Over the past several years, major cities like Paris have been utilizing technology in order to minimize hazards such as traffic, noise and litter. Technology is advancing at such at incredible rate that it seems like every day we’re finding new and unique ways to improve society. But there is one problem. Who should run the technology? Citizens and local politicians want to improve their communities, but they won’t be thrilled about paying extra taxes in order to put sensors in crosswalks. Companies like IBM can efficiently improve cities, but they’ll also want to turn profits. Do we really want to live in a world where you’re forced to sit through a commercial for Coca-Cola every time you pull up at a red light? Salon.com explores the delicate balance between improving downtown congestion and being ruled by an evil computer overlord:
Indeed, the goal of these companies is not just to participate in the evolution of smart cities, but to connect and control virtually everything with massive operating systems that will run these cities in their entirety. “Everybody wants to be the architects of these systems because then you own them forever,” says Greg Lindsay, author of “Aerotropolis” and an urban-technology reporter for Fast Company. “You could say it’s sort of a land grab.”
There are other examples of bottom-up smart city thinking… A New York designer named Leif Percifield is prototyping a solution to his city’s combined-sewage overflow problem, in which thousands of gallons of raw sewage are dumped into the rivers when it rains. It would cost untold millions for the city to fix this problem; instead, Percifield is placing sensors in the sewers that will detect when the overflow is happening, so residents, who can opt to be automatically notified, can choose not to flush their toilets till the overflow has stopped.
You can’t let a computer have control over an entire city. Sure computers are quick, intelligent, unbiased and incredibly efficient, but they'll never replace politicians. I mean, try to picture a computer embezzling taxpayer funds in order to cover up an extramarital affair. It's impossible. Sorry computers, you’re just not cut out for the job.
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