Friday, August 30, 2013

City of the Future

The BBC has something nifty going on at their site.

It's an interactive feature called The City of 2050.  The question is simple: what will it be like to live in the future?  Projections show that three quarters of the world's population will be located in cities so the next logical question is "what will cities of the future be like?"

Technology will of course play a key role.  Fiber optics will get faster (I just know Dr. Rich is going to make a comment, attempting a correction re: computer technology...or something else.)  That means everything will be wired.  Everything.  All the services in your life connected to one central network.  The vast amount of data that this will accumulate would likely lead to the prominence of an already burgeoning field: data metrics.  Looking at the data, you can analyze trends and make predictions, including everything from when streetlamps will need replacing to where crime will occur.  Sort of like Minority Report.

Speaking of streetlamps, Cambridge University is working on the wacky but admittedly intriguing idea of using glowing trees for street light.  More on this in coming years, I'm sure.

City buildings themselves will be built with sustainability in mind.  The BBC feature suggests that new buildings could be enormous solar batteries.  Energy is stored and any unused will go back into a "smart grid" for later.  Germany is one nation already implementing similar systems.  Given The Powers That Be, I just can't see this taking off in good ol' 'Murica.  A bit more likely, I believe, are "farmscrapers." As land for agriculture grows scarcer, the sides of buildings could become "vertical farms" that grow food.  This would also alleviate the "food deserts" of inner cities where residents don't have access to things like fresh produce.

I ask myself, however, will there be any need for brick and mortar stores?  When your entertainment is delivered online and perhaps presented in virtual reality, when you have a 3-D printer that creates much of what you need, what else is there?  I suppose there will always be things that need to be special ordered.  Best of all, those things can be delivered by helicopter drones.  Heck, they're already delivering pizza.

The site also said that cars and taxi cabs will drive themselves, reminiscent of "Johnny Cab" from Total Recall.  There would be no need for traffic lights.  This seems highly likely given recent announcements from GM.

Doesn't sound too bad.  Despite the all these improvements, we might be forgetting the crime that will arise from overcrowding, overheating of the planet, and continued social inequality.

Ain't I a bundle of laughs?

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