Cities are destined to become even more powerful in the future. Ericsson produced a 20-minute documentary titled Thinking Cities that looks at various trends shaping the future of urbanization. The documentary is part of their Networked Societies brand platform:
As we enter a new era of mobility, an emerging mindset is creating endless opportunities that are limited only by our imaginations. Technology has enabled us to interact, innovate and share knowledge in entirely new ways – creating a dynamic shift in mindset. People are empowered, business is liberated and society is more connected than ever. At Ericsson, we’re just beginning to explore the possibilities of a Networked Society.
The documentary focuses on urbanization trends, big picture predictions about where they’re headed, and closes with some examples. Thinking Cities features thought leaders to help the viewer comprehend both the risks and opportunities that lie behind urbanization:
Anyone that lives in a city understands the bitter-sweet taste of living in one. Renowned physicist Geoffrey West puts things in perspective by articulating that exponential urbanization is the driving force behind a slew of economic, environmental, and social problems. While this may be true, cities are also “vacuum cleaners or magnets” for human creativity. This enables cities to be masterful at solving problems of all sorts and on varying scales. This is why Mr.West’s work strives to understand cities in a “profound and predictive fashion.”
Carlo Ratti, Director of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, asserts that “today for the first time our cities are becoming real-time control systems.” He is part of MIT’s Trash Track Project, where they insert microchips into items of trash to track where they go. Technology is now becoming natural, atomized, and distributed, changing the way we interface in the city.” This means that the architecture and objects we’re interacting with are starting to become communicative.
Information will only become more fluid in the future. Mathieu Lefevre of the New Cities Foundation discusses the pervasive power of ICT (Information and Communication Technology); this basically means that our networks are omnipresent wherever we happen to be in the city, perhaps that even the objects we interact with will be capable of accessing our networks for us.
Mr. Lefevre also talks about “visionary mayors” who want to improve the effectiveness of governance (i.e. changing how things get done, how partnerships are approved). As the barriers between civil society, town hall, entrepreneurs, companies, and government begin to dissolve, he asserts that this can be done by introducing ICT technology to city management.
Elaine Weidman points out that with the increased presence of mobile broadband and the continued deepening and diversification of social media in the Internet’s fabric, we are “creating radically new ways of engagement… today you get a much more global conversation. You have the possibility to not only tell the government what you think, but to get others involved in your cause and share your view. This is revolutionizing how policy makers and global leaders are responding on different issues.” City mayors have to listen and deliver on these expectations and find out practical ways to improve work and living conditions locally.
The documentary closes by looking at examples from Stockholm and Boston, spotlighting specific initiatives driven by the trends discussed earlier and exemplifying the types of benefits and social change that re-inventing our cities can lead to.
Watch the full documentary below: