the wrong priorities for development. Technological progress should aim for resilience, not efficiency.
Digital stardust won't magically make future cities more affordable or resilient.
The current state of worldwide urban development is depressing. We are not moving towards environmentally sustainable design and reduced consumption quickly enough. There have been dire warnings about
Mobile internet use in the Philippines is growing rapidly, but so are associated digital inequalities. I've just published a new research report with my colleague Kevin Hernandez based on our study in the Philippines, which suggests that far from creating equality of access to information, the use of mobile and internet technologies is creating new class divisions in technology access and new forms of digital inequality. In the report we emphasise the need to add 'analogue complements' to our digital development initiatives in order to ensure that they don't unintentionally exacerbate existing social inequalities.
This week, we learned that tech guru and mega philanthropist Bill Gates purchased 25,000 acres of land in Arizona with the intent to build a smart city from the ground up. The community, called Belmont, will "create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs," according to a spokesperson for Gates' real estate firm Belmont Partners.
The Hanseatic League was a loose confederation of European cities stretching from the 14th to 17th centuries. As national unions fracture over the spoils of globalisation, will we see the resurgence of city-state alliances?
The world of connected devices is upon us and things have never been better. Criminals can access your email account by breaking into your fridge. Your child's toys and your television record your conversations and send them to...
Technology is transforming global cities. But we need to think hard about who controls a system where all people and things are tracked, all of the time
'You as citizens have to decide what kind of city that you want, and then demand the change to make the city the one you want' Riccardo Marini at TEDx Talk.