Can Smart Cities fail ? Why the Lyon Estates should warn us

@Mohamed Mezghani from @UITP sent out an article posing the question „… why all the new cities worldwide look the same?“.
For me it is a reminiscence of what has happened to the Lyon Estates, a perfectly designed residential area in the block buster „Back to Future“ with Michael J. Fox in his role of a lifetime – Marty McFly.
In this movie, the Lyon Estates, ought to fulfill all the dreams of the typical american underdogs in the early 50ies. The dreams failed twice. In the movie itself and in reality, where Hildale, which is the real name of Lyon Estates, built in 1985, was demolished in 2015.
Officer Reese of the Hill valley police brought it to the point:
„They ought to tear this whole place down. Nothing more than a breeding ground for tranks, lobos, and zipheads.
And now, we are facing the next wave of urban planning and city management, even more precise, more efficient and optimised for revenue, industrial production and total safety in an alarming way.

Industry 4.0 is here, finally

Well, in my opinion, the answer why all the new cities look the same is quite easy. This is an Industry 4.0 process, it’s more about economies of scale and minimising production costs.

Heard about a big order, China recieved from Egypt? 20.000 3-D printed houses, not less.
What should draw our attention here is the fact that our whole lifes are going to be small parts of industrial processes and revenue calculations. Not more.

Beginning by international trade and the upcoming sharing economy, a big monopoly project, the brave new taxi-world, is transforming customers and workers into meaningless digits without any choice in the future.
To be continued with smart cities, the same on technology and a giant landgrab on public data (urban cockpits) and shared mobility concepts (uber, lyft and Co) are reintroducing the carriage driver of the 18th century, with unbelievable monetarian force and again with minimal wages, without a minimum of social security.
Even Ebenezer Scroogeman in the world famous story of the „Christmas Carol“ who only cares about himself and his wealth learned, that that in order for others to care about someone, that person must first care about others.
We will see how the planners and  investors behind this new urban dream will take care for us. It is to hope, that the Lyon estates will make a better life in the third trial.

It takes a village to raise a child

And it takes settlements, houses (smart homes), where families, the hearts of society are living.
These industrialised Lyon eztate concept failed in the past, when technology was not ready for the final step. Making mankind a meaningless part of profit optimisation.

Time to stand up

We should stand up against these aims. Not to misunderstand me. I am not against the chance that we can give affordable housing to the poor all over the world, as Egypt’s military rulers have promised to build a million affordable homes by 2020, a wonderful prospective. Nor do I not see the necessity of having good data in the status of the earth.
It’s just not necessarily to mix this with shareholder value and effective production alone.

I have a dream

I am missing politicians who simply annotate that we should have visions and targets that include a human and social dimension.
This show called economy is set up for us. It is a part of our lives, not a mean by itself.
This was consensus after French Revolution.
We should not forget the price Europe and the world played for this progress. Millions of dead father’s, sons, mother’s and daughters in countless wars over decades.
Therefore, urban management should be seen with respect to general aims and we should not underly the error, that cities and communities are manageable or controlable.

Really, really smart cities

Cities have been smart for 8.000 years. They grew from the size of some families to the size of 20 million.
Generation after generation we solved rock-sized problems, introduced sewers, fresh drinking water and waste management to fight successfully against diseases and child-death.
We abandoned air-emissions and noise, brought green fields back to town and finally; people started farming and harvesting even in mega cities.
Let’s trust in the idea that life is the best thing invented ever and that any one of us should take the best out of it.

And now?

Let us use technology and data to improve and ease our lifes continuously. Like people do it already all over the world.
Let business earn money, but let us keep in mind that especially the latter should be in limits, so everyone can live in go if conditions.

Who alredy does it?

Look at Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. It’s beneficial that they are unbelievable rich and give back the money they can not spend in 1000 years.
As said, industrialised settlements failed once in the USA.
Do you remember how Marty McFly in „Back to future“came back to the Lion Estates where  he grew up in the 50ies?
A depressing picture of a failed and lots idea.
What was winning in Back to Future was „the power of love“, a power stronger than any neoliberal idea.

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