[Doctorow-L] Column: Imagining a "smart city" that treats you as a sensor, not a thing to be sensed

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Fri Jan 17 12:55:49 EST 2020

The editors of Guardian Cities (previously) saw my Toronto Life blurb
about how a "smart city" could be focused on enabling its residents,
rather than tracking and manipulating them, and asked me to write a
longer piece on the theme: The case for ... cities where you're the
sensor, not the thing being sensed is the result.

In it, I revisit my 2015 Locus column on the idea of an Internet of
Things that treats people "as sensors, not things to be sensed" -- a
world where your devices never share your data with anyone else to get
recommendations or advice, but rather, where all the inanimate objects
stream data about how busy they are and whether they're in good repair,
and your device taps into those streams and makes private
recommendations, without relaying anything about you or your choices to
anyone else.

As I've often written, the most important thing about technology isn't
what it does, but who it does it to, and who it does it for. The
sizzle-reels for "smart cities" always feature a control room where wise
technocrats monitor the city and everyone in it -- all I'm asking is
that we all get a seat in that control room.

My editor tells me that this is the last piece that will be commissioned
for Guardian Cities, and I'm sincerely honored to get to close out an
outstanding, longrunning project on urban reporting and theory.


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