How "Discreet, Unobtrusive Technology" Will Transform Cities
William J. Mitchell and the members of the MIT Smart Cities research group are creating innovative ways to change how we live in urban areas through, in part, the application of new technologies that enable urban energy efficiency and sustainability, and enhance opportunity, equity, and cultural creativity. Smart Cities research is particularly concerned with the emerging roles of networked intelligence in fabrication and construction, urban mobility, building design and intelligently responsive operation, and public space. The group explores the new forms and functions of cities in the digital electronic era, and suggests design and planning directions for the future.
Bill Mitchell: The fundamental thing about cities, they change very slowly, even under a lot of stress and even when you have a lot of innovation. A number of years ago I was a consultant on a movie, you may remember, called “Minority Report,” that Steven Spielberg did about, it was about the future of Washington D.C. He sort of started out the conversation by saying, “Well, what’s Washington D.C. going to be like in 50 years?” And the honest answer was, not a lot different for me. You know, the way it is now. He said, “Well we can’t make a movie about that. We have to you know, invent some things like cars driving up the sides of buildings and all kinds of stuff like this.”
I think, and if you think of some of the big transformations that have taken place, let’s say over the last 50 years. Probably the biggest thing that’s happened to cities has been – well, I’m not sure it’s the biggest, but a massive thing that’s happened, has been in the overlay of intelligence by the Internet, mobile phones, personal computers, and all this kind of thing. In some ways, it’s almost invisible. You can take a city and it’s functioning in a completely different kind of way because everybody’s talking on their mobile phones and they're all text messaging and they're all tweeting. Functionally it’s working on a totally different kind of way. It doesn’t look that much different.
I never believe in sort of Buck Rogers fantasies of the future of cities. They never happen and it’s just as well, because we’d be extremely unhappy if they did. It’s not just a matter of some massive sudden technological transformation; that never happens. What cities are, are a sort of intricate layering of the work of many generations, one on top of another, and so, it’s subtle transformation and inflection of cities rather than whole scale transformation that’s really important. I mean, maybe the big dramatic thing is something that goes against people’s expectations. I would say the important technology of the late 20th century and the early 21st century has been extremely unobtrusive. It sort of disappears in your pocket and disappears in the woodwork. The mobile phone is a revolution, but basically you don’t even see it. The little automobiles that we are talking about; little, quiet, unobtrusive things that fit into the city without fundamentally transforming what I think a city needs to be. So I think the big surprise I think to a lot of people is going to be... The really effective technology that transforms our lives is going to be this discreet, unobtrusive technology that does very interesting things for us, but without making cities look like some sort of science-fiction fantasy.
Cities won't look like "some sort of science-fiction fantasy," but it's likely that technological advances and information overlays will change the way we live in significant ways.
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.
I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.
A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.
- A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
- The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
- The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
This is what the world will look like, 250 million years from now
To us humans, the shape and location of oceans and continents seems fixed. But that's only because our lives are so short.
Mathematicians studied 100 billion tweets to help computer algorithms better understand our colloquial digital communication.
- A group of mathematicians from the University of Vermont used Twitter to examine how young people intentionally stretch out words in text for digital communication.
- Analyzing the language in roughly 100 billion tweets generated over eight years, the team developed two measurements to assess patterns in the tweets: balance and stretch.
- The words people stretch are not arbitrary but rather have patterned distributions such as what part of the word is stretched or how much it stretches out.