Stupid Cities is a critique of the rise of both the discourse and the practices of so-called “smart” cities. This collection of essays unpacks the accelerating intrusion of technologies of surveillance, sorting, and control in cities around the globe as well as the explosion of apologetic “urban science” in our universities. Floated on logics of “responsiveness” and environmental responsibility, these technologies are increasingly sinister and threaten fundamental rights to the city; indeed, they call into question the very idea of the city. We’re not Luddites and aren’t averse to innovation but are skeptical—scared silly even—about the way this smartness negotiates the membrane between efficiency and equity.
Whether in Beijing, Singapore, Songdo, Dubai, Toronto, Delhi, London, New York, Johannesburg, or Baghdad, the overlay of smart technologies and the politics that support them are remaking our cities, both visibly and invisibly. The rise of big data, advanced analytics, biometrics and artificial intelligence—as well as the emergence of the gadgetry of autonomous vehicles, sensor-operated buildings, or gunshot detection networks—increasingly threaten the human ecologies and communities of choice. Advances in computing technology, with its unapparelled data sets, are producing new ways to analyze, monitor and control urban contexts and “smart” infrastructures are changing the very shape and materiality of our cities.
Rather than thinking critically about the mission creep of Apple, Google and Amazon—the Robert Moses and Haussmanns of the digital age - our universities find themselves increasingly captivated by and entangled with these corporations and the burgeoning urban-industrial complex with its endless flows of data and dollars. In the next decade institutions of higher learning could invest as much as $2.5 billion in new centers to pursue a corporate-compliant urban science agenda and have already rapidly expanded their investment in fundable topics based on urban science buzzwords.
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