Smart Cities Building Value or Values?

We think GDP growth, economic value and wealth is the real value. What I am realising is that universal values is the real wealth of humanity.  This is the guiding navigation that changes what we see and feel.  However, we still are on a trajectory which has caused the problem of climate change where we must have more, we must make more, we pollute, we change genetics, we extract resources, we damage nature, as we must keep building, we must expand construction (mega dollars), we must see progress as more and more widgets and lower and lower costs (artificial intelligence, less jobs). Again as I said in the previous blog and was quoted we “forget” people. There is no idea about what the real needs are? what people crave for? An uncertain future for children who want a environment that is not a buzz word of ‘sustainability’ but in actual fact is in homeostasis and a new civilisation that is in harmony in the real world not a digital fake reality that can easily be manipulated by those who do not care for people.  I have not seen a shift in this important aspect of social responsibility, empathy, consideration, working together or peace. Until I see this happening I know this is repackaging a brand image rather than authentic and real and in service to humanity.

There is no social policy in alignment or integrated with the Smart Cities concept which appears as an unquestioned hamster wheel that does not ensures socio-emotional wellbeing and balance but progress that makes more money (faster wealth creation).

The reality in my view is we cannot achieve sustainability until we change the underlying drivers of what is unsustainable – greed, emotional disconnection, power over others, over emphasis on security, data gathering due to fear of loss of control, war mentality, rising prices, endless wars, corruption, self interest and a very primitive awareness of our intimate and direct connection with nature that is responsive to our discord, hence changes.

The reason why indigenous people didn’t have material things or very little is not because they were primitive it was because they didn’t need to fill the gaps as they were in harmony with the earth as ONE.  The extent to which we need more and more is in exact proportion to our emotional void that is neglected more and more as it is seen as vulnerability and weakness not navigation to what we truly want.  Emotional intelligence is not verbalised or understood consciously by those driving the Smart Cities agenda as they have no real understanding of the social emotional reality of humanity and its real needs of love, self expression, freedom, privacy, families, nature, fresh air, free time and healthy community arising out of balance.  Humans want to express their creativity and feel hope for the future, they do not want to be controlled, monitored, in survival mode and ignored as remote views of governments and industry who shape our world in their image and based on their needs. They may market it and use words that give the impression of serving society but ultimately that is never true as they are programmed to serve their own interests and market to those they wish to influence rather than truly serve.  If you were to truly serve you would ask people what they want rather than impose ideas.  People want to have a say in what happens, to be heard by government (which mostly they aren’t) and to be independent (interdependent) and sustainable envisaging freedom from fear and free from the negative externalities resultant from the economic paradigm that bases outcomes on economic growth and employment without an ability to respond to climate and earth systems signals in a organic process rather than control mechanisms which see life as digital, controllable and not relate to 6 billion years of evolution created not by humans but intelligent design in the living systems of nature.  There is no real understanding of the coding of DNA, inherent feeling of life, spiritually connecting with innate purpose which  moves us to seek for actualisation or highest potential whilst alive.  The true needs are not realised in the mindset of IT executives from Silicon Valley in the United States, nor military planners looking at full spectrum dominance modalities of control or those in business regarding humans as consumers or commodities to be exploited to ensure growth is maximised rather than maximising human happiness and potential in the image of the world community. I see no wording around real human emotional needs, family, relationships or spiritual growth in harmony with nature.  There does not appear to be any feedback from studies from the community to market test Smart Cities but rather an information campaign to promote it and roll it out as a given.


This is not respect for the needs of citizens around the world.  It is why it won’t work as the foundation is not based on the needs of people but rather the needs of industry and government who see enormous potential for making money, controlling education and molding minds to fit in with a Smart City rather than responding to creativity, infinite possibilities and maximising freedom which is the deepest desire for humanity (programmed into DNA).  This is the perennial problem citizens face, they are not seen for who they are and those directing this show are separated, disconnected and do not associate with the so-called ordinary person. They are IT, business or government professionals who deal with millions and billions of dollars and see the world as their playground impressed by status, wealth as they compete to be more rather than the wisdom of learning to be less to have more.  To expand wisdom, to recognise true happiness is connection to life and that living on purpose is recalibration to homeostasis of the planet.  To explore like Star trek the real possibility of life in a range of forms. Wouldn’t that be exciting?


Sometimes I just sit and reflect and can’t believe how we haven’t progressed.  No matter how you design it, if you can’t see beyond self interest we remain in a primitive mold unaware of its detrimental impact on a complex global environmental, human and species system.  It is human evolution that must be worked on not Smart Cities so we have the maturity to handle technology in a balanced way.  Today we have so many living in poverty, homeless, complex diseases, increasing cancer (pollutants, nuclear testing), mental health disruption (stress, negativity, out of control) and drug addiction (family breakdown, disconnection from self), bullying (powerlessness, aggression, harm),  modern slavery (exploitation), child abuse, domestic violence, water shortages (global warming), droughts, wild fires, coal and gas extraction (fossil fuels, energy industry not free energy), endless war promotion (industrial-military, oil industry) and corruption on a profound scale across the planet due to declining ethics and children with anxiety, loneliness, cyber bullying and suicide due to their parents fears, separation and non stop media violence as entertainment. These are the real disruptions that catalyse dysfunctional cities where most are surviving and not happy.  I worked in 400 companies I found very few happy as they worked to pay bills not live for themselves. They were trained to put themselves last, work late and increasingly lose a social or family life. This is the selfishness and pathological dimensions of a business culture that is toxic and out of alignment with community and life systems. It is measured by accountants not fulfilment, it is performance based not happiness based, it is technological not communal and the list goes on.

So many issues.  We haven’t even started to solve as we are as a civilisation at the stage of toddlers.  This is not a put down it is where we are at given our problems that are not solved.

We think we are advanced the reality is we are not until we learn peaceful coexistence (not suppressed) and solving not through force but respect.  We are still at war militarily and industrially. This is the core problem.

What do you think?  Is this sustainable?

Flexible and sustainable: here’s how the cities of the future will look

Exclusive Interview with Carlo Ratti

How digital data and new technology can help improve the quality of life and the sustainability of cities

carlo ratti interview


hat will the cities of the future look like? Sustainable and sensitive, built to fit the current and future needs of their inhabitants, and capable of using data gathered by technology in the service of improving people’s lives.
That’s the view of Carlo Ratti – architect, engineer and expert of new technology applied to urban planning. The director of the Senseable City Lab at Boston’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology, elaborated on his outlook during a speech on November 20 at the workshop called “Flexible Cities. Advancing Australia”, organized by Salini Impregilo in collaboration with the University of Technology Sydney-UTS. The Australian model as one example of sustainable and modern urban development was at the center of the event, where the Economist Intelligence Unit presented the report “Flexible Cities. The Future of Australian Infrastructure.” Carlo Ratti dived deeper into this subject in an exclusive interview with “We Build Value.”

Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth: some of Australia’s largest cities are at the center of important urban renewal projects. How would you define the model of urban development that they are experiencing?

«I don’t think it is a single model. The big question is: is it better to expand up or out? Horizontal expansion means consuming greenfield or virgin space, while vertical expansion means increasing the urban density. Personally I tend towards the second option. Among the many models you mention, I like to point out the positive example of Melbourne, which is based on an increase in urban density. In the 1980s, the city center was neglected and run-down, and it really needed to turn the page.  It was my friend Rob Adams, who had lived in South Africa and later became Chief Architect in Melbourne, who enacted a different sort of urban development strategy that turned the situation around in the space of just a few years. The idea was to pull people back to living in the city center, therefore harnessing a greater urban density as a motor for rebirth. In support of this goal, the city got a new transport system, and new public spaces contributed to transforming the dynamics of people’s interactions, making Melbourne into the city it is today, and propelling it into the top ranks of the world’s most livable cities».

Most of the infrastructure spending in Australia, both at the federal and state level, is for  railway transport. Subways, above all, but also light railways. Is this the way to make cities more sustainable?

«I believe we are headed towards a diversification of means of transport, facilitated by an ever increasing use of data. Digital data can enable people to choose between a broad ‘transport portfolio’, or a menu of options based on real time information: the freedom to ride a bicycle, share a car, walk, take a taxi, use the subway or train, or hitchhike with friends. In this new scenario, investing in rail transport is certainly very important».

The example of Paris, which is building the Grand Paris Express (the largest sustainable mobility project in the world) seems to confirm this trend. Does the French capital demonstrate that major European cities can also have a large and efficient public transport network?

«Absolutely. I think it is about time to start discouraging the use of private cars, in favor of more sustainable mobility models such as car and bike sharing, the use of public transport and, in the not-too-far-off future, self-driving cars, either individually owned or for shared use».

How can technology and new discoveries help improve the quality of transportation in large metropolitan areas? Could you give us an example?

«Let’s take autonomous driving. The benefits from self-driving cars is not so much the simple act of no longer having to keep your hands on the wheel, but rather the advantages it brings to the road and street infrastructure.  A self-driving car acts like a completely different car:  after it brings us to work in the morning, it can be right back on the road, giving our children a ride to school, or the neighbor’s children, are anyone else in the city for that matter. So we’re talking about a hybrid public-private transport system, which in theory could lead to a reduction in the number of cars on the streets.
Parking lots would also become something different with self-driving cars. In a study by our lab at MIT using data provided by the city of Singapore – one of the most avant-garde places for mobility – we observed that the space needed for parking could fall as  much as 70% in an autonomous driving scenario, changing the urban landscape. Imagine what it would be like if each unnecessary parking space could be replaced by a tree or a small garden. Or if a street could change configuration according to how it is used: a few months ago, for example, CRA (Carlo Ratti Associati) worked with SideWalk Labs (which is owned by the Google group) to develop a system of self-configuring streets in Toronto, where the same stretch of lane could change function during the arc of a single day: in the morning it could be a commuter lane, and in the evening, a pedestrian walkway».

Story Bridge, Brisbane

Uber is testing the idea of transporting its customers with flying cars. Could these sort of solutions work for urban areas?

«To be honest, even if flying cars appear in a lot of science fiction – starting with ‘Metropolis’ envisioned by Fritz Lang’s film in the 1920s – I don’t think that flying cars are a credible alternative for the future of mobility. There are a lot of limitations, starting with the laws of physics: to keep a person weighing 60 or 70 kilograms up in the air, you need to move a huge amount of air. This is why helicopters are so noisy and why they consume so much fuel…All you would need would be ten of them flying around a city center to make it unlivable… imagine the noise, and the danger, if there were tens or hundreds of thousands of them».

If it is true that the future of our planet will belong to cities, what will the city of the future be like?

«They will be more sustainable by necessity. Cities have a large impact, on a global scale. Their impact can be summed up in four numbers: 2-5-75-80. On a global level, cities take up 2% of the Earth’s surface, but hold 50% of the world’s population, and they are responsible for 75% of energy consumption and 80% of CO2 emissions. If we can improve cities, even just a little bit, we can have a big impact on the entire planet.
From this point of view, the new technologies will enable us to make a better use of our existing infrastructure, through sharing. Today, on average, a car is only moving for 5% of the time. The remaining 95% of the time, on the other hand, it sits unused, parked somewhere. If self-driving cars were able to also increase the demand for car sharing, we could create urban transport systems that would be a lot more sustainable».

How can the large amount of data produced by a city be used to improve the life of its inhabitants?

«It is already happening. Using the data from cellular phones, for example, we can find out about traffic conditions in real time. We already ran tests on this in Italy with Telecom Italia Mobile back in 2006, with the project Real Time Rome. It was the first pilot project in the world where data from the cellular phone network was used on a large scale and in a shared manner in order to better understand a city – Rome, in this case. Today, this exact same data, with similar algorithms, enables us to see on Google Maps which streets are clogged with traffic and which are not — and to change our route accordingly in real time. I think that in the future we will see a lot more ‘feedback loops’ like this, which will enable us to make quick decisions that lead to a better quality of life.
One last reflection:  the goal of getting a better understanding of traffic flows is an old dream of Ildefonso Cerdà, the architect who is the father of modern Barcelona. He was one of many people who dreamed about improving the quality of urban planning. «Building a city […] will soon become really and truly a science». Today, with the spread of networks, sensors and electronic tools like cellphones, a lot is changing about our dynamic understanding of how cities work».

Which urban development project happening right now excites you the most?

«The one I’m following most closely: the plan to transform the former site of Expo 2015 World Fair in Milan into MIND-Milano Innovation District. Our design studio Carlo Ratti Associati is working with Lendlease. A new area will be created on the border between Milan and the neighboring town of Rho for research and innovation centers, which will be concentrated around a linear park that is among the largest in Europe. It will also be the first neighborhood to be designed for driverless cars».

Carlo Ratti

Carlo Ratti is an architect and an engineer, the Director of the Senseable City Lab at Boston’s MIT, and founder of the CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati (Turin and New York)







Highway, Perth

Flexible and sustainable: here’s how the cities of the future will look

Mohandas Gandhi

“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”