Why "smart cities" should be an Internet of People, not Things


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…[I]t profoundly sucks that our politics are just a bidding war between selfish transhuman corporations that view humans as their gut flora.

Except isn’t it really a bidding war between those lobbyists? Every vision, good or evil, happens in somebody’s mind, and then it’s presented to other people. Corporations do not have thoughts. Rather than railing against the corporations, it might be more productive to get better ideas into the minds of the decision-makers. Lobby the lobbyists - this is how United Way does it, for example, and I would say they’re pretty successful at diverting a share of corporate cash into doing good.

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Modern high tech more often than not brings deployment pains. For larger systems, robust and resilient solutions based on older, proven tech tend to be more reliable.

For some fun, see the tribulations of the users of the BOWMAN military radio system, which earned a backronym “Better Off With Map And Nokia” between the soldiers.


if you like this, see a longer treatment here: http://speedbird.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/against-the-smart-city-now-available-for-purchase-in-kindle/
Greenfield’s been promising a full length The City is Here for You to Use. his critiques are helpful, but I am eager to see his design sensibility applied constructively to urban living.

Disclosure: I work for one of these ‘big IT corporations’ and I generally think in terms of how tech we make or that I use in my day to day life could be used in better ways. I was kind of disappointed by this article because I didn’t really see anything super tangible from it, just a lot of ‘humans can work together’.

I think ultimately part of the reason that things like Occupy Sandy are successful is that people are not particularly excited by the mundane, but being part of a major relief effort is something that drags people out. Big companies focus a lot on mundane, because it’s hard to have passion about mundane details, even if mundane details are incredibly important to our day to day lives and getting things done.

I’d be interested to hear what others took away from this, as I found it interesting but not particularly compelling.


What I took away from this was a fairly sketchy outline, but the vision it seems to point towards is extremely compelling to me. Horizontal, leaderless organisation permits extremely effective action without requiring expensive infrastructure or making it easy for efforts to be hijacked by factional interests - as a model for the organisation of society as a whole it is fundamentally incompatible with capitalism or electoral politics, however, which tends to make many people uncomfortable with it. Most of the necessary arguments around this are offstage in this article though…


I agree that vision is very sunny, but I just wanted more meat and potatoes, I guess.

I think your point about the arguments and the background needed being offstage makes a lot of sense here, because in that context this article makes a lot more sense. I personally find those discussions fascinating even if I don’t think that the societies they espouse are particularly seaworthy. But I would love to be proven wrong.

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