This Christmas we had the happy coincidence of two editions of books that appeared almost the same week: Smart Cities in the Post-Algorithmic Era (Edward Elgar) and Smart Cities and Connected Intelligence (Routledge). It was not planned and each book had its own orbit over the last three years. But both point out the same concern: how can we tackle complex challenges of our era by using all of our available capabilities, human capabilities, community resources, and machines.
Connected intelligence is about this type of connectivity and integration between human, collective, and machine intelligence. It is post-algorithmic intelligence as it combines algorithmic data processing with non-algorithmic processes of empathy (at the human side) and power (at the community side). Our argument is that integration becomes feasible into smart city ecosystems over digital platforms creating externalities, engagement, and awareness. The figure below gives a simplified representation of this association.
In Smart Cities and Connected Intelligence we discuss, from this perspective, three grand challenges that matter for any territory, no matter where it is located: (i) smart growth, a path that more and more cities, regions and countries are adopting having realised the unlimited potential of growth that is based on knowledge, innovation and digital technologies; (ii) safety and security, which is a pre-requisite for quality of life in a world of intense social, natural and technological threats; and (iii) sustainability, use of renewable energy, protection of living ecosystems, addressing climate change and global warming in a period of rapid urbanisation that makes established sustainability models and planning patterns quickly obsolete.
Against the backdrop of these challenges, we propose a common solution based on digital platforms and smart ecosystems. Platforms are the medium for gathering users, coordinating interactions between members, and the formation of smart ecosystems. Ecosystems in the case of externality platforms are created by the mere presence of other members on the platform; ecosystems in the case of engagement platforms are created by collaboration and raising empathy between members; ecosystems in the case of awareness platforms are created by informed decisions and adoption of optimal behaviours by members of the ecosystem. Digital platforms are at the core of these association and integration processes, developing e-services, data and analytics, but mostly enabling the emergence of human empathy, and rationality, and foresight in the use of power by communities and organisations.