According to foreign media reports, the success of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and not just stop at the specific business, they also want to create an ideal smart city. Can this utopian vision come true?
San Francisco Bay Area seems to be a science and technology venture of the Holy Land. There are optimism, innovative thinking and enormous wealth here, but this is not a utopian reality.
High local housing prices have overwhelmed teachers and chefs, leaving many people homeless. The problem of income imbalance here is the most prominent in the United States. Transport and logistics are also a mess. Local governments have been in trouble.
Obviously, the situation in the area has not yet improved.
“It should be much better here,” Ben Huh said, moving to San Francisco in 2016 after running the Cheezburger blog in Seattle. “There is so much wealth and so many opportunities.”
In the Bay Area, the vast gap between reality and ideology has led many inventors and engineers to become infatuated with the idea that cities can be built by people who develop physical circuits and social networks. A brand new place to start from scratch to design, break all imprisonment, liberated from the riddled existing policies.
Huhh led a project started by Y Combinator, a startup accelerator, to explore the creation of new cities. As soon as the news was released, hundreds of people came to apply for what appeared to be the “ultimate all-encompassing startup.” Last October, Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet’s Smart City Development Group, announced that it will collaborate with Toronto government agencies to rebuild an “internet city.” ”
For others in the tech arena, they generally relish the smart city of Arizona, the Bitcoin Development Zone in Nevada, or a special economic zone in Honduras, dreaming of a new, desirable city. They dream of owning autonomous vehicles, opening up new real estate ownership, building houses in 3D printing and skyscrapers in a matter of days.
Although some city planners disdain this. But in fact the United States cities are based on the arrogance of some people, such as cement blocks on the streets of Manhattan, or stand in the Bay of Golden Gate Bridge.
“Whose brain hole was once so big? Now the question is, where are these people now?” Paul Romer, former chief economist at the World Bank, said his thoughts on the new “feature city” have affected Some people in the technology industry. “Technicians, as they are used to doing, are thinking farther than any government now, so they should be trusted.”
Their interests are inherently logical. The entire technology industry is always trying to produce better things, such as cheaper phones, smaller computers and faster chips. But cities like San Francisco do not seem to have become more efficient versions. Ed Glaeser, an economist, once pointed out in his book The Victory of the City that the city is our greatest invention. If you simply understand this assertion literally, then the tech industry should think Ability to reshape the city.
When Elon Musk has launched rockets into space and is trying to create a “superhigh-speed rail” for the city, dreamers say this is not the case.
JD Ross, co-founder of the 27-year-old household goods company, said: “There are a lot of people who have come to terms with the idea.” So what should I do next? The billion-dollar company is bigger? “Rose’s company has valued more than $ 1 billion,” we have a home screen in the phone, and we have a home button in every application, but it really boils down to people This is more important.
For planners and architects, all of this sounds too naive to mistakenly identify policy issues as engineering problems.
The construction plan for an ideal city is seldom successful. Planners and architects often say that what we really need is to repair an existing city, not to find a new city.
It is hard to say how these tech entrepreneurs view the world in such a way that it is almost illegible to those who specialize in urban issues.
Ideal City: Lack of rules
After leaving from Cheezburger in 2015, Huch went abroad for a vacation to Croatia’s port city of Dubrovnik. There, in the old town, he saw many Americans come out of shabby buildings and narrow streets and take cruises to the sea.
Like many urban planning students who have returned from overseas, Huhh has the same insight that although Americans like these environments, we can not build such cities locally. Instead, we encourage cities to expand, to increase their density and to plan their cities around cars. We also export this paradigm to all parts of the world.
The ideal city described by Huh and other tech people is not much different from what many urbanists need. They are eager to overcome problems such as neo-pacialism and private cars. They want to build pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and are surrounded by super-high-speed trains that are faster than any existing train. They are concerned about affordable housing, for which lack of affordable housing seems not to change the policy issue, but rather to solve the problem with building technology.
“We have not influenced the basics of infrastructure and society yet,” said Huhh. “We’ll do better,” he pointed to his laptop and added: “We’ve made new things better. We have not done the old things better. ”
In thinking of how to do this, technicians are respected “first principles,” a claim that inherent and traditional expertise may hinder breakthrough ideas.
This method has worked before. If Travis Kalanick starts off with a study of taxi rules around the world, Uber simply does not exist. In contrast, services provided by Uber violate these rules and change the way people travel millions.
For urban construction, this means leaving aside other concepts, the original building code, and the conservative forces that prevent change. The ideal city is in an environment not only about the gaps in the building, but also the rules of the virgin land.
Huhh and others are proud to say that what they hear is ridiculous: How much does it cost to build a city? Why can not you build a skyscraper in a few days? Can you compress a city’s rules to a hundred pages?
This, in turn, led to radically different conclusions.
“People currently live in cities that are equivalent to flip phones,” said Jonathan Swanson, co-founder of Thumbtack. His company links consumers with professionals like house painters and wedding ceremonies. He said if someone can build a better San Francisco, say iPhone X in the city. So after two hours, people in other cities will ask for an upgrade to where they are. A new city may benefit millions of others who are not living there.
“When there is competition, it benefits users like iOS and Android, or Lyft and Uber,” Swanson said. Without competition, we’ll get cities like Comcast or the U.S. Vehicle Administration D.M.V.
Conflict between people and ideas is the key
However, it goes beyond the history of urban development and the history of the advancement of science and technology. In the 1960s, as Hubert Humphrey put it, people also believed that “the technology that will bring people to the moon will also be the technology we need to transform the city.”
At that time, NASA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development collaborated on the development of a “city control system.” The lunar landing simulator was used to study the urban environment. Many companies promise to build space-age cities from scratch.
“It’s easy to get a sense of deja vu,” Nicholas de Monchaux, a designer and Berkeley professor, described in his book Spacesuit.
He said that the plan of technological transformation of the city failed, and now will not succeed. Indeed, technology can help reduce traffic jams or allow you to get home faster. “But for a city, however, it does not have an improved foundation,” he said. The driving force behind a city’s improvement stems from inefficiencies that come from unpredictable people and conflict of ideas.
It is unclear how to improve the city. Technical experts describe the lofty aspirations of “human prosperity” or “quality of life.” But lofty goals can clash within the city. You can afford to transform your city into a home for all, but it may mean that the city will be more crowded. You can transform the city into a home that bathes the sun, but that may mean that the city is too open to support different restaurants and public transport.
These trade-offs require policy choices. Therefore, those who want to avoid the policy inevitably will not be able to bypass it.
In technologically serious urban scholars, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs seem most likely to create a real city. The company, which conducted a yearlong study of New York City under the leadership of former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, concluded that it needed a space that was relatively empty to truly innovate.
Since there are already too many people or buildings, the energy grid can not be installed or the private car can not be tested at the time of banning the private car. However, Dooctov points out that an isolated city simply can not function because people do not want to move there.
“The Smart City Campaign as a whole has been less than satisfactory, partly because it is very hard to develop in a traditional urban setting,” said Dotokov. “On the other hand, if you do not respect the traditional Urbanism, I do not think it is reproducible, which may be too naive. ”
Things that Sidewalk Labs is always looking for in Toronto, Canada. There are about 800 acres of undeveloped waterfront area. As a metropolitan neighborhood, you can re-imagine the deployment of autonomous vehicles in which to prefabricate related buildings and pipelines for delivery robots and waste disposal. The project is in the parliamentary discussions in the pilot phase. Ultimately, Sidewalk Labs could become a joint master planner for the entire city and a government organization that manages the city.
Huhh did not say what form the Y Combinator project would eventually take. The organization announced no land or government partners. However, Hooke described this effort as a “crazy ongoing project,” mainly training on affordable housing issues, which Y Combinator believes is closely linked to everything else.
The greatest impact of technology may not come from the “super-high speed rail” or the new Smart City Super Loop or new North American cities like Toronto, Canada. It may affect the developing world, and some local economists have been inspired by the concept of a future city, hoping that science and technology will do everything.
Mr Grease posed the question of what seemed more provocative but seemed to play a bigger role than how to build a better San Francisco. He said: “The first issue is how can we build more plastic housing for the slums in a wholesome and truly cheap way?”
Rose, 27-year-old business is still thinking about the right goal.
“I’d like to figure it out as soon as I get 100 million dollars.” He sits in the corner of a famous coffee shop in San Francisco. There are a lot of construction cranes out the window, and the city is rebuilding slower than he wants.
He said, “This is more than buying Bugatti.”