Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch.8-1

November 20th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

This book, Millennial City is being released first as a serial blog. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 1 of Chapter 8. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

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CHAPTER Eight – Part 1
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

It’s been a steep climb but we’re nearly there. It’s time to step into the future if you’re up for it. For some, that challenge will be great; for others, nearly impossible. They seriously don’t like change. The status quo feels safer to them. It’s much easier to imagine that what they don’t know doesn’t really matter.

It’s fun to imagine what’s next. Practically speaking, the sunscreen pill will hit the market to protect the skin and eyes from UV rays. Personal 3D printing will become a common practice in households and schools. One Terabyte SD Memory Cards will also become commonplace. Light Peak technology, a method of super-high-data-transfer, will enable more than whole terabytes per second–within everyday consumer electronics. In the not too distant future, the digital device that we carry or wear will rival the power of the human brain, amplifying greatly what we can accomplish.

It might be a stretch to imagine doctors being able to biopsy a tumor, sequence the DNA, and use that information to make a prognosis and prescribe treatment for less than the cost of an x-ray. Around about that time, portable laser pens will seal wounds. Insect-sized robot spies will become a reality. Taking a longer look down the road, paralyzed people will walk through neuro prostheses – mechanical limbs that respond to human thought.

The world’s first zero-carbon, sustainable city in the form of Masdar City will be completed just outside Abu Dhabi. That same year crash-proof cars will be made possible by using radar, sonar, car-tocar and car-to-road communication, and driver alert systems. The first around-the-world flight by a solar-powered plane will be accomplished illustrating truly clean energy to air transportation for the first time. Space tourism will hit the mainstream with packages ranging from $10,000 up-and-backs to $1 million five-night stays in an orbiting hotel suite.

Unprecedented connectivity will build upon the social networks, both real and virtual. Your understanding of the relationships that are possible will be stretched and revolutionized. Virtual platforms will expand and contract on demand. The way we interface with computers will change. Cloud technology will change from being an option to being the default. Major sectors of the economy will be transformed, driven by new requirements like traffic management, data analytics, and machine-to-machine communication. This kind of capability can now stretch across a city’s services, from monitoring power generation and optimizing electricity and water usage to pinpointing potential crime hot spots.

The transition to an “intelligent infrastructure” will accelerate the growth of a multi-billion dollar market. The drive to make everything mobile will be unstoppable. Communications and collaboration will deliver truly unified communications integration. Mobile broadband will be fully integrated and practiced. While we watch lots and lots of recorded video on our mobile devices today within a year or two most live broadcasts will be available in real time on all digital devices – always on real time access to, well, everything.

You may not like change. The status quo may feel safer. There are many features of the past and present we don’t want to lose, and should not let go of, in any given future. It is indeed much easier to imagine that what we don’t know doesn’t really matter. But in the end it is a myth that people don’t like change. What they don’t like is “being changed” with no say in the matter, no ability to make choices.

Historically, urban development through concentrated physical development made communication and human interaction easier. When it comes to urban sustainability, information and communications technology (ICT) is part of the solution. For every extra kilowatt-hour of electricity demanded by ICT, the U.S. economy increases its overall energy savings by a factor of ten. Future development of cities and regions will require the intelligent integration of communications technology. Every land use and transportation planning decision should be made with those who build ICT infrastructure at the table. Smart-phones, tablet computers, and digital books are changing the way we interact with the built environment and with each other.

The need for integration extends to everything. Cities around the world are bringing more intelligence to their suite of services. Cities still face difficult challenges in harnessing and integrating these technologies. They struggle with legacy systems that hamper integration. Information systems, such as they are, take on lives of their own and that can be costly. But not stepping into the future will be more costly.
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]