Smart cities are passé. Need of the hour is a smarter society!

As we enter Thursday, I have already received couple of invites for smart city conferences, a webinar and atleast 3 sponsorship proposals for different events with smart city as a theme, all this week.

Oxford dictionary defines a city as a large town, which makes a smart city as one that is influenced and connected by technology. With the constant advancement of technology, we have also witnessed the phenomenon of cities getting smarter each and every day. But is that what we should discuss and aim for? Maybe not.

At Tieto, we believe in shaping a smarter society and look at the opportunities for businesses and technology to shape a smarter society of the future. This has left me pondering about the threats that our kids will face in a smarter society.

‘Coz the same Oxford dictionary defines a society as “The aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community”.

And a smarter society is about people and technology that’ll help us become smarter as a society.

Technology can make a city smarter by helping them adapt to ever increasing demands – Growing population, demands on infrastructure, sustainability, governance and other areas.

A smarter society will be the one that will humanize a smart city. A smarter society needs to find answers to these looming threats:

  • The fear of building a society with prejudices through computer algorithms

As the government and businesses start using predictive science and data analytics for delivering services, we must be vary of the underlying bias that creeps into the algorithms. In the end, it is all about the data that is being input and the kind of questions being asked.

  • Boredom: The real risk of automation

World Economic Forum in 2017 listed boredom as the biggest threat from automation. Automation is not new for humans. From walking to automobiles, manual labour to robotics, we’ve always adapted to automation. But the next wave of automation promises to free up a lot more time for us. How will we adapt to this change?

  • Data sabotage

A smarter society is built around data. So it will be under increased threat for attacks and data sabotage. What happens if a city running on sophisticated technology suddenly finds itself under the control of cyber criminals? How will we thwart these increasing data threats?

  • Empathy

 Empathy, the ability to share someone else’s feelings — is perhaps the most important trait humans demonstrate. It allows us to love, learn, communicate, cooperate and live in a successful society. In the 21st century, we use digital communication tools at a level unprecedented in human history. So, with so many opportunities to connect, why do we still not understand one another? Why is our attention span so short? Soon we’ll need to make a choice: Do we want our communications to bring us together or split us apart? 

These threats are not government’s responsibility. It requires leadership at all levels from us – citizens. Government can plan for efficient, effective and safe use of automated systems such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, driverless cars and more, but there is no substitute for us – humans.

To draw an analogy for smarter society and smart city, it is the difference between home and a house. Which one do you prefer? Is it not time to steer the conversation in the right direction as a society?

Image credit: Wired

Article was originally published on my personal LinkedIn account.

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