This week London hosts a jamboree of computer geeks, politicians, and urban planners from around the world. At the Urban Age conference, they will discuss the latest whizz idea in high tech, the “smart city”.
“But,” writes Richard Sennett in The Guardian, “the danger now is that this information-rich city may do nothing to help people think for themselves or communicate well with one another.”
“A great deal of research during the last decade, in cities as different as Mumbai and Chicago, suggests that once basic services are in place people don’t value efficiency above all; they want quality of life. A hand-held GPS device won’t, for instance, provide a sense of community. More, the prospect of an orderly city has not been a lure for voluntary migration, neither to European cities in the past nor today to the sprawling cities of South America and Asia. If they have a choice, people want a more open, indeterminate city in which to make their way; this is how they can come to take ownership over their lives.”