AI and blockchain are two of the most talked about technologies right now. This is because of their potential to change the way we do things.
These technologies can even change how we build and design our cities. In the future, we can expect our cities to have more power and autonomy, so much so that they will become city states. These city states will be self-sufficient, including in ways that they secure their systems. With AI and blockchain powering the city states, a cyber attack would be more crippling, and more difficult to counter because city states are a whole lot bigger than any company we have now. Because of the large scale of these city states, they will be more prone to being targets of cyber attacks. It will be more difficult to defend and the payoffs are much greater.
What should you expect from these future city states?
- There would be less cars. City states of the future will disallow free vehicular access to the city centers. It will be able to monitor all traffic that are allowed into the streets. All vehicles will also be electric. There will be less human drivers delivering supplies. Privately used cars will be co-owned, much like a “car as a service” model. But most people would need to rely on a public transportation system that has minimal carbon footprint and no emissions.
- It will be greener. In the old times, factories polluted cities with their chimneys, so what governments did was to put these factories far away into the countryside. The result was that employees and workers had to travel far to get to work. Not only did we not solve the problem because we only moved it far away, we added to it with the number of emissions we get from all these cars and buses traveling from the city to the countryside. In the future, factories will be cleaner and they will be moved back into our cities. The supply chain will move underground. Goods will be delivered underground so there would be less need for surface roads. People would walk or bike, which not only makes the environment greener, but also makes us healthier.
- Crime prevention on steroids. Each city will have its own defense system, which will be able to move fast because there is less traffic. These defense systems will be able to coordinate in real time, with each component able to know what other components are doing. Human operators using computer voice and vision will be able to respond remotely. The city will also have the ability to remotely stop autonomous machines just in case these are hijacked for terrorist attacks.
- Everything will be connected. Right now, it seems that the only way for you to connect with the city is when you go to the town hall or when you get arrested. Not so in the cities of the future. Street signs will be smarter, it will see you and know who you are. Your private cars will be in constant communication with the city’s own monitoring platform. Your smartphone and other devices will also know your location. Your interaction with the city (when you need city services) will be personalized. The city will know who you are and what you need, and be able to deliver it. As such, cities are no longer just an authority, they become service providers.
- Corporation cities. Some cities will be owned by corporations or organizations, either by buying it or by creating new cities from scratch. More cities would be like gated communities of today, accessible only to residents and their guests. These corporation cities will be traded publicly with shares of stocks acting as currency. This is possible when you use blockchain to tokenize your shares. Every corporation city will compete with others to deliver the highest level of happiness, safety, and even surroundings to attract more shareholders.
- Intercity transport systems. With corporation cities becoming more prevalent, there would be a need for implementing better intercity transport systems. These systems will be funded by corporations, and will be faster than any transport systems we have today. It will also be autonomous, yet connected to other transport systems like airports, bus terminals, and trains.
- City banking will also be owned by corporations. Local banks within these corporation cities will finance the local economy. Using the city’s blockchain technology, these banks will be able to know if a person is creditworthy or not, reducing fraud and operational costs. There would be no tellers as banking services are delivered by artificial intelligence in self-service kiosks and branches. That means you have access to full range of banking services all day and night.
- Digital and connected healthcare services. Public healthcare systems will be automated and residents will be able to access services from their homes and even in other public areas. Healthcare professionals would be able to diagnose and treat patients remotely. Healthcare data will be centralized into huge data lakes, and they will be connected with other healthcare data systems used by other cities.
- Businesses and retailers will not just be taxpayers but stakeholders. Cities today earn from local businesses by way of the taxes they pay. In the future, corporations will make it so that their cities act more like a platform. They will require local businesses to invest in their cities, ensuring that these enterprises would add to the experience of its citizens. Some businesses might even be allowed to operate as a monopoly, but only after proving that they are able to deliver the best services and to uphold only the best standards.
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While to some, these might sound like science fiction, it really is not. Some of the things described above are already happening; thanks to AI and blockchain technology. It is really just a matter of how fast our traditional cities would adopt these technologies, and that will usher in the age of the city states and eventually the corporation cities. It might start slow, with some cities opting to have a hybrid platform where part is owned by the public and the remaining is owned by corporations. The pace of change would also be affected by how good cities adopt security tools and policies to fight off cyber attacks.
Photo courtesy of Michael Gabriel L. Sumastre.