I’m struck by how visible technology is in Sidewalk Lab’s Street Life After Retail article. Every single one of their visualizations has some questionably-useful piece of technology in the foreground, including holograms, 3d printers, mini delivery robots, and robotic arms. While this is certainly a possibility–just look at how visible cars are–it’s not at all a certainty.
Furthmore, I’m struck by how business-like the community-led organizations they mention seem to be. Their examples include a senior center, public kitchen, montessori school, family health (doctor?), bike share, child care, and game room. These all sound like businesses to me. What’s really striking about this depiction of a street is the lack of cars and the presence of people. The transportation and delivery mechanisms must be hidden from view. Subway? Roads with self-driving cars on the next street over? A daytime ban on delivery drones? Hard to say.
This leaves me asking a different question: What should be centrally planned and what should be left to businesses and individuals? In today’s cities, the streets and sidewalks planned centrally, leaving almost everything else to individuals. It’s time to re-evaluate that balance. Do central planners simply need to change roads and sidewalks for this new world or do they need to take on more (or less!) responsibility?