Technology is changing how we understand cities, and how we will understand ourselves in the context of urban environments. We're only at the beginning of this complex revolution.
Scientists from Berkeley have used a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner to reconstruct images perceived by a test subject’s brain activity while the subject watched a video. A less sensitive mind-reading technology is already available as a headset from Emotiv, which my colleagues have used to help a paralysed person communicate by sending directional instructions from his thoughts to a computer.
Other developments in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and advanced manufacturing show similarly remarkable interactions between information systems and the physical and biological world - solar panels that can mend themselves; and living biological tissues that can be printed, one cell at a time.
These technologies, combined with our ability to process and draw insight from digital information, could offer real possibilities to engineer more efficient and sustainable city systems, such as transportation, energy, water, and food. But using them to address the demographic, financial, and environmental challenges of cities will raise questions about our relationship with the natural world, what it means to live in an ethical society, and what defines us as human.
I wrote an article about how we might answer those questions for UBM's Future Cities community recently, it can also be found on my blog: