To Go Boldly – Where Will Smart Cities Lead?

“To Go Boldly,” sounds weird, doesn’t it? However, some would have it that it is the correct form and that the split infinitive version – the more familiar, “To Boldly Go” – is a crime against grammar. I and (more importantly), the Oxford English Dictionary, disagree. So, ignore the first part of the title of this article and know that it is more than okay, “To Boldly Go”.

The case against the split infinitive is based on comparisons with how Latin is structured. As an amateur etymologist, I have a big interest in Latin – but I’m certainly no expert and it’s not something near the very top of my list of “things to study in-depth”.

Latin is the past, not the future. And as we boldly go towards the future, it’s important to recognise and understand history, but certainly not be a slave to it.

[clickToTweet tweet=”And as we boldly go towards the #future, it’s important to understand #history, but certainly not be a slave to it.” quote=”And as we boldly go towards the future, it’s important to recognise and understand history, but certainly not be a slave to it.” theme=”style3″]

Anyone who, like me, loves Star Trek: The Next Generation knows that humans in future are generally kind, courteous, polite and helpful. What a delightful vision of the future. When coming to create the new series of Star Trek (Star Trek: Discovery) the creators decided not to be beholden to the past ways of doing things and they ripped up the well-worn Star Trek TV Formula. Now, in this new series, we see that humans in the future are just like us: cantankerous, rude and difficult to get along with*.

Whatever the truth of the matter about the future of humanity turns out to be there is no question that, just like language (and anything else you can think of) the future will have strong links to the past, but it won’t be straight-jacketed by it.

Which neatly brings me round to The Starship Enterprise, and all of the other large Star Trek Starships. It is easy to see that they are massive, self-contained Cities in the Sky: the direct descendants of today’s Smart Cities.

Smart Cities on Mars – And Beyond

In recent times both Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have talked about the future of humanity and how, being a one-planet species, we are vulnerable to being wiped out in a single catastrophic incident, such as the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs all those many millions of years ago. While many people going about their busy daily lives wouldn’t take this idea seriously and would only see this as simply fodder for Science Fiction Movies, the arguments are scientifically and logically sound.

As per Elon Musk’s current plans, getting off this planet and onto Mars is a definite ‘next-step’, but after that, it would be highly illogical not to go that one step further and diversify the human race with the construction and habitation of Enterprise-style Starships. Make no mistake, those future Cities in the Sky will have their roots in the past; they will have their roots in our present-day Smart Cities.

Building the Cities of the now and of the near future is without question an important and worthwhile job. But if you recognise that the DNA of Smart City plans and designs will carry on into the future and will become part of highly connected, integrated, self-contained Starships it becomes, you know… just a little sexier.

If Star Trek – and ALL science-fiction, for that matter – has taught us anything it’s that in our predictions of the future, whilst the essence is often right, the details can be quite different. We either over or underestimate what is possible. For instance, although set more than 300 years in the future, in one episode Captain Picard was pretty pleased with himself that he had a thin, plastic keyboard that he could roll up like a small mat. Star Trek: The Next Generation was made only 30 years ago – and yet we already have this technology! Maybe it seemed like a huge leap just a few short decades ago, but the reality has been much swifter in bringing it to fruition.

Because of all the varying technologies and approaches that have been classified under the heading “Smart City” technology, there’s no real overall general consensus over what exactly constitutes a Smart City. It’s a broad church, but that’s possibly one of its greatest strengths: you’re not confined to doing X, Y or Z – there is the freedom to innovate and to think outside the box.

And it’s this ability to innovate, to create, to think laterally, and to think outside the box that makes us human and makes humanity worth saving. The bold steps we’re taking now with Smart Cities, IoT, AI, etc. etc. etc. will have repercussions far into the future. Just remember that next time when you’re playing with your Arudino or Raspberry Pi.


* I myself am neither cantankerous, rude nor difficult to get along with. Usually.

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