As we continue to ramp up the focus on making our cities smarter, I wanted to call attention to this post from IBM’s CEO in the Huffington Post today. My simple take is, if we want to fix our planet, we’ve got to start with our cities.
This unprecedented urbanization is both an emblem of our economic and societal progress — especially for the world’s emerging nations — and a huge strain on the planet’s infrastructure. It’s a challenge felt urgently by mayors, heads of economic development, school administrators, police chiefs and other civic leaders. The challenges these leaders face — educating their young, keeping citizens safe and healthy, attracting and facilitating commerce and enabling the smooth flow of planes, trains, cars and pedestrians — are only being compounded by the global downturn.
Thankfully, help is at hand, with intelligence being infused into the way cities work. It has tended to be been system-by-system so far, but it need not stop there. We now have the capacity to manage cities as the complex systems — indeed, systems-of-systems — that they are. And the current crisis in the world’s economy offers an opportunity — indeed, I believe, an imperative — to do just that.
And, summing up the main point.
All the ways in which the world works come together in our cities. They are the proverbial melting pot — not only for immigrants, but for systems, blending them together to engender new forms of commerce, of culture, of science, of life and of society. Which is why cities — more than states, provinces or even nations — are likely to be the crucible for human progress and evolution in the coming century.
The urbanization of our planet is one of those developments — arguably, the single one — big enough to "see from space." And the bright lights, shining back at the stars, signal more than the simple movement of electrons. The world’s cities can be seen as, collectively, the Earth’s higher brain functions. Therefore, it’s in our cities, I believe, that we can see the most promising opportunity for an intelligence upgrade in how the world works and how we live.