Note — Oct 28, 2018

Shaping Cities Contribution, “Of Systems and Purposes: Emergent Technology for the Skeptical Urbanist”

Adam Greenfield starts by offering this week’s bleak af abyss gaze, then reminds us, with a couple of examples, that when bumping into reality the dreams of disruptors rarely come to pass in exactly the way they intended. It is then possible to dream other versions of the future, other combinations. To properly understand and use technologies, yet not allow their creators’ versions to come to be.

And all the while, thanks to the myriad sensors of the so-called internet of things, everything from physical location to social interaction to bodily and affective states becomes grist for the mill of powerful machine-learning algorithms set to anticipate a wide range of needs and desires, and fulfill them before they quite breach the surface of awareness.”

Deeply entrenched systems, structures that are psychic every bit as much as they are political or economic, lay in wait to capture and redirect the energies unleashed by emergent technology, and very often the result of this encounter is something starkly other than any innovators had intended. […]

Seeing an innovation bedded in at the core of some longer-lasting transformation requires the much harder work of making space for it in all the interlocking systems that give shape to our lives: systems of law, governance and regulation, infrastructures both physical and financial (e.g. insurance), social conventions and practices, language, even entrenched habits of mind.