The Internet of Things: A Proto-technate

InternetOfThings

via inoviagroup.se

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

It becomes increasingly clear that the future we are shaping for tomorrow will be considerably different from today, and that the 21st century can potentially become even more dramatic than the 19th century in terms of techno-social development. While the future is indeed shifting, we can see two competing trends which will shape the future. The first one is the increasing exponential pace of ecological devastation, which threatens to destroy the current biosphere and usher in a new dark age for humanity. The second trend is exponential technological development, in terms of computational capacity, information technology, miniaturization, bio-tech, renewal energy and space research development.

These trends will undoubtly transform not only our civilization, but our planet as well. Therefore, it has never been as important as now that we establish a common ground on which we can shape the future existence of the human species and its interrelationship with the planet. To a large extent, social and technological development is not intentional, but a result of emergent processes – meaning that when a new technology is introduced, it will change the way in which human beings interact with the environment and thus eventually transform society and even – in the far perspective – human culture.

While it is difficult to predict the future, it is far from impossible to see towards where technological development could lead us if taken to its logical conclusion. While some are believing that the history of the human civilization is deterministic and will naturally lead to its end-state – the post-1991 realignment in most cases – that is only appearing to be so. In fact, while emergence strives to flow like mighty currents, we fundamentally do have the power to steer it towards the direction where we can see the optimal goals from the perspective that our civilization has chosen to embrace.

We argue that one of the potential logical conclusions of the implementation and development of the Internet of Things is the establishment of an intelligently managed and integrated infrastructure. Such an infrastructure can be utilized in order to create a near-total overview over the usage of resource flows, energy, trade, production and distribution. Thus, from the emergence of the Internet of Things, a technate can be formed.

TL;DR Summary

  • Integrated computer technology and miniaturization means that applications can interconnect to optimize communication and information to optimize functionality within various fields.
  • This process leads to the formation of intelligent cities, which in their turn will interconnect with one another and form larger and larger networks.
  • Eventually, this could mean the establishment of a global integrated network which allows for a total overview over energy-, infrastructure- and resource management on our planet.
  • This would present a great opportunity to exponentially increase our ability to manage resources sustainably while providing a good quality of life to all human beings, but also increases the risk for totalitarian centralized control.
  • Therefore, it is paramount that we establish a dialogue on whether this transition is desirable, in what way it should be implemented and how we could ensure popular influence over the transition process.
  • Fundamentally, the struggle is about who and how technology should be controlled during the 21st century.

Technological determinism and evolution

via kryptonradio.com

via kryptonradio.com

It is easy to imagine that the world we are living in today is the natural consequence of capitalism, industrialism, the scientific revolution and parliamentary democracy. To some extent, it is also true. For example, the rationalization process that the growth-oriented economy initiates when it transforms eco-systems into mono-cultures is the direction towards which the logical conclusion of Smithian Economics point. However, some characteristics of our current economy are to a large extent dependent on co-incidences.

One example is the ascendancy of the private automobile. Motoring has for three generations been such a natural part of western civilization that most people generally are taking it for granted. In the United States, a large part of the surface territory consists of highways, parking lots and the suburban regions made possible by the culture of motoring. The reliance on combustion engine cars have greatly affected climate change during the 20th and early 21st centuries.

However, neither the culture of motoring or the reliance on fossil-based fuels was a historical inevitability. During the early 20th century, there were cars that were powered from various differing sources, and it was not at all certain that the combustion technology would win the techno-evolutionary competition and become the dominant energy model for transport during that era. It was due to a series of historical accidents and investment patterns that this model won out.

Another example of a historical co-incidence was how the wild horse was hunted to extinction in North America during the older Stone Age, but how a small group survived on the Eurasian landmass and was domesticated. If the horse had gone extinct in Eurasia, or survived in the Americas, history as we would have known it would have been entirely different.

Thus, we need to look at technological development not as deterministic, but as evolutionary. Technology is developed on the basis of what has been tried before and proven to work, and thus constantly improves with baby steps. When new technological areas are discovered, the same process generally applies to them (unless these new technologies are outcompeted by established rivals that achieve the same aim). This also means that we can consciously choose what technological development we want to emphasise, and to a limited extent direct what effects on society this progress will have by consciously adapting our infrastructure to the future we are setting the course for.

On the Internet of Things

Robot Hummingbird

The Internet of Things can be defined in many ways – one of the simplest if to say that it is an observed trend. More and more, the minaturization of applications have allowed for a digitalization of previously non-digital technology. This means that the operational intelligence of everyday household items and infrastructure will increase, and that these items will be able to be a part of a large communications network.Picture-6

If this technology becomes widely available in the market, we can imagine that it would not be unusual to see integrated homes, which reminisces of the kind of computerized homes seen in old sci-fi shows from the 1960’s, where people are operating their home environment through their voice or through small chips placed inside their own bodies.

Let us think further. These systems can make homes inter-communicate, allowing for example a more optimal energy distribution between houses within the same neighbourhood, or why not integrated fire warning systems, that would alert the nearby homes of a fire in an application? Or what about integrated waste management systems and automated aquaponics production systems within every habitat, as envisioned by Alexander Bascom?

Eventually, there will be smart cities where all of the infrastructure consist of fully integrated systems, that can monitor energy and resource usage, set up alternative plans for resource usage or assist in the making of such plans, and also to some extent self-manage.

This interconnectedness will grow out from the cities, connecting through power grids, roads and railways, and eventually entire states and continents will be interconnected. This will inevitably – if taken to its logical conclusion – make the existing economical, social and political power arrangements outdated and lead to a complete transformation of not only the human civilization, but of the very concept of civilization itself.

Eventually, what will emerge will be a planet united through a network which allows for the transparent overview and the centralized, de-centralized or integrated management of energy and resources. In short, humanity will be within the reach of establishing if not The Singularity, so at least a Singleton.

The risks of neo-totalitarianism

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While there are many causes to celebrate aspects of the ascent of the Internet of Things, there are also profound risks that need to be analyzed and put into context. The foremost of these risks is the issue of power. Already today, we are seeing tendencies towards a greater and greater concentration of wealth and power in supranational financial institutions and in multi-national corporate entities.

If such structures are given control over the Internet of Things, we would most likely see a very predatory process, the reduction of popular sovereignty and the increase of surveillance and centralization. What could become a system that can help save the biosphere and empower humanity, can under the wrong conditions instead become a virtually un-overthrowable neo-totalitarian Brave New World scenario.

Therefore, the role of the Earth Organisation of Sustainability – and similar organisations aiming for a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable world – should be to increase the availability of this knowledge, but also of the applications and the ability to construct the applications themselves, to the general public and to local communities, within the context of a consciously evolving proto-technate.

What is a proto-technate?

Smart-Cities-1

A proto-technate (a term defined by dr. Andrew Wallace), is a consciously evolving infrastructure management system, which includes and empowers all participants through transparency, de-centralization and constant availability for education. The system is evolving by learning from its previous mistakes, and the goal is increased sustainability, as explained in The Three Criteria.

This means that the control of the Internet of Things within the context of a proto-technate would be given not to corporations, governments or supranational institutions, but to local, voluntary groups that would utilize these technologies to manage their own local environment and the sustainability of their neighbourhoods. This would also allow for a more diverse array of solutions adapted to the local and regional needs of communities and individuals.

In the city of Umea, we in the new EOS Board are aiming to establish an intellectual and practical centre for the development and utilization of technologies to be adapted for the transition towards a sustainable society. The first step would be the establishment of an eco-lab in Umea, through which many local groups – as well as the public – can become connected and learn how to make their imprint in the process of developing and implementing techniques.

Ultimately, if we have a vision of how the world should look like in 100 years, we must work locally and together with individuals and communities to make this a reality. Our main goal in this respect should be to help ensure that the control of the knowledge and the new technologies is in the hands of the people and that it is used in a context of forming a sustainable civilization.

Aqua

watercluster.org

watercluster.org

By Enrique Lescure             

Introduction

karencarr.com

karencarr.com

The craddle of life on Earth can be said to be found in the blue. For many hundreds of millions of years, the ascending continents of the young planet were as dead and barren as the wastelands of Mars, while the oceans and lakes were teeming with life. Water was the solvent in which the first life-bearing cells emerged during the chaotic epochs after the birth of the Moon.

From a world fraught with volcanic eruptions, a poisonous atmosphere and constant meteor storms, Earth has evolved into a planet able to create complex and beautiful life-forms, forming an ever-changing and ever-evolving biosphere.

Much of the freshwater reservoirs have accumulated during millennia and are ensuring that the plants have enough nourishment to produce and renew soil and to establish the foundations for complex ecosystems to exist within.

Today however, we have destroyed or are on the verge of destroying a third of the world’s freshwater reservoirs. Many regions of the world, such as the Middle East and South America, are already experiencing social upheaval in relation to water depletion. China and India, the two most populous nations on Earth, are also experiencing water depletion on a massive scale.

This presents two kinds of challenges, one which is really long-term and the other which is relatively short-term. The first challenge relates to the fact that in the long-term, depleted freshwater reservoirs create a drier climate, meaning that fewer trees can grow, which leads to soil erosion. 5000 years ago, the Middle East and the Southern Balkans were largely forested regions, which gradually became more and more arid due to massive irrigation projects by city-states and hydraulic empires (aided by climate change).

The same process is repeating today in Brazil, the United States, India, China and Central Europe.

The second challenge is how billions of people in the future should be provided with water for drinking, for hygiene, for cooking and for other activities, while eco-systems should be taken cared of to ensure long-term survivability. This will be one of the most important issues for the Earth Organisation for Sustainability in the future.

Our challenge, as always, is how to be able to weigh the needs of today with what the environment needs in order to stabilise, and how to ensure that communities can participate in this process.

Short Notes (TL;DR)

There is not one singular solution to the challenge of freshwater depletion – rather there must be a transition process which is on-going and is coordinated between five distinct areas. The areas in this regard are all equally important, though emphasis has to be put on different areas depending on the local and regional pecularities of distinct regions of our planet.

~ Short-term solutions, policy-based and social. Rationing, water salvaging, public education regarding water treatment and stimulation of local projects.

~ Medium-term solutions, infrastructure projects, construction of artificial aquifiers, aqueducts and water salvaging plants. Migrations and redistribution of population.

~ Long-term solutions, the creation and re-terraformation of depleted regions by the (re)construction of destroyed eco-systems or new eco-systems. Monitoring of the process.

~ Research, time investments into technologies that can make desalinization more cost-effective, new technologies for recycling and upcycling water quality, reducing the need for water in home appliances and in infrastructure overall.

~ Ensuring the dignity of communities and a fair distribution, namely that the affected populations themselves are having democratic influence in the process of how their transition process should be managed and how much they want to participate in that management.

The future – short-term solutions

Mars base by Douglas Shrock 1

humanmars.net

We have largely been treating water as if it was air – as if we could use as much as possible of the groundwater and then… well, not having to think about the management. Sure, in most developed nations, there is water management, which works more or less well (the Nordic countries are generally very high up on that scale, with drinkable tap water and very large and unspoiled reserves of ground water, with hundreds of thousands of lakes).

In the future, there is a profound risk that we – at least in some regions – would have to treat water in a way similar to how we would endure on a Mars base, namely by careful management and a circular hydraulic economy, where water is moved from household appliances and infrastructure to large aquaponics facilities, where rainwater is gathered, filtered and cleaned and utilised within the habitat, with zero to little usage of aquifiers. In fact, we should move towards minimising our usage of groundwater, instead focusing on water recycling, rainwater usage, water from rivers (though we should be careful with river water as well and have systems that can replenish the water to the rivers from the base). 20131003142909-NEW.Aquaponics-IconUrine may have to be filtered and turned into drinkable water again.

In terms of personal usage, this would probably entail local water regulations where people are given either a water quota for a community tank, or their own individual tanks where they could use water. A lot of the functions that today are individually allocated might have to become communal, like washing clothes, bathrooms, kitchens and so on. When two or more distinct communities are sharing the same source for their water, there needs to be a form of common management or at least transparency and concord between these two communities, thence holons should be formed for these tasks.

Ensuring human survival – Medium-term solutions

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In particular cases, there might be needs to transport water from either deep aquifiers (like the Sahara aquifier) or from regions with abundant water reserves to regions where water shortage threatens the survival of hundreds of millions, and can cause the collapse of over-stressed communities. This can be achieved through the construction of closed aqueducts or water pipelines, and must be managed both by a convent of representatives of the affected communities, and a technical authority managing the infrastructure of such projects. In some cases, the Earth itself may have to be transformed to construct fresh-water lakes with adjacent forest eco-systems to form the basis of medium-term water sustainability in the social term.

Or, we might even need to consider large-scale migrations, for example from the United States into Canada, from China into Siberia and from the Mediterranean countries into north-eastern Europe, in order to alleviate the resource stress on China and the US by distributing the population more evenly, as the polar regions become more habitable due to climate change while the temperate regions become less able to provide for their population. This would also reduce the need to transport water from the north to the south, by instead making it possible for people to migrate from the south to the north.

Another project worth considering is to create closed-loop rivers in Sahara and then form communities around them, where people from Africa and parts of the Middle East (and even from flooded Islands like the Maldives) can settle, in oasis city states built alongst a string of pearls in the vast Saharan desert.

Lastly, the final two areas for human resettlement are Antarctica and the Oceans, and both represent technological challenges in terms of how to attain enough water to supply significant populations.

Ensuring the well-being of the Biosphere – Long-term solutions

encuentura.wordpress.com

encuentura.wordpress.com

When we in the EOS are talking about long-term solutions, we mean long-term, in terms of 10.000-50.000 years. This means partially that humans would have to live in different forms of communities. Mega-cities housing tens of millions of people should not be subsidized as an ideal form of life, which they are in today’s exponential growth-oriented model. Neither would a massive, evened-out distribution of the population be a good solution, since it would wipe out forests and eco-systems. The ideal would be concentrated inter-linked communities ranging in the thousands, though there would be no forced population redistribution.

The first thing that needs to be done is to ensure that our biological waste is used to renew soil cultures, or to build new soil cultures where old ones have been depleted. This means that we should not put our waste in the oceans or in lakes, but instead use human manure as a valuable resource to be utilized as a part of recreating and strengthening soil quality. What we term as waste from mines can also be valuable, since rock often contains important resources that increases the nutrition levels.

We need to ensure to reduce soil erosion, both by the construction of terraces and especially by the growing of plants, allowing eco-systems to take hold. We need to move away from mono-cultures and grow food more vertically and within the confinements of urban centres. Of course, it is not possible to remove all mono-cultures, but we need to reduce the amount significantly over a long span of time.

If we cannot reestablish eco-systems that have been lost, we must see whether we can build new eco-systems to compensate for the lost ones, and if these new eco-systems would have a positive impact on the Earth’s biosphere.

And – a lot of this means that we have to create more preserves where human-oriented activities are minimised, and that we let these preserves be untouched for hundreds of generations, that said – until a new equilibrium is established.

Applying and multiplying knowledge – Research

panacea-bocaf.org

panacea-bocaf.org

There is much valuable research done today within the space industry, regarding the effective usage of water in order to create self-containing artificial eco-systems and provide food on space stations or on Mars bases. This technology can also be applied on the Earth in order to salvage resources and increase our resilience. However, the technology needs to become more energy efficient and as ecological as possible without compromising the values behind. The things envisioned to be used one day on Mars should also be utilised in villages in Morocco, Honduras or Kerala, and thus the knowledge must spread horizontally in an exponential manner (there can EOS be of immeasurable help, by providing educational programmes aimed towards local communities).

Desalinization should also be investigated, and an emphasis should be put on making the process cleaner, more effective and cheaper in terms of resources and construction. Especially within small-scale appliances, a focus should be made, so that every home in a community can contribute to the process of turning saline water into freshwater.

A third area is in terms of the development of household machines that use less water, either by design features or by the usage of more advanced technology, for example smaller treatment plants and the integration of treatment plant infrastructure into the modular features of future homes. To this we can also add technologies that can treat infected water and clean it.

Lastly, we should not omit to mention the integrated features of intelligent cities, which can be used to predict the usage of water over long-term and come with proposals over how water management should be carried out.

Including the communities – the social aspect

socialearth.org

socialearth.org

An integral part of what we in EOS are striving to create, is that people locally and regionally should be able to exert influence over their own destinies. This does not only mean to guarantee the protection of individual rights – both through a Constitution and through giving individuals the means to defend their autonomy – but also the protection of the rights of communities. An important aspect of this is that communities should bear the responsibility of the natural resources within their area – including water.

This can be problematic though, because the irresponsible usage of natural resources is a great part of what is wrecking our biosphere right now and causing the Sixth Mass Extinction. Therefore, there is a balance between the democratic autonomy of a community and their right to exert the main part of the influence on how natural resources should be used locally, and the rights of the Biosphere to exist and prosper.

There is no fixed answer on how to resolve this potential conflict, but every local area is unique. What is important however is to identify needs, to establish a dialogue with the local community, to create management plans together with representatives of the local community, both political leaders, traditional leaders, economic actors, representatives of the civil society and the general public, and to include them in the process where holons are established to oversee aspects and manage aspects of the hydraulic infrastructure. The grade and depth of the management and the collaboration will vary between regions and areas.

This also includes the right for the local area or region to withdraw from the cooperation or renegotiate. However, what we need to establish is a consensus and an awareness of how water usage affects the environment and how a changed environment will affect the future of local communities. Thus, EOS needs to act primarily as an educational organisation, while we need to incorporate the knowledge and wisdom of local communities and understand that situations need to be addressed with a sensitivity to the values and norms – in order to be able to canalise the force of the community towards the gathering of new knowledge that can be utilised to improve water management.

Summary

scientificamerican1109-80-I1

Some new age spiritualists are claiming that we will soon enter the age of Aquarius, or that we have already. Aquarius as a symbolic figure is a human being that pours water – enlightenment – over humanity. It can be seen as an appropriate metaphor in one way, because if the knowledge of how much we have damaged our water reservoirs was better known, there would be a greater movement towards solving these problems.

Some aspects of the article you have read may seem rather radical. The problem however is that the more we are stressing and depleting the reservoirs of water and soil needed to sustain a complex land-based supra-civilization as present-day humanity, the more radical the solutions would eventually have to be.

The important thing to remember is that interventions must happen with the permission and active participation of local communities, and that they should interfere as much as necessary but not more into the livelihood of the people. Interventions can be intrusive, so therefore the most essential part of any transition is that the population is made aware of the nature of the situation, that the population is prepared for when interventions would happen and how far they will go, and that the public can affect the process and partake in it.

Water must be managed in an ecological manner, but it must ultimately also be managed by the people.

Intelligent cities as a step towards a technate

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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?

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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

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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.

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