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Are smart cities dangerous?

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

We are big fans of smart cities here at Peg Consulting. We love technology, data and they way it can be used for individual, community and social benefits. But we also appreciate diversity of views and this article raises some interesting points- technology in itself is not enough when governments and communities have to grapple with complex social problems. This Apolitical article is worth a read here or start with the extract below (which is also taken from the book The Smart Enough City”).

Extract: ... the promises of smart cities are illusory. Their deception stems from their very definition, which overemphasises the power and importance of technology. Notice how Cisco grounds urban progress solely in the application of technology. This same focus is what produced the dangers of “intelligent intersections,” predictive policing and LinkNYC. As we will see, the problem with smart cities is not merely that technology is incapable of generating the promised benefits but also that attempts to deploy technology in pursuit of a smart city often distort and exacerbate the problems that are supposedly being solved.

Although presented as utopian, the smart city in fact represents a drastic and myopic reconceptualisation of cities into technology problems. Reconstructing the foundations of urban life and municipal governance in accordance with this perspective will lead to cities that are superficially smart but under the surface are rife with injustice and inequality. The smart city threatens to be a place where self-driving cars have the run of downtowns and force out pedestrians, where civic engagement is limited to requesting services through an app, where police use algorithms to justify and perpetuate racist practices, and where governments and companies surveil public space to control behaviour.