By Sakshi Saini, Senior Program Officer, PRIA
Living anywhere in the world has its own ups and downs, whether it’s a metropolitan city where we have infrastructure, opportunities, traffic, and stress, or a village, where there is no infrastructure, no traffic, but proximity to nature and environment. It depends on how and where we want to spend our lives. Development with technology is a very attractive phenomenon. It keeps us involved and busy with our lives, but has always struck with a direct effect on nature, environment and our health. Today, when nature is looking back at us with vengeance, we are coming up with innovative ideas for development that claim to least effect our environment with increased human comfort. Smart city is one such concept.
Let’s get to the definition and characteristics of a smart city, A smart city uses digital technologies to enhance performance and wellbeing, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens. It creates its own water source with the help of rain water harvesting techniques, electricity with the help of solar panels and windmills. Smart homes and smart offices will generate and use its own electricity, and will use smart technology and appliances that consume lesser electricity and are smart enough to automatically switch to power savings mode. With smart governance everything will be connected and can be monitored with the help of sensors and internet with the click of a mouse, thus saving a whole lot of human effort. People will use eco-friendly vehicles and public transport to commute. With innovations such as Smart Phones, GPS tracking, parking space locater, our transit systems will become more comfortable and reliable. The ultimate aim of a smart city is to make our lives more simple and our development more sustainable.
Now, imagine a Monday morning rush hour scenario outside your neighbourhood where all the traffic lights are green with a Boeing 777 waiting outside. Such was depicted in a famous Hollywood movie where a Firecell devastated the entire financial, transportation and defence systems of a whole country.
All these concepts of smart city look really tempting and promising on paper although there practicality and sustainability is questionable. History has shown that such ideas usually crumble beneath their own weight when abused by human nature and behaviour. With the ever increasing population and our growing dependence on technology, will such “smart” cities be able to provide infrastructure and resources as and where required, will the network bandwidth not choke with a majority of population online, will the government and utility systems not collapse as a result of vulnerable internet backbones, will the “Cloud” not burst under the weight of its own information are questions that remain unanswered.
These smart cities aren’t just some far off futuristic abstract twinkling in the New World Order’s eyes, these are being built as you read this paper. Think privacy and freedom are limited commodities now? Try having either of those things living in a smart city control grid where everything you do is tracked, traced, chipped and monitored. There isn’t enough manmade global warming hoax propaganda and green guilt in the whole wide universe that should make any of us want to step one foot into this Orwellian nightmare!
Think about those dumb down brain dead citizens trapped in a smart city producing stuff that is not required or Robots doing your daily household with power sources capable of auto-generation and protocols that can be changed with a laptop. Compassion lives or dies in human heart. Compassion can’t be forced. Yes, we are interconnected naturally but I don’t think that we can compare that given interconnectedness to a man-made technological “smart” connection of all things and humans because the man-made one reduces you to the level of a machine. Machines don’t have a soul, feelings, intuitions, can’t be compassionate, can’t pray and can’t be aware of signs and miracles. Machines are dead matter which process information. I could be wrong but prevention is better than cure.
I write to explore the solutions by going back to our roots and traditional know how. This indigenous knowledge has helped our human race sustain for ages. Smart cities will be smart only when people learn to live peacefully, with limited resources and live in harmony with nature. In order to do so, there is an imperative need to enhance capacity of people not only in terms of technology but awareness and knowledge about the burgeoning issues pertaining to sustainable development.