Intelligent cities as a step towards a technate

10857945_820253331346089_4269940590954940078_n

by Enrique Lescure

Introduction

One integral part of the design we in the Earth Organisation for Sustainability envision is that humanity needs to utilize information technology in order to establish a better overview of the resource flows that we use on the planet, as well as the planet’s own capacity. More of this can be read in the article “The Three Criteria” on this blog. Ideally, it will mean the formation of a self-aware infrastructure that allows the public to have a full picture over our local, regional and global usage of resources. Such a system that monitors resource flows and includes the public to participate in the monitoring processes and the decision-making can be designed in various differing forms – but if the form is adhering to the definition laid forth previously in this sentence, the system can be called a technate.

This article will argue that the technological development in the spheres of information technology, and how it integrates with infrastructure and resource monitoring in terms of so-called intelligent cities – is an engine that drives society towards adopting the technate model as a standard for the future.

This is fundamentally a positive development, since it creates a model for data gathering that allows decisions to be made with better access to data and less flawed information, as well as creating a unified data pool which can alleviate some of the problems with multiple reality consensuses at the same time.

However, the transition towards a technate model also poses a few risks. For example, it might be used to control the citizens rather than to monitor the resource flows. Therefore, there needs to be a holonic model with checks and balances instituted both by design and through legalistic and institutional/cultural means.

What is a technate

gizmodo.com

gizmodo.com

What is a technate?

The shortest possible definition is a technical operational geographic area in terms of resources, infrastructure and technology. It is not a government, nor a socio-economic system (a technate can exist and support any kind of economic system adapted to modern-era and cybernetic-era technology), but basically infrastructure managing itself consciously. It can range anywhere from total centralization within the context of a singleton or The Venus Project, into anarchic de-centralization or holonic self-governance. So there is no single clear definition, and even if a technate is established and consolidated, that technate would undoubtly not be the same after a century has passed.

Within the EOS, we hold that forms should be adapted after functions, not the other way around, and the two limiting factors should be our values and the Earth. With this in regard, we do not believe that there will be a single date in history when the technate will be “declared”, just like the Industrial Revolution was not declared by a political statement or celebration.

Rather, what increasingly appears as the most realistic way for a technate to emerge is through an organic evolutionary approach, where information technology is integrated into infrastructure, appliances, vehicles, industrial resource flows, products and recycling centres, which means that what was previously an “unintelligent” economy driven by insufficient information gradually will become more and more self-aware, and the bottlenecks will be reduced to conscious attempts by industries to separate themselves from the grid or to conscious political decisions to protect traditional forms of industrial management with legislations and use of force. Another threat is of course viruses, which can serve to offset the transition.

What is an Intelligent City?

beinformed.com

beinformed.com

It is really difficult to really spot a difference between a technate and an intelligent city. In many ways an intelligent city as defined by most actors striving to establish such cities is what the EOS defines as a proto-technate, namely an incomplete technate or a hybrid between today’s industrial system and a technate.

Intelligent cities are cities which utilize the emergent “Internet of Things” to monitor the status of various functions in society, such as utilities, waste management, energy and collective transit. This allows for more information to be shared and decisions to be made faster and with better information at the disposal of the decision-makers. Here is a comparison between intelligent cities in China and the European Union.

What is needed in order to transition from an Intelligent city to a Technate?

Bettery_Teaser_SciFi-768x332

The only thing that is needed is that the current trends continue to their logical conclusion, in terms of depth and scope. In terms of depth, it would mean that we would strive to be able to monitor all resource flows and include better and better monitoring systems to improve performance. This information will not be used only to manage the current system as efficiently as possible, but also to transcend towards a more circular system by finding and eliminating bottlenecks and identifying areas where different actors can converge to create symbiotic interrelationships between for example food-, energy- and waste management, increase the level of participation in local communities and localise production to increase the resilience and autonomy of the citizens, as well as increasing the self-confidence of communities in managing their own destiny.

In terms of scope, we can not stay happy with only looking at the resource management of a city. No matter if a city is a local town or a super-metropolis, most interconnected cities in the the developed world are today consuming resources from the entire planet. We need to extend the monitoring of the flows to the original source of the resources, both to allow citizens to make informed and ethical consumer choices, and in order to extend sustainability beyond the city’s borders. Thus, we would get an emergent living data bank that would serve to increase our collective intelligence, empathy and wisdom and can help decision-makers from politicians to managers to citizens to make better and more informed decisions, and encourage them to take initiatives to improve the flow where they can see it is lacking.

Risks and challenges

09272011_Shadow_Workers_article

One of the main issues regarding this transition from industrial cities to intelligent cities to emergent proto-technates is the risk that it could serve to centralize power into the hands of unaccountable elites and that information rather than being open and transparent regarding the flows and regarding administrative accountability will be inaccessible for ordinary citizens through technological centralization into the hands of organised financial capital, and that the powers that be will use legal frameworks to shield themselves from public inquiries while utilizing the technology to install surveillance policies over the general population in the names of terrorism and intellectual property rights.

Another problem which shall not be omitted is when corporations assume the ownership of utilities and local natural resources, leading to the people being excluded from vital parts of their own lives. This would serve to threaten the social autonomy of communities and put the control into the hands of interested parties whose lives are not affected by worsening local living conditions.

What the EOS can do in this regard is to connect groups and initialize projects aimed towards utilizing these new emerging ways of using information technology into supporting local communities. We need to act as a transmitter of knowledge and technology to local communities in order to strengthen their confidence and their autonomy, and to ensure that technology is utilized in accordance with responsible, sustainable and transparent methodologies and goals. The people needs to be included in the transformation towards an intelligent civilization, otherwise there is a great risk that the new technologies would be utilized to cement the narrative of power we increasingly have seen emerge since the 1970’s.

Conclusion

thevenusproject.com

thevenusproject.com

Today we are moving towards an integrated society, where Information Technology soon will connect the infrastructure in an information flow. The Earth Organisation for Sustainability must actively and consciously emerge in this process in order to shift the emphasis towards inclusive technology that is utilized to increase the knowledge, participation and autonomy of local communities, in a manner which empowers individual citizens and give them power over their own lives.

The development towards intelligent cities is ultimately a positive force, but it is a force which must be introduced in a manner where all of society participates and shapes the future, rather than small elite groups. Therefore, our main goal at the moment must be to engage communities in projects that utilize technology, and form networks with said communities where they can interact and transform themselves to better adapt to the conditions of the future.

Our goal must be to play a substantial positive part in this transformation.

If you are interested, do not forget to like our facebook page and join our facebook group.

Advertisements

Biodome Project Update

Biodome

The collaborative project between Green Free Will and EOS has finished the first stage of the Umea Biodome Project, which is also a EU-funded LEADER project (thankies EU)! The foundation and the “skeleton” of the dome are ready. Now we only need panels there.

The second stage of the project will see the insulation system established, the aquaponics installed, and the third and most challenging part will be the computer systems that will regulate the climate and atmosphere of the interior of the dome, amongst other things.

EOS and Green Free Will is aiming for a meeting to discuss – amongst other things – the future of this cooperation.

The main challenge will be to acquire funding for stage 2 and stage 3.

Enrique Lescure, Director of the Sequence of Relations, EOS

For more on this, check this.

Artificial Islands as a solution to outcrowding

The Pacific Ocean is covering very much of the planet

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Recently, studies have shown that wildlife populations have declined enormously in the world, by one third if we look at land-based species, and with over two thirds if we take a closer peek on marine life. A large part of this – especially regarding the valuable oceanic ecosystems – can be explained with direct exploitation (like overfishing or poaching). However, another explanation could be that we as a species are “out-crowding” other species, not by covering all of the planet with urban areas (though this kind of expansion also is problematic), but especially through the amount of space needed to produce food currently.

An issue of space

Monoculturalism

Food. Alongside water one of the two essentials to sustain the human body and thereby the human civilization. Today, food production is increasingly transforming the face of the planet, especially regarding the usage of space. Corn, wheat, rice, nuts, tea, coffee – but also food components like palm oil are produced on a large scale, transforming entire regions into monocultural landscapes, perfectly assimilated to maximise the space for useful economic growth.

Of course, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are frequently used. While mining as an activity often is more directly harmful to the local environment, monocultures are a direct killer of biological diversity and leads to species more and more being crowded together in isolated patches of wilderness. This leads to problem such as more frequent starvation, inbreeding, cannibalism and external stress to animal species, and they respond by dwindling in numbers, thus furthering the process of environmental degradation.

Mass deaths are natural occurrences in nature, but what we must realise is that this mass death is caused by the activities of our civilization.

Don’t we have a shortage of food?

If you would like to contend with me that we today face a shortage of food, I can respond by saying that there is a consensus that we today are producing more food than the current amount of people on Earth can consume. That we still have widespread poverty and starvation in parts of the world such as Subsaharan Africa and India can not be attributed to any planetary scarcity of food.

Using space more wisely

shogun

As a planetary civilization, approaching the level where we can create a Type 1, we should definetly be using space in a wiser way. During the 17th century, Japan was steadily approaching an ecological crisis created by the overusage of the limited woodland reserves on the Japanese archipelago. To solve these issues, the Tokugawa Shôgunate imposed a series of measures (some which would be considered draconian by today’s standards) which averted the crisis and prevented starvation.

Europe approached a similar situation during the same period, and solved it by colonialism and proto-industrialization, while Japan solved their renaissance-era ecological crisis through using space more wisely. Today, with the Earth rapidly approaching a mass extinction, we cannot solve this crisis by large-scale colonialism (Mars will not be terraformed for many millennia).

With using space more wisely, I am referring to the cessation of the construction of suburban housing areas, so typical for the late-modern west, and instead construction more habitats vertically and more based around tenements, and possibly even arcologies (single buildings that can house several tens of thousands of people comfortably).

Arcology-1

Such arcologies can, as illustrated by this image, contain their own ecosystems and farms, which could sustain at least a part of the demands of the citizens of the structure. The arcology would be a minor city in its own right, with its own hospitals, education systems, recreation spots and sporting facilities.

Since the amount of suburban areas (at least in the US) starts to be visible from space, it would be a good transition project to build human habitats on more limited space. This however will not wholly address the issue of food production, since urban farming cannot under any circumstances sustain the entire needs of the planet.

More vegetarianism, less meat

Cows

The nutrition we get from eating meat is “immensely wasteful” and contributes greatly to the addition of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Moreover, the meat industry is treating intelligent beings in ways which would evoke nightmares if they were conducted on human beings. Meat consumption is largely on the increase in the growing economies of the east, mostly because meat has traditionally been seen as an “upper class” luxury. Meat also contributes to heart diseases. While EOS under no circumstances advocates the ban of eating meat, we would suggest the creation of a way to estimate the cost of goods which take into account their long-term effects.

Seasteding

Lilypad, design by Vincent Callebaut

Lilypad, design by Vincent Callebaut

A more efficient way to utilise space on Earth and allow areas and regions to be freed up for a return to a more wild state, would be to increasingly move human activity out into the great blue. The Pacific Ocean is covering very much of the planetary surface, and an increasing transfer of human activity there could serve to free up space. The Pacific region, as well as other oceans, can be used for both human habitation and food production.

It would also expand our knowledge of space settlement and of creating new cultures which would be more resilient. Seasteding could in an organised way become the great new frontier and a way to put pressure off the continents. However, there needs to be a coordinated effort to not deplete the fragile ecosystems of the oceans, or add to the pollution.

What are your ideas?

What ideas do you have? If you are interested in this, I recommend that you check into our website, or join our facebook group. Also, like our facebook page, we have soon entered 500 likes. We hope to see your contributions to the work we are doing.

Update on the Biodome Project

By Enrique Lescure

Biodome Construction

As you who have followed this project know, we have had some troubles getting the second half of our grant (and you should know we’ve tried since March). Now, it seems like we’ve would get 86.000 SEK, which would cover both for remnant costs of the construction process until now, and the panels.

However, that does not mean that the crowdfunding initiative will cease. The next step after the panels are the programming systems and the computers, and those pieces do – as you probably know – cost money to obtain. Nevertheless, for the moment, the project is saved and can move on.