Generative Cities: The Future of Urban Intelligence
Reprinted from PSFK's "Need to Know" magazine
In the future, cities will be judged by their generativity. Over seventy percent of the world’s population, and almost all of the globe’s skilled talent, will live in cities by the year 2050. The globally mobile entrepreneur will decide where to invest capital and where to live will depend on a city’s ability to be generative, i.e. create a productive, participatory and personalized urban experience.
It is already conventional wisdom that cities will become “smart” through ubiquitous information technology. But the key to unlocking a city’s greatness lies not in technology but the principle of generativity. Generativity is the ability to use technologies to create an enabling infrastructure for connectivity and creativity. The Internet is our best example of a generative structure: it was designed to have an seemingly infinite capacity for people to connect to each other; to create content, disruptive business models, and successful companies; and to store, consume, and share vast amounts of information. And yet despite its vastness, each interaction with the Internet feels increasingly personalized.
Cities that are looking to become global hubs of commerce and innovation must come to embody these values of openness and modularity. The city's generative infrastructure then becomes the backbone for its economic and cultural engines. Many of the pieces for generative cities are already falling into place. For example, two young New York engineers watch a free class online on how to build a robotic car (the startup Udacity offers free courses on artificial intelligence); while sitting in Central Park, their mobile phone alerts them that another student from the class is nearby (so-mo [social mobile] startup Highlight promises such “people discovery” or ”social ambience”); a coffee together results in a decision to raise money for a robotic car (Kickstarter provides crowd-sourced seed funding for projects); for several months, they meet every night in a city-funded incubator space where they have access to space, servers, technologies, and receive mentorship from leading entrepreneurs (both the New York city government and private companies offer such incubators). For the two engineers, the city represents a public-citizen-private partnership that has created an environment primed for participative production.
An up-an-coming component of generative infrastructure will also be wearable sensor devices beyond the mobile phone that create an ever more personalized experience of the city. This means that as the two engineers move through the city, their devices (whether a FitBit tracking their calories or Google augmented reality glasses) elicit tailored responses from the environment. When they each stand in front of the same Macy’s window, for instance, the display changes depending on the age and gender of the viewer (startup Immersive Labs creates marketing kiosks that change advertising based on facial recognition software). The potential to innovate new products and services for such emergent generative infrastructures is limitless.
Moving forward, the ability to govern networked infrastructures is the crucial task for city authorities. They must protect citizens from misuse and cyber-crime through security protocols, but must also encourage experimentation and hacking. Generativity, therefore, lies at the edge of control and chaos, and the most successful cities in the future will master this balancing act.
Ayesha Khanna is Director of the Hybrid Reality Institute, a research and advisory group that focuses on human-technology co-evolution, geotechnology and innovation. She also directs the Future Cities group at the London School of Economics and is author of the forthcoming books Hybrid Reality (2012) and The Generative City (2013).
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
A 2019 ranking of all 50 states' education systems shows the Sunshine State serves its college students well.
- Florida may be the butt of many jokes, but its higher education system is second to none.
- However, the state's PreK-12 education lacks comparatively, giving Massachusetts the top spot for the best education overall.
- Americans believe their state governments should prioritize education, but much work needs to be done to catch up to other countries.
Some books had a profound influence on Einstein's thinking and theories.
- Einstein had a large library and was a voracious reader.
- The famous physicist admitted that some books influenced his thinking.
- The books he preferred were mostly philosophical and scientific in nature.
Mega-rich entrepreneurs are taking us where no human being has gone before.
- During the first golden era of space exploration, we went to the moon. Then we sort of dropped the ball for 50 years.
- The problem is space travel is very expensive, especially the way governments do space travel.
- Because it costs $10,000 to put a pound of anything into orbit around the planet, we need to have an infusion of public and private funds. That's where billionaires such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos come into the picture. With their help, we have new energies, new strategies, and new plans to go back into outer space.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.