Bottom-Up Smart Cities
My first Discontinuities column for Current Intelligence, titled “Code is Culture,” addressed the changing balance of power in technology between developed and developing countries through the lens of smart cities and the hurdles posed by the chaotic nature of developing megacities.
“Over time, West-East, North-South technology and infrastructure transfer is slowly breaking down, used and shaped under a superimposed layer of local cultures and needs. Code is culture, as the saying goes, and the drivers for that code to align with the culture in which it is deployed are increasing in number. In a recent column on China, Thomas Friedman cited Carlson’s Law, named after the CEO of SRI International, Curtis Carlson. “In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation,” it states, “innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb.” Certainly the top-down players are trying to rapidly localize their intelligence and capabilities, and some (like GE), are using the process to extract know-how for export back to resource-strapped, developed markets. The gap between these two approaches remains problematic for long-term management of larger solutions, meanwhile stoking those at the bottom with access to technology to innovate even more rapidly.”