Smart Cities: Your Life in a Fish Bowl

Amazon-Dash-Image-Tide 2Smart Cities are a national, state and county goal, for whatever reason anyone can come up with. Here is the reason offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation,

In December 2015, we launched our Smart City Challenge, asking mid-sized cities across America to develop ideas for an integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system that would use data, applications, and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.

Sensors Are at the Heart of Smart Cities

* Builders are developing ways to use smart concrete to make bridges, highways, and buildings laced with carbon fibers able to respond to stress and monitor activity.

This new invention allows construction of smart concrete structures, able to detect even minute changes in the amount of stress inside. This new composite material is able to self-monitor for signs of cracks or stress.

In addition, smart concrete is expected to be used for building facility management, i.e. to weigh each room of a building to monitor the room occupancy in real time, thereby saving money and energy by allowing the lighting, heating, cooling and ventilation of the room to be controlled according to the occupancy level.

* Manufacturers are making smart appliances.

…select Whirlpool® smart appliances now support the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, allowing families to control their appliances from anywhere in the house with simple voice commands. So whether in the other room helping with homework or cooking dinner with messy hands, families can care for their loved ones better, faster and smarter.

Technology Companies Are Leading the Way

Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Microsoft are the natural candidates in the building of smart cities. They already thrive on collecting and evaluating data. Microsoft is building the city of Belmont in the state  of Arizona.

Belmont (as the town will be called) will feature 80,000 residential units, public schools, and commercial buildings. Everything in the 25,000-acre property will be built around a flexible infrastructure model, which is why many are calling the proposed town a smart city. In many ways, Belmont will be a location where the latest technologies and innovative designs can be tested on a actual community, creating a real-life blueprint for how cities of the future could be run.

The Internet of Things

Thus, in a smart city we reach the pinnacle of The Internet of Things, where all is connected, watched and evaluated.

The Internet of Things really comes together with the connection of sensors and machines. That is to say, the real value that the Internet of Things creates is at the intersection of gathering data and leveraging it. All the information gathered by all the sensors in the world isn’t worth very much if there isn’t an infrastructure in place to analyze it in real time.

Watch for the Downside

Since Biblical times knowing where you live is understanding who you are.

I know thy works, and where thou dwellest (Revelation 2.13)

Now imagine not only knowing where you live, but also where you are at all times via your phone, your appliances, your city. Imagine not only knowing where you are, but also what are you doing or buying. Or do you for a moment think that the information gathered about you is not inventoried, catalogued, evaluated, and used?

Not everyone is happy with smart cities. Critics are concerned about the rise of the tech oligarchy.

The tech oligarchs who already dominate our culture and commerce, manipulate our moods, and shape the behaviors of our children while accumulating capital at a rate unprecedented in at least a century want to fashion our urban future in a way that dramatically extends the reach of the surveillance state already evident in airports and on our phones.

The drive to redesign our cities, however, is not really the end of the agenda of those who Aldous Huxley described as the top of the “scientific caste system.” The oligarchy has also worked to make our homes, our personal space, “connected” to their monitoring and money machines.

Your Life, Your Choice

Do you want maximum convenience because you are so pressed for time? Do you want to keep up with your peers and have the latest tech gadget on the market? Is your desire to help stop climate change high enough for you to actively support housing-dense villages filled with sensors that constantly monitor your use of energy?

If so, then you need to accept your life in a virtual fish bowl, where your actions can be relayed to a cloud server and analyzed for purposes beyond your control. You need to accept the possibility that the information gathered from you might be about you in particular, not just about what everyone does in the aggregate. And you need to accept the risk that in a future you do not at present foresee, someone possessing considerable power may not like what they see in the data gathered from you.

Just Vote No If Big Data Does not Appeal to You

Technology, the Internet, smart phones have increased our productivity, enriched our lives and given us power as individuals to express our thoughts and share our discoveries.  Therefore, it behooves us to ensure that the positive blessings of technology remain friendly towards us.

However, it appears that Big Data might be developing in ways akin to Big Pharma.  Regulation has been suggested for both biggies, but can one really regulate away people’s natural profit motives or the market’s unforgiving forces?  Probably not, or at least not without ushering in tyranny.  If the free and open market demands smart cities, great! However, if they are foisted on an unsuspecting public by interested parties, that’s not so great.

If you are not a supporter of Big Data, you might consider choosing leaders who do not use your tax dollars to subsidize developers of smart cities.  Find out if your city or county leaders are falling all over one another rushing to give technology companies tax breaks, while your small business has none.  Be aware of who wants to change things in your neighborhood, and just vote no on tax proposals sure to be on your ballot to support such changes.