WBEZ | cities http://www.wbez.org/tags/cities Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Computers changing the essential nature of cities http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-25/computers-changing-essential-nature-cities-93456 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-25/barry1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The great historical turns in the evolution of the city have been agriculture, industrialization, globalization and now, what has been called the “information revolution” in the last thirty years. Digital logic circuits have produced continuously faster, more powerful and smaller computers, mobile telephones, smart phones and countless other innovations. The fruits are many. The WorldCat allows librarians to access 1.75 billions entries from 72,000 libraries in 170 countries. Perhaps the most universal emblem of this era is the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who are constantly clutching their mobile phone as if they were awaiting word of a heart transplant. This revolution has profoundly changed the city, its relationship to nature, and our relationship to each other.&nbsp;</p><p>Today the digitization of the city reaches almost every urban resident in some manner, from traffic lights to observation camera’s on the corner. According to <a href="http://www.mckinsey.com/mgi/publications/internet_matters/index.asp" target="_blank">McKinsey &amp; Company</a>, internet sector consumption and expenditure is bigger than either agriculture or energy. Computers are used for a huge variety of functions that, we are told, make the city more efficient, safer and intelligent.</p><p>The first electronic computer emerged in 1946 and the worldwide web started in 1989. Computers store 40% more data annually. But computer ownership and internet use are still the privilege of a minority worldwide. Few people have done as much to escalate the digital divide as Steve Jobs of Apple. He was devoted to produce beautiful products that are not affordable by hardly anyone worldwide, and is alleged to have strenuously objected to price reducing initiatives. Although the executive of the richest corporation in the world, he made no effort to narrow the digital divide.</p><p>Cities, particularly large cities, are increasingly functioning like a computer. The traditional language of the city is also the language of the computer; “networks”, "gate," "port," "pipeline," "cache," etc. Cities are becoming more like computers. The “smart city” of the future will control movement, climate, communications, consumption, health, crime, energy and virtually every aspect of human experience. Feeling and thinking are not required for city life. As the connection to nature and to each other is increasingly regulated by computer people are alienated from nature and each other.</p><p>The euphemism for this transformation has been the “Smart City” or the “Intelligent City,” promoted by corporations such as Siemens or IBM. The direction of this transformation is "Super Intelligence," or machines that are more intelligent, and more capable, than human beings. This was portrayed in the character of Data on <em>Star Trek</em>, or the robots in <em>I-Robot</em> with Will Smith. Nowhere has this “intelligence” been utilized to greater effect than the military drones. Digital logic circuits, and their successors, are now co-producing our evolutionary future.</p><p>Charles Darwin declared that “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” How well is our species adapting to this information revolution? As cities grow “smarter,” do they become more just or ecological? Is artificial intelligence better than human intelligence? Or is there a Faustian danger of trading ones soul to obtain greater information and power? Unfortunately, it has been intelligent people that led the planet into the current condition of ecological peril. And of course, intelligent people have unleashed some of the most barbaric episodes in human history.</p><p>What are the values of the information revolution? Technology is not neutral. Every technology contains the values of the people that designed it. Albert Einstein understood that, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” Never has this been more so than today. We have utilized our sophisticated technology to occupy, dominate and threaten every ecosystem on the planet. Today, our technology dominates our cities, and us.</p><p>Increasingly digital networks are replacing people networks. The character of the digital relationship is not the same as a personal relationship. The quantity of the communication is not the same as the quality of the communication. One documentary on the Intelligent City boasted that “humans don’t have to make any decisions.” The seduction of communication, or technology, for its own sake is far different than the production of value. Some argue that information is the glue of society. While information has its value, we are glued together by the emotions we share, by love, not the information we acquire. The homogenization of experience, which is the result of the digital city, runs contrary to our development as a species.&nbsp; Oliver Sacks said, “We must humanize technology before it dehumanizes us.” Or is the genie out of the bottle until death do us part?</p><p>It is often stated that computers can be used for extreme invasions of privacy and lead to extraordinary levels of vulnerability. The recent breakdown of the Blackberry is an instance of this vulnerability. What if the impact of the computer, and the entire information revolution, is the homogenization of the human being and therefore, our cities. What if the price of being plugged in is to be turned off?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Barry Weisberg is global cities contributor for </em>Worldview<em>. His </em><em>commentaries reflect his own views and not necessarily those of </em>Worldview<em> or 91.5 WBEZ.</em></p></p> Tue, 25 Oct 2011 15:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-25/computers-changing-essential-nature-cities-93456 Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed offers advice to Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel http://www.wbez.org/blog/best-game-town/2011-03-04/atlanta-mayor-kasim-reed-offers-advice-mayor-elect-rahm-emanuel-83341 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed_Getty_Rick Diamond.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-04/Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed_Getty_Rick Diamond.JPG" title="" alt="" style="width: 483px; height: 316px;" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">With many cities and states across the nation facing serious budget deficits and pension crises, Atlanta stands out as an exception to the rule.&nbsp; Since taking office 13 months ago, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has balanced the city's budget, hired more police officers, restructured city services, and increased the city's reserve fund.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: left;">The Howard University-educated lawyer visited Chicago on&nbsp;Friday as part of an event sponsored by the Northwestern University Law School.&nbsp;&nbsp; As Mayor of Atlanta, Reed leads the country's ninth largest metropolitan area, one of the fastest growing in the nation.&nbsp; It's also home to major Fortune 500 companies and the world's busiest airport.</p><p style="text-align: left;">During our conversation, we talked about the challenges facing cities today, including Chicago, and asked him what advice he'd give to Chicago's mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel.</p><p style="text-align: left;">Here's an excerpt of our conversation:</p><p><strong>SE:&nbsp; Here we are in the midst of a national conversation about budget crises, about pension problems and as I look at what you've done in the first year in office, you've balanced the budget, increased reserves, and hired more police officers.&nbsp; You've been able to do a lot of things that a lot of mayors say they have no way of doing right now. So, what's the path that you've been able to take that other cities haven't?</strong></p><p>KR:&nbsp; We're investing in areas that generate the biggest yield and we're cutting in areas where I&nbsp;believe the city should not be.&nbsp; The City of&nbsp;Atlanta has more than 7,500 employees, so I don't think it's acceptable to tell people that you can't have an appropriate level of public safety if you have 7,500 employees. &nbsp;It probably means that you need to come out of some other spaces, which is what we did, reform some other areas, reduce costs in other areas, so that you can invest. &nbsp;We finished the fiscal year 2010 with about $16 million in excess cash because of a series of reforms that we put in place to manage our budget better.&nbsp;&nbsp;That helped us gain confidence with the City Council to make these critical investments.&nbsp; And not only have we improved the balance sheet and our fiscal performance, our services are fundamentally changing.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><strong>SE:&nbsp; But help me understand the financial piece of this. &nbsp;When you talk with a lot of political leaders, they'll tell you that the fixed costs of govermnent - from labor costs to health care to pensions - are very hard to change.&nbsp; So how have you been able to create the efficiencies you're talking about?&nbsp; </strong></p><p>KR:&nbsp; Well, that means you have a &quot;will&quot; problem.&nbsp; It really does.&nbsp; You know what to do. And in our instance, while we made these other investments, we did eliminate about 125 positions. &nbsp;That generated some of the cash. &nbsp;We implemented a series of pension reforms, which quite candidly generated the cash to be able to improve police salaries, fire salaries, and provide bonuses to city employees learning less than $75,000.&nbsp; So we did hard things and we shared the benefits of that work with employees.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>You have to invest in areas that people are going to see and feel.&nbsp; If you are a forward thinking elected official, a person who really wants to do transformational work, you've really got to care about the basic customer experience and you have to have the will to do what's required.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>SE:&nbsp; You make this sound easy.</strong></p><p>KR:&nbsp; No, I don't mean to do that. It's actually very hard, but I do believe that will is the issue. You know what the problems are facing cities. I know what they are. They are in multiple public documents, they have been researched -</p><p><strong>SE:&nbsp; We could fill this room with white papers on urban issues today -<br /></strong></p><p>KR:&nbsp; Exactly. &nbsp;They have been well researched and what happens is when you go to execute the things the document said, you meet a friction that you're either prepared to deal with or you're not prepared to deal with.</p><p>SE:&nbsp; <strong>Here in Chicago we've just elected a new mayor who will take office in&nbsp;May.&nbsp; Among the challenges he will face is an estimated $600 million dollar budget deficit and growing unfunded pension liabilities.&nbsp; What advice would you give to&nbsp; Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel about how to approach these things?</strong></p><p>KR:&nbsp; Overcommunicate.&nbsp; I've given 180 speeches since I've been mayor.&nbsp; So, you have to constantly explain what you're doing in every format and it helps get you through. It's not enough that you're in the office reviewing data that makes sense. You've gotta be willing to go into living rooms, barbershops, [and] neighborhood meetings to the point that you sound like a broken record and explain to people wherever they want to be explained to.</p><p>You gotta keep explaining it in real time and you have to put yourself in a forum where the person says &quot;Hey, I saw that guy. I saw them stand up somewhere for 30 or 40 minutes and be questioned directly.&quot; That's the world we're in. People like access to information, they like to see, touch and feel people, and personal contact is how you win the day. If you go out and do a bunch of hard things and don't overcommunicate, you're going to feel a backlash that comes from a lack of understanding.&nbsp; If you're doing the right thing, sit there in the living room for two or three hours and explain it.</p><p><strong>SE:&nbsp; Leaving aside financial issues for a moment, what do you think is the biggest problem facing American cities today?&nbsp; </strong></p><p>KR:&nbsp; The biggest problem facing American cities is the challenge that we have with educating the next generation of young people to fill them. &nbsp;We have cities that have significant populations that are coming into the city that are not well educated, so that is going to tell you what the future of your city is looking like.&nbsp; I mean if you have a population of young people where 50 percent of them are dropping out and you know that a person who drops out of high school has a significantly increased possibility of becoming a felon, that can't be the pipeline for your community and assume it maintain itself.&nbsp; You risk reversing the trend toward urbanization if you continue to poor generations upon generations of people into the city who are unprepared.&nbsp; And to reverse that, we're gonna need to fix this in a more radical way than we are now.</p><p><strong>SE:&nbsp; I don't mean to pitch this as a Atlanta-Chicago competition, but as you well know, there are cities that need to attract new businesses, new industries and prominent new conventions. So what's the sales pitch you make when you're sitting across the table from business leaders that would convince them to come to Atlanta as opposed to any other city?</strong></p><p>KR:&nbsp; Well, first of all, I love Chicago, so I want to say that.&nbsp;&nbsp;It's one of my favorite cities and a leading city in the world.&nbsp; When I&nbsp;talk about Atlanta, I&nbsp;talk about the fact that we have the busiest airport on the Planet Earth. I&nbsp;handles 90 million passengers per year and you can get to 80 percent of the population in two hours or less and 84 international destinations.&nbsp;</p><p>My goal is to make Atlanta the logistics hub for the western hemisphere, which is why I'm working to deepen the port in Savannah.&nbsp; We have the fastest growing port on the eastern seabord, the fourth largest port in the United States.&nbsp;</p><p>Our job - and my job as mayor -&nbsp; is to be number one among southeastern cities because we're moving to a world where you're going to have mega regions. So, you will have a Chicago that is the center of the midwestern region, New York will maintain its dominance, and my view is that Atlanta will be the dominant force of the southeast.&nbsp; You're really going to have about eight or ten mega regions that will really determine the flow and growth of GDP in the United States.</p><p><strong>SE:&nbsp; I want to close by referencing a piece that was posted on The&nbsp;Hill, the DC-based blog, last week. &nbsp;The title is &quot;Frustrated mayors hope Rahm Emanuel will have Obama's ear&quot;. You're quoted in this talking about the way in which Rahm Emanuel can help other mayors in cities around the nation. &nbsp;What role can he play in the larger conversation around cities?</strong></p><p>KR:&nbsp; Well, being a mayor is where hope meets the street.&nbsp; So having someone who has a direct relationship - a deeply personal relationship with the President of the United States - and who was the supervisor of most of the staff in the White House - is going to be very helpful for many mayors across America just to be sure their case is heard. &nbsp;</p><p>And the real concern that I hear from mayors is &quot;Is the experience we're going through real-time being heard?&quot; &nbsp;States have a very powerful lobby.&nbsp; Governors are very powerful. &nbsp;But the fact of the matter is that 80 percent of the nation's GDP occurs in cities.&nbsp;</p><p>So cities, in my mind, are the more appropriate constituency for the President of the United States, because if you want to encourage economic productivity to deal with the high unemployment rate, you really gotta have a deeper concentration on the cities.&nbsp; And there still is a problem with federal support and federal largesse really reaching cities and that is something the President has to figure out and break through. I think that Mayor-elect Emanuel will play a significant role in making that case to the White House.</p><p><em>Correction:&nbsp; An earlier version of this story misstated Atlanta's population rank.&nbsp; It's home to the ninth largest metropolitan area, not the ninth largest city.</em></p></p> Fri, 04 Mar 2011 16:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/best-game-town/2011-03-04/atlanta-mayor-kasim-reed-offers-advice-mayor-elect-rahm-emanuel-83341 Megacities must not lose their humanizing qualities http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/megacities-must-not-lose-their-%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%C5%93humanizing%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%C2%9D-qualities <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/wv_20100520c_large.png" alt="" /><p><p><em><a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_WV_Series.aspx?seriesID=169" target="_blank">Barry Weisberg</a>, our global cities contributor, will be in Shanghai, China for the 2010 World Expo, which runs through October. And he'll report for us as part of our new series, “<a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_WV_Series.aspx?seriesID=167" target="_blank">Global Cities: Challenges and Choices</a>.”<br> <br> Shanghai's population is approaching 20 million and as it and other mega cities expand, Barry hopes that our global obsession with development doesn't come at a great cost.</em><br> <br> Traveling through the world's megacities has resembled the journey described in Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. In this fictional masterpiece Marco Polo describes to Kubla Khan what he saw on his journey. After four decades of visits to megacities, it is also difficult to describe, let alone understand, the modern megacity, world city or global city. What they have in common are qualities of size, scale, shape and speed that are new in human development and unique in the history of globalization. For example, size proportionately affects both the physical and mental health of people and geometrically increases the global footprint of a city. We make cities, but they remake us.<br> <br> The megacity, determined by a population of ten million or more, or the global city, determined by capital concentration, signals a new partition of the world. This spatial partition is represented within the city by formal vs. non-formal settlements or vertical vs. horizontal growth.<br> <br> These new (in)human settlements are full with both promise and peril, beauty and barbarism. More important than the fact that half the world's population is living in cities is the emergence of the very large city. It is in the megacities that the fate of global and planetary development rests. In such cities there is a dance between promise and peril, each partner uncertain of who is leading.<br> <br> The promise of the megacity can be the diversity of experience, people and cultures; economies of scale; human capital; or the concentration of science-technology-innovation. The peril of the megacity includes both planetary and global threats, such as inequality, pollution, violence or earthquakes. Martin Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, recognized that “Today's city is the most vulnerable social structure ever conceived by man.”<br> <br> The bewildering methods of defining and measuring urban population suggest that even our conception of the city is indefinite. The megacity has been the subject of numerous horrific fictional accounts. But no one has managed to depict a city of twenty, thirty or forty million people as equitable and ecological. Such an idea cannot be sustained in the imagination.<br> <br> Cities are problems in “organized complexity,” stated Jane Jacobs in 1961. The most difficult challenge facing megacites is to discover the challenge of this “organized complexity”. It is the interaction between the hard and soft infrastructure that sustains the urban area, including the full array of global and planetary systems that engage or are engaged by cities. One obvious example is the Icelandic Volcano. A planetary event dramatically impacted the global system of air traffic, and related activities.<br> <br> Looking at the movement in and out of people, freight, power, ideas, services, waste in cities, it is obvious that Tokyo, New York, Shanghai, Mumbai, Sao Paulo or Lagos represent distinct examples of “organized complexity.” They are driven by factors that are poorly understood in isolation, let alone in their interaction.<br> <br> That is why the ideas of “best practice” and “better city” fail to offer strategic conceptions of equity or ecology. Such perspectives are relegated to “themes” such as inclusion or sustainability. This suggests that the fate of a city is only amenable to minimal, fragmented change. The approach fails to address the organization of complexity and instead, settles for gains for the few, often at the expense of the many.<br> <br> Megacities must resolve how they will position themselves in the very real contradictions between rural vs. urban development; local vs. global flows; equality vs. inequality or global footprint vs. local autonomy. Cities must discover the most humanizing scale at which basic services – food, energy, transportation, education, health or safety – should be provided? Is it the unit of 50,000 or 500,000?<br> <br> Thus, more is needed than a “better city.” We must redefine what is equitable and ecological for cities of every scale. This requires that we redesign the systems of production, consumption and distribution that fuel the megacities. We must rediscover the humanizing qualities of cities before they became supersized.<br> <br> <em>Barry Weisberg is global cities contributor for Worldview. His commentaries&nbsp;reflect his own views and not necessarily those of Worldview or WBEZ.</em></p></p> Thu, 20 May 2010 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/megacities-must-not-lose-their-%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%C5%93humanizing%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%C2%9D-qualities