International Conference on Smart Cities: Potentials, Prospects and Discontents

Tel Aviv University, September 12-14, 2017

"Cities were always smart. In every era, advanced technologies and innovative thinking have developed in cities; from the written word 5000 years ago; to the revolutionary Greek concepts of democracy and citizenry; to Renaissance art and architecture; to the factories of the industrial revolution; to today´s post-industrial age of high technology."[1] In light of this it is hard to see why quite such a fuss is made of the possible introduction of nowadays’ ICT (informationcommunication technology), IoT (internet of things) and the like to cities. Where, if not in cities, high technologies are to be applied and implemented? Specifically so when already more than 50% of world population is living in cities, that in Western countries the proportions are above 80%, and the trends and predictions indicate that in the near future the proportions of urbanites will be higher? Why such cities become "smart"?

A possible answer to questions such as above is that we are on the threshold of a fourth industrial revolution [2] the essence of which is smartification – an integration between the real and virtual worlds by means of artificially intelligent (AI) artifacts that imitate and simulate cognitive capabilities such as learning and rational decision making. And, that similarly to the way the first industrial revolution entailed the industrial city, so the fourth industrial revolution has the potential to revolutionize the dynamics and structure of our cities as well as our life in them.

Current smart cities discourse and studies [3] are to a large extent an attempt to expose the various facets of such a revolution – to clarify "the good, the bad and the ugly" about smart cities [4], the potential and positive prospects of the smartification of cities, as well as the discontents and negative prospects. On the one hand, we see great enthusiasm that ICT, IoT with their big data and data mining methodologies, will make the control, planning and governance of our cities efficient, just, sustainable and resilient than ever before and thus will solve chronic urban problems such as traffic jams, environmental pollution and the like. On the other hand, we hear skepticism and discontents that over-efficient urban planning and control will transform our cities into an Orwellian nightmare, that as already can be observed in the reality of cities, in the process of smartification "the rich get richer", the gap between the smart cities (or smart quarters of cities) with their "creative classes" [5] and the "dumb cities" (or urban quarters) with their non-creative classes, gets wider.

The first aim of this international conference is to discuss comparatively the above aspects of smart cities and thus explicate their potentials, prospects and discontents; in their general world context, and in the specific reality of Israeli society.

Smart cities are currently discussed also in the context of CTC (complexity theories of cities) – a domain of research that applies the various theories of complexity as means to study and model the dynamics of cities[6,7]. Here, smart cities with their massive use of ICT and IoT are considered as the source of big data "providing us with novel data sets that suggest ways in which we might plan better, and design more sustainable environments" [8], and thus the central way to cope with the growing complexity of cities [9]. What is still missing, however, in the general smart cities discourse as well as in the context of CTC, concerns the implications to urban dynamics. That is, to respond to questions such as how smart artifacts that can partly imitate learning and rational decision-making might affect the various urban processes? How to model such a real-virtual city? What is an ‘urban agent’ in such a context? Can the "things" of IoT be considered agents? Answering these and similar questions is the second aim of this conference.

[1] Portugali, J. (2016). Interview in Lisa Kremer: "What's the Buzz about Smart Cities?". Tel Aviv University.
[2] Schwab, K. (2016). The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Kindle Edition. World Economic Forum, Switzerland.
[3] Townsend, A. (2013). Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia. Norton, NY.
[4] Batty M. in:
[5] Florida R L, (2004). Cities and the creative class (Routledge, London).
[6] Portugali, J. (2011). Complexity, Cognition and the City. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg/New York.
[7] M. Batty, (2013). The New Science of Cities (The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
[8] Batty M. Ed. (2016). "Big Data and the City." Special issue of Built Environment. 42,3.
[9] Haken H., Portugali J. (2017). Smart cities: distributed intelligence or central planning? In Pardalos P. M. and Rassia S. T. Eds. Smart City Networks: Through the Internet of Things. Springer.
[10] Technology and the future of cities - Report to the president. Executive Office of the President President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, February 2016.

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