MEREDITH Strategy + Design

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Will people choose the cities that technology controls?

Bjorn Guisenbauer via flickr I feel generally optimistic about the emerging potential of the Internet of Things and the concept of a sensors-embedded, continuously communicating environment. For the moment, the creative thinking around the potential and the paranoid anxiety around the abuses obscure and distract us from more meaningful and useful conversation around what could become a much more free, open, agile and flexible world.

Considering the connected city, this article in the Boston Globe states the concern this way –

Cities are focal points for human civilization, the places where people live, work, and create. And they may well be on the verge of new transformation, one that not only alters how they run but what their residents’ lives are like. As they move forward, there’s not just one inevitable path: Different ways of implementing technology could  create very different cities, not all of them desirable places to live.

The article identifies some of the very serious concerns like the potential for commercial interests to define urban priorities, the possible abuses in the uses of citizen data and data exhaust, and the tendency to develop a "control room" administration of the city.

Among the ways to avoid these issues that are identified are engaging citizens in drawing the lines of appropriate technology use, having political scientists rather than electrical engineers designing the systems, and developing computing technologies that reflect the values of the society rather than determining them.

The best defense against control however, seems to be in the democracy of choice – people choose cities for the benefits of inefficiency and inconvenience, for the creative and satisfying collisions arising from the freedom to enjoy the randomness in density.