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People get more connected and technology becomes part of our daily life. Between 2014 and 2015 there was a 27% growth of internet traffic in Amsterdam. Eleven out of fifteen Trans-Atlantic data cables are connected with or go through Amsterdam and the AMS-IX is the second largest internet exchange point in the world. In 2016 Amsterdam was ranked second in the European Digital City Index. Do you work on a smarter city? Share your technologies here!
In the first part of the series, I explained why digital technology 'for the good' is a challenge. The second part dealt with ethical criteria behind its responsible use. In the third part I have selected important field that will benefit from the responsible application of digital technology:
16 Abuse of artificial intelligence by the police in the US. More than bias
17 How can digital tools help residents to regain ownership of the city?
18 Will MaaS reduce the use of cars?
19 Digital tools as enablers towards a circular economy
20 Smart grids: where social and digital innovation meet
21 Risks and opportunities of digitization in healthcare
22 Two 100-city missions: Ill-considered leaps forward
23 Epilogue: Beyond the smart city
The link below enables you to open all previous episodes, also in Dutch language.
The 15th episode of the Better cities - The contribution of digital technology- series is about collaboration between Dutch cities within the City Deals in the Agenda stad en regio project.
Over the past years, the interest Dutch municipalities in digitization at urban level has increased, partly because of the initiating role of the VNG, G40, the Future City Foundation and forerunners such as Apeldoorn, Helmond, and Zwolle as well. Initially, these were small-scale and isolated projects. In this post, I'll discuss two projects that aim at scaling through collaboration.
A mission-driven approach to public sector projects
In her new book, Mission Economy, Mariana Mazzucato advocates a mission-driven approach to public sector projects at the local level in the way that a man was put on the moon. She refers at large-scale projects with a high degree of complexity, such as the energy transition, the construction of affordable housing, the well-being of the poor part of the population and the conservation of nature.
What is a mission-driven approach? At first, it includes an ambitious vision, followed by breaking down silos within the governmental organization, collaboration within the quadruple helix, and cooperation between higher and lower governments.
A mission-driven approach is appropriate for the major transitions facing the world and digitization as a part of these. The following pertains to a couple of projects that aim at such an approach. The first, Agenda city and region has been running for some time and will be dealt with extensively. The other is initiated by G40 will be discussed briefly.
Agenda stad and City deals
In Agenda city and region, cities, governments at different levels, companies, and organizations, including the VNG, G4, G40 and Platform31, work together to drive innovation in cities. The mission is summarized in SDG 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. The most important instrument are City Deals: collaborative ventures around a themes.
The first City Deals started in 2016, there are now 27, about half of which have been completed, but six new ones are about to start. 125 municipalities, 8 provinces, 9 ministries, 10 other government agencies, 5 water boards, more than 100 companies, 30 knowledge institutions and more than 20 other partnerships are involved. There are now 14 partnerships with municipalities outside the Netherlands.
Examples of City Deals are: Working and doing business across borders, cleantech, food on the urban agenda, local resilience against cybercrime, inner city building, the inclusive city, and smart city, that's how you do it. The latter will be discussed below.
Within a City Deal, the parties involved work together in their own way on concrete products, ranging from legislation to policy instruments. The main principles are:
- Formulating an ambition and a strategy.
- Enabling scaling through cooperation between and/or within (urban) regions.
- Realizing collaboration between public and private parties, including the central government
- Innovating by realizing new forms of problem-solving.
- Scaling up, also across national borders.
City Deals also work together and new deals are created from among them, such as ‘Smart customization', a new City Deal that arises from the existing City Deals 'Simple customization' and 'Smart city, that is how you do it'. If I had to imagine how a moonshot works, which I referred to in the introduction of this article, then Agenda city and region could be a good example.
City deal 'A smart city, this is how you do it'
The goal of this City Deal, as we read in the annual report, is to use digitization to tackle the major challenges facing Europe and the Netherlands, such as poverty, social cohesion, and insecurity, and to achieve a society in which everyone can live in freedom. 60 parties are now involved in this City Deal.
The aim is to change at least 12 processes by which regions, cities and towns are designed, organized, managed, and governed, and to make the most of the opportunities offered by digitization. The starting point is the existing practice and aimed at matching city’s demands.
The City Deal 'Smart city, this is how you do it', has 14 working groups. Each of those have chosen which a process to tackle, on the understanding that three municipalities must be prepared to test the results and can be scaled eventually. The City Deal 'A smart city, this is how you do it' has been underway for almost two years now, and the processes to be tackled have crystallized. In a few cases prototypes are ready, most are under development. Below is a brief description of the situation on November 15th, 2021. A lively description of some participants’ experience can be read in ROMmagazine, volume 39, no. 11.
1. Open urban data platform
This project is developing a procedure for tendering an open data platform, which is shareable and scalable, in which privacy and data autonomy are guaranteed and that offers sufficient precautions for cybersecurity. The result will be a step-by-step plan, in which technical questions (what it will looks like), legal questions (who is the owner) and financial questions (funding) are discussed.
2. Cookbook for effective data strategy
This project develops a procedure for the acquisition and storage of data. A 'data cookbook' has been developed that supports the collection, storage, and application of data. It offers an 11-step plan from the formulation of a measurable questions to the interpretation of the measurement results. It accentuates the importance to make explicit the assumptions behind the selection of data. The usability of the steps is tested in practice. A first concept can be found here.
3. Smart initiatives test
The aim of this project is to allow initiators (citizens, companies) to make optimal use of available public data, including those that will be provided by the DSO (digitaal stelsel omgevingswet). The DSO will provide information about which rules apply at a specific location and ultimately also about the quality of the physical living environment itself. Ideally, the ‘smart initiatives test’ will collect and optimize all data needed for a plan. The project group is currently investigating which types of (geo) data users need most ('usercases').
4. Sensor data and privacy
The aim of the project is to develop a tool that allows a municipality to tender for the installation of sensors that exactly match the type of data that will be collected and that consider ethical questions and GDPR rules.
5. Design of the new city
The growing availability of various types of (real-time) data, for example about air quality and noise pollution) has implications for the way in which cities and neighborhoods are developed. The working group is developing a canvas that functions as a ‘translator' of available data. The starting point for its development was a matrix with as inputs the phases of the design process (initiative, design and realization phase) and the area type (urban, Randstad and suburban area). This matrix must indicate which data is needed at what time. The usability will be tested through pilots.
6. Everyone (and everything) a sensor
Citizen measurement initiatives (via telephones and with sensors attached to bicycles, cars, and homes) have a double goal: to increase citizen’s involvement and to improve the insight into living environment of those who execute the measurement. It can also contribute to behavioral change, especially if the measurements match the needs of residents and they are also involved in the interpretation of the results. The working group is striving for a roadmap based on several user cases.
7. Local measurement: comparing projects
Measuring data locally – as was done in the previous project – may be redundant if data from elsewhere is available. In that case, comparability is required with data being searched for and standardization is needed to enable such a comparison. However, standardization can lead to mistrust and remove the incentive for resident groups to get started themselves. Ultimately, the working group opts for the development of a self-service portal, which will be developed together with the Healthy Urban Living Data and Knowledge Hub. Resident groups can then choose for themselves to participate in a standardized project that reads their measurement results directly or for a 'do-it-yourself' solution. A manual will be written for this last option.
Both projects are being further developed in collaboration with Eurocities, a network of 190 cities in 38 countries, under the name CitiMeasure - using citizen measurement to create smart, sustainable and inclusive cities.
8. Smart mobility: Towards a safe and sustainable city
Digitization in traffic has already taken off, for example by intelligent traffic systems (IVRIs), but usually the existing situation, for example private use of cars, is the starting point. The question is how to connect to the pursuit of a better quality of life. To this end, the working group has chosen three themes: better accessibility for emergency services, shared mobility, and city logistics.
A step-by-step plan is being developed for emergency services, with which municipalities can realize the necessary facilities to always priorize emergency vehicles – and possibly other target groups as well.
If everyone were to travel with the most suitable means of transport at that time (varying from walking, (shared) bicycle or scooter, public transport to (shared) car, private car use would decrease considerably and thus improve the quality of city live. Additionally, the working group is developing a 'map' to encourage shared mobility, which provides answers to all related questions.
Developments in city logistics are already taking place via other routes. Therefore, the contribution of the working group in this regard will be limited.
9. A business model for the smart city
New forms of collaboration between governments, the business community, knowledge institutions and citizens can result in new 'values' for areas, but also to the need to allocate costs and benefits in a different way. A new 'business model' may then be necessary. To this end, the working group is investigating the consequences for companies and organizations of entering partnerships for the successful development of products and services. This compared to more traditional client/contractor relationships.
10 Ethical Boards
Within the City Deal 'A smart city, this is how you do it', a rule is that digital instruments to be developed always comply with ethical principles. The implications of such principles are often situational. That is why municipalities are setting up an 'ethical board', which includes experts and residents. To support its work, the committee wants to create a knowledge platform that informs which ethical principles or tools suit best for different digitization projects.
11 Model Acquisition
Local authorities want to regulate the use of digital tools such as sensors in public spaces. Anita Nijboer, who works as a lawyer at Kennedy Van der Laan, who is also a partner of the City Deal 'Smart city, this is how you do it', has drawn up a model regulation for this purpose, which has already been tested in Rotterdam and Helmond. The most important learning effect is that departments within a municipality have fundamentally different view of the way in which these types of questions should be legally framed. In response to this, the working group is examining the question of whether a model regulation is an appropriate answer to obtaining consent for the use of digital tools.
12 Dealing with crowds in the city
Measuring (too large) crowds in parts of the city was a problem long before corona times. The aim is to develop a digital model ('digital twin') of the city - a so-called crowd safety manager - that provides real-time insight into pedestrian flows and concentrations. Such a model must also be able to communicate with people in the city. A prototype of a dashboard, developed by partner company Argaleo, is now being used in 's-Hertogenbosch, Breda and The Hague. This instrument does not use any personal data. It is being further developed at European level with external subsidies.
The instruments to be developed and existing instruments have been brought together via a website, the Toolbox. Other City Deals also develop knowledge, which is far from being systematically documented. That is why the best way to distribute this knowledge is investigated together with the Knowledge Lab for Urbanism.
G40: Smart sustainable urbanization
In March 2021, G40, the umbrella organization of 40 medium-sized municipalities, submitted a project proposal to promote digitalization and thus also create opportunities to the business community.
The project plan rejects the current approach of 'smart urbanization' and the realization of 'main social tasks'. Decentralization, broadening of tasks, narrowing of implementation funds and a fragmented central government policy have led to an impeding control gap and financing deficit in municipalities. Instead, a bundled approach is wanted, led by representatives of municipalities and central government, and the latter is being asked to invest € 1 billion.
When studying this plan, I was surprised by the absence of any reference to the activities of Agenda city and regioand the City Deals. Instead, one wonders whether Agenda city and region is the subject of criticism of the fragmented approach and G40 wants to get rid of it.
The strength of Agenda city and region is the cross connections between urban projects of all kinds, the involvement of citizens and intermunicipal cooperation. This is something to cherish.
In my opinion, G40 would be better off by ushering in a new phase of Agenda city and region, characterized by economies of scale and acceleration of the findings so far. The aims of this new phase could be consolidation of the cohesion between the themes of the individual City Deals within the framework of the major transitions facing the Netherlands. The theme of digitization thrives best in this context. After all, the ultimate value of digitization lies in the contribution to the energy transition, the reduction of traffic nuisance and the growth of a circular economy, to name a few examples. However, that requires a different plan.
In the meantime, I hope that in the foreseeable future we will be able to see the results of the working groups of the City Deal 'Smart city, this is how you do it', together with those of the other 'Deals'.
Follow the link below to find one of the previous episodes or see which episodes are next, and this one for the Dutch version.
One of the key priorities of the European Commission is to support the twin transition to a green and digital economy. One way the Commission is shaping this transition is by co-creating transition pathways for more resilient, green and digital industrial ecosystems, across different sectors.
Within the scope of the Intelligent Cities Challenge, Amsterdam Region contributed to a stakeholder consultation session on 9 February 2022. Mirko van Vliet, Amsterdam Economic Board Strategic Advisor shared the region’s experience using future scenarios as a tool for assessing developments in inherently unpredictable and complex systems. In this approach, scenarios are not forecasts but alternative images of how the future can unfold. The approach can be used to stimulate discussion and action around key opportunities, threats, driving forces and no regret measures to achieve a desired vision.
Beyond visions, achieving the digital and green transition requires concrete initiatives. Mirko shared the example of LEAP, a coalition of the willing that aims to speed up the transition to a sustainable digital infrastructure by deploying and accelerating existing and new technologies. One of the topics explored within LEAP is the possibility of shifting away from hyper-scale, monolithic data-centers to more flexible, distributed and disaggregated infrastructures. LEAP exemplifies Amsterdam Economic Board's approach to building a robust ecosystem through multi-stakeholder collaboration in order to transition the data-center and digital infrastructure value chains.
Would you like to help shape the transition pathways for more resilient, greener and digital industrial ecosystems? The Commission is inviting all interested stakeholders to co-create transition pathways for three sectors / ecosystems:
- Proximity & social economy ecosystem, consultation closes February 28
- Construction ecosystem, consultation closes February 28
- Mobility ecosystem, consultation closes March 31
Based on the results of these consultations, the Commission will organise further meetings with stakeholders to finalise the various pathways in 2022.
For more information visit: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/consultations_en
A link to a larger reproduction is here.
In the 14th episode of the Better cities - The contribution of digital technology-series, I investigate the digitization policy of the municipality of Amsterdam based on the guidelines and ethical principles formulated earlier.
25 years ago, Amsterdam Digital City was a frontrunner in access to public internet. Now the city wants to lead the way as a free, inclusive, and creative digital city. How the municipality wants to do this is described for the first time in the memorandum A digital city for and by everyone (2019). A year later in the Digital City Agenda (2020), the goals have been reformulated into three spearheads: (1) responsible use of data and technology (2) combating digital inequality and (3) the accessibility of services. These three spearheads resulted in a series of concrete activities, of which a first evaluation was submitted to the municipal council in 2021. 'Protecting digital rights' has been added to the three spearheads. The illustration above is mentioning the four spearheads and the 22 activities.
This article is looking closer at Amsterdam’s digitalization policy by examining how it relates to the guidelines and ethical principles for digitization, which I compiled in the 9th edition. Because of the overlap, I have merged these into one list (see HERE), named Principles for socially responsible digitization policy. This list contains eight principles, each accompanied by a non-exhaustive set of guidelines. For each of these principles, I examine what Amsterdam has achieved until now. The numbers after the principles below refer to one or more of the 22 activities mentioned above. I add an example from outside Amsterdam to each principle.
1. Embedding (1, 4)
The digital agenda is part of a democratically established and coherent urban agenda.
• The Municipality of Amsterdam is building a broad knowledge network in the field of responsible use of data and digital technology together with AMS Institute, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Waag Society, and others. This network will conduct research into the impact of technology on the city.
In 2017, the Foresight Lublin 2050 project was launched in the Polish city of Lublin to define opportunities and threats related to socio-economic, environmental, and technological development. Its mission is that decisions about technology should be made based on the real needs of residents and should be involved in the design and implementation of policies. As part of the democratic nature of decision-making in Lublin, residents determine the allocation of budget resources.
2. Equality, inclusiveness, and social impact (16, 17, 19, 20)
Making information and communication technology accessible to everyone
• The Municipality of Amsterdam is making public services accessible, understandable, and usable for everyone, online and offline. Research among low-literate target groups has provided clues to reach these goals.
• The Online Implementation Agenda provides information about current policy (volg.amsterdam.nl). Mijn Amsterdamprovides information about neighborhood-level projects and opportunities to participate in them.
• Vulnerable citizens will find hardware to use the Internet in several places and free Wi-Fi is also available. Several thousand laptops have been distributed.
• The development of digital skills is supported together with social partners. For example, a 'train-the-trainer' program has been carried out with Cybersoek and the Public Library will introduce all visitors in the coming years to the themes of data literacy and digital freedom.
• Through the partnership with TechConnect 50,000 extra people from underrepresented groups are made aware of the technology labor market.
• The municipality considers the roll-out of the 5G network desirable but is following critical research into the health risks of this network. The 5G Field lab is used to study the applications of 5G and their importance for residents.
Barcelona and Madrid are forerunners regarding of digital participation, thanks to their resp. networks Decide and Decide Madrid. Residents use these networks on a large scale as a source of information and to participate in discussions and (advisory) voting. Much of what the city council discusses came up through these forums.
3. Justice (2, 15, 20)
Prevent that the application of digital systems results in concentration and abuse of power.
• The Amsterdam Intelligence Agenda sets conditions for algorithms to prevent discrimination. Partly in this context, several algorithms will be audited annually, and algorithms will be placed in a register.
• The Civic AI Lab will explore the (unintended) implications of algorithms related to unequal treatment and discrimination.
• An exploration of the best way to provide low-threshold access has been launched for the domains of care and education.
With its 116-page Strategy for the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI), New York focuses on using AI to better serve residents, building AI know-how within government, modernizing data infrastructure, city policy on AI, developing partnerships with external organizations and promoting equal opportunities.
4. Human Dignity (20)
Prevent technology from alienating people from their unique qualities and instead ensure that it stimulates their fulfillment.
• The 'Modere overheid’ program investigates how digitization can support different domains of the municipal organization. Examples are better matching of job seekers and work, helping 18-year-olds manage their finances, (early) identification of people with debts, providing information about cleaning and management of the city.
The Database of ‘Affordable Housing Listings, Information, and Applications’ allows San Francisco residents to search the entire range of affordable housing and express their interest through a simple, multi-lingual form. A candidate resident is selected from the submitted applications by drawing lots, who then submits a more detailed application. The procedure has been developed entirely in open-source software and other cities are joining this initiative.
5. Autonomy and privacy (3, 5, 6, 14, 15)
Recognition of human autonomy and the right to reside and move in public space without being observed digitally
• The municipality has established a data strategy that gives residents more control over their own data.
• The municipality works with other municipalities on data minimization via the IRMA app. Via this app residents can pass on damage reports. In the future, this app can form the basis for making available a digital identity to all citizens.
• The Responsible Sensing Lab investigates privacy-friendly methods to collect data in a responsible way using sensing. The mmWave sensor, for example, measures crowds without collecting personal data.
• A register maps installed sensors. A sensor regulation will make it mandatory to register sensors in the public space.
To protect residents' privacy, Seattle's government has taken a series of steps that make the city an undisputed frontrunner in this regard. The city has appointed a chief privacy officer, established a set of guiding privacy principles, and established a privacy advisory committee composed of both citizens and government officials. An important part is the implementation of a privacy impact assessment every time the municipality develops a new project in which personal data is collected.
6. Open data, open software, and interoperability (9, 13, 18)
Data architecture, including standards, agreements and norms aimed at reusing data, programs and technology and preventing lock-in.
• The municipal policy regarding open data is 'open, unless. The urban platform data.amsterdam.nl attracts 2500 unique visitors per day.
• The municipality's sourcing and open-source strategy establishes the reuse of existing resources, the use of standards and the availability of software developed by the municipality.
• Together with knowledge institutions and companies, the municipality is developing the Amsterdam Data Exchange, in which the parties involved regulate which data they exchange. Agreements have been made with the Central Dutch Statistics Office (CBS) about making data available.
• The Tada principles are the starting points for responsible data use. They regulate the authority of the users and determine the use of data and that it is open and transparent. It is envisaged that other Amsterdam institutions and companies will also adopt these principles.
• Residents can view their personal data via My Amsterdam. This also applies to entrepreneurs.
To support startups, the Seoul City Council has developed My Neighborhood Analysis, a tool that contains an unprecedented amount of commercial information. This includes datasets from Seoul's entire business ecosystem, such as business licenses, ownership information, rental rates, and transportation ticket data. When users enter information about the proposed business type, they get an overview of business performance in the neighborhood to be explored and an indication of the expected level of risk for a new business. Users can select peer companies to understand their historical performance.
7. Safety (7, 9)
Preventing and combating internet crime and limiting its consequences.
• The municipality has drawn up a Digital Safety Agenda, partly aimed at keeping vital infrastructure in operation.
The municipality of The Hague has developed an IoT security monitor together with Cybersprint. It provides a real-time overview of all connected IoT devices within the city limits with detailed information such as their whereabouts and level of risk. The monitor has so far identified 3100 unsafe devices in The Hague. Usually, insecure devices don't use password or default passwords or outdated software.
8. Operational and Financial Sustainability (12, 20, 21)
Guaranteeing a reliable, robust Internet
• The municipality is in permanent consultation with the Internet and telephone providers to guarantee the stability of the networks.
Rolling out the fiber digital infrastructure accounts for 90% of the total cost. A "Dig Once" policy aims to reduce these costs through collaboration with stakeholders. In the case of new construction, the aim is to carry out all cable and pipeline work in one go, preferably by constructing a small, easily accessible tunnel under the sidewalk or street. This considerably increases the operational reliability of all (digital) facilities. With existing buildings, all maintenance and replacement work should be carried out in one go too.
As can be expected, various bottlenecks arise in the implementation of the digital policy in Amsterdam. After all, this is a fast process involving many parties and interests, while technological developments are rapid. A lot of work still must be done in several areas gain support, both within the municipal apparatus, and with companies, organizations and inhabitants. This includes the Tada principles, compliance with the municipal sourcing strategy, the 'open unless' policy and the data minimization policy. There is also work to be done to develop a reliable digital infrastructure and to counteract (unintended) effects when using artificial intelligence. Increasing digital self-reliance and creating the preconditions for all residents to participate digitally requires structural embedding and financing.
In my opinion, the municipality of Amsterdam has made great strides in the field of privacy (5) and open data (6). The biggest challenges are in the following areas (the numbers refer to the principles formulated by me):
• Embedding of the digitization policy in the other policy areas (1).
• Availability of Internet, computers, and digital skills for vulnerable groups (2).
• Use of digital means to increase the participation of the population in policy development and formulation (2).
• Conditions of workers in the gig economy (3).
• Oversight of the AI systems that make autonomous judgments about people (4).
• Fight against cybercrime (7).
• Future-proof infrastructure (8).
In the next episode I will shift the focus to digitizing activities of other Dutch municipalities.
The link below opens a preliminary overview of the already published and upcoming articles in the series Better cities: the contribution of digital technology. Click HERE for the Dutch version.
In the 13th episode of the Better cities -The contribution of digital technology-series I will continue the description of applications of digital technology and their evaluation based on relevant ethical principles treated in episode 9. Episode 12 discussed: (1) Internet of Things, (2) robotics, and (3) biometrics. Below, I will cover (4) Immersive technology (augmented and virtual reality), (5) blockchain and (6) platforms. By way of conclusion, I return to the implications of all these applications for governance.
The ethical principles mentioned in chapter 9 are: privacy, autonomy, security, control, human dignity, justice, and power relations.
4. Immersive technology (augmented and virtual reality)
Augmented reality adds information to our perception. The oldest examples are messages that pilots of super-fast fighter planes could read on their glasses, so that they eyes without interruption could follow their "target". Its most popular application is the game Pokémon Go. Additional information via the smartphone screen is also often available when visiting 'places of interest'. The infamous Google Glasses were an excellent tool for this purpose but due to the obvious risk of privacy violations their application soon came to an end. This is unfortunate for certain groups, for example the hearing impaired.
Virtual reality goes much further by replacing our sensory perception by images of an artificial world. This requires a special helmet, such as the oculus rift. Applications mainly find their way through gaming. But it is also possible to show the interior of a house in three dimensions or to take a virtual walk through a neighborhood that is yet to be built.
A primitive form of virtual reality was Second live, in which the screen gave access to an alternative reality, in which your avatar communicates with others’. That could go a long way, like someone who reported being raped by a fellow avatar. Nowadays, the capabilities of augmented reality are expanding rapidly. Think of a virtual space where the user meets others to converse, listen, or to do whatever.
Augmented reality takes you to the metaverse, which was first described by Neil Stephenson in his dystopian book Snow Crash in 1992. As the power of computers grew, the idea of the metaverse gained new impetus and recently Marc Zuckerberg announced that his new company Meta Platforms will gradually turn Facebook into a fully digital world. This immerses the users in the most diverse experiences, which they partly evoke themselves, such as communicating with other avatars, attending a concert, going to the disco, and getting acquainted with strangers and of course going to shops, because it remains a medium to make money.
Only recently, Microsoft has also announced that it would bring its operating system (Windows), web servers (Azure), communication networks (Teams and Linkedin) hardware (HoloLens), entertainment (Xbox) and IP (Minecraft) together in a virtual reality. The recent €60 billion-acquisition of game producer Activision Blizzard, producer of the Call of Duty video games, fits in with this policy and indicates that the company expects to make a lot of money with its version of the metaverse.
In the expected struggle between the titans, Amazon will probably join in and build the virtual mall of and for everyone's dreams.
It remains to be seen whether a younger generation, less consumer-addicted and more concerned about nature, is waiting for a completely artificial world. I hope not.
The risks of augmented reality have been widely mentioned from the start. For example, for research purposes, Google had been given the right to remotely track the movements of the eyes of people wearing Google glasses. For the rest, it is not only governments and companies that will spy on people, but above all people will spy on each other.
After a short time, those who move through the metaverse develop balance problems. Worse is that the risk of addiction is high.
There is a danger that people who frequently dwell in imaginary worlds can no longer distinguish fake and real and alienate from themselves in the 'real' world and lose the social skills that are necessary in it.
Big Tech is getting even more tools to analyze our preferences and influence us, including through deep fakes, which can imitate existing people in real life. This raises questions about the risks that citizens run, and about the even greater role of companies that offer immersive technology.
Blockchain makes it possible to record transactions (of money, securities, contracts, and objects) without the mediation of an authorized body (government, employer, bank, notary). The first version of blockchain was bitcoin, initially only intended for financial transactions. Today, there are hundreds of variants, of which Ethereum is the most widely used.
The essence of blockchain is that the database of all transactions, the ledger, is stored on everyone's computer and is therefore accessible to every user. Miners ensure that a cryptocurrency is only used for one transaction or that a contract is not changed afterwards by one of the parties involved. Once most miners have approved a series of transactions, these transactions together form an unchangeable block.
Miners are eager to approve blocks, because whoever turns out to have done so first will receive a significant fee in cryptocurrency. Mining takes time and, above all, requires a huge amount of computing power and therefore energy. Alternative methods are diligently sought, such as a method that mainly concerns the reputation of the miner.
Blockchain stems from a drive for radical decentralization and reduction of the power of states, banks, and companies. That has worked out differently in practice. It is mainly governments and large companies in the US, Russia, China, South Korea, and the Netherlands, for example Albert Heijn, that are ensuring a steady increase.
As a means of securely storing transactions and recording mutual obligations, as in the case of digital autonomous organizations and smart contacts, blockchain has more potential than as a cryptocurrency. An absolute precondition is finding an alternative for the high consumption of energy.
Blockchain grew out of the pursuit of escaping the ubiquitous eavesdropping enterprises and state. That is why dubious transactions are preferably handled with cryptocurrency. There is no complete anonymity, because cryptocurrency must be regularly exchanged for official money,
Perhaps more human autonomy comes into its own in blockchain than in any other system. For this it is necessary to know how it works well. This is all the truer in the case of non-financial transactions.
There are certain risks: The moment a miner has more than 50% of the computer capacity, it can completely corrupt the system. This situation is not imaginary. In 2019, there were two Chinese miners who together owned more than the half of computer capacity.
Not much is known about the position of miners. There is a tendency towards ever-increasing concentration, which carries dangers about the sustainability of the system. As concentration increases, cryptocurrency holdings will also become increasingly skewed. After all, it is the miners who ensure the expansion of the available amount of money.
6. Digital platforms
Companies such as Amazon, Uber and Airbnb represent a new form of economic activity that has far-reaching consequences for other companies and urban life. They essentially consist of digital platforms that bring providers and consumers together.
Imagine you are in Amazon's virtual fitting room. You sit on a chair and a series of models pass by all of which exactly have your figure and size and maybe also your appearance. You can vary endlessly what they are wearing, until you have found or put together the outfit of your dreams. This can apply to all conceivable purchases, up to cars, including a driving simulator. With the push of a button, it is ordered and a few hours later the drone drops your order at your doorstep.
Digital platforms bring together a range of digital technology applications, such as Internet of Things, robotics, immersive technology, artificial intelligence and blockchain, to monitor the immense flows of goods and services.
In the world of platforms, privacy is of little or no importance. Companies want to earn as much as possible from you and therefore collect masses of information about your behavior, preferences, and expenses. This in exchange for convenience and free gadgets such as navigation, search engines and email.
Some platforms are part of the sharing economy. They enable direct transactions between people and, as in the case of Airbnb, provide an unprecedented range of accommodations from which to choose.
Employees in platform companies often have poor labor conditions. For example, Uber drivers are followed, checked, and assessed all day long. In distribution centers, all remaining human actions are prescribed down to the minute.
In these companies, a large gap arises between the small inner circle of managers and technicians and the large outer circle of "contractors" that the company has nothing to do with and who have nothing to do with the company.
These companies also contribute to widening the gap between rich and poor; the unprecedentedly large earnings go to top management and shareholders and, where possible, tax is avoided.
Platforms like Airbnb make it possible to distort competition on a large scale; the accommodations they rent out do not comply with the safety and tax rules that apply to regular companies.
The growth of platforms that have taken on monopolistic forms is the major cause of urban disruption without contributing to the costs it entails for the community.
Back to governance
In the previous articles, I have elaborated a framework for dealing with digitization in a socially responsible manner. Two lines of thought developed in this, that of the value of digital technology and that of its ethical use.
The value of digital technology
Digital technology must be given shape and content as one of the tools with which a city works towards an ecologically and socially sustainable future. To help articulate what such a future means, I introduced Kate Raworth's ideas about the donut economy. The design of a vision of the future must be a broadly supported democratic process, in which citizens also test the solution of their inclining problems against the sustainable prosperity of future generations and that of people elsewhere in the world.
The most important question when it comes to (digital) technology is therefore which (digital) technological tools contribute to the realization of a socially and ecologically sustainable city?
The ethical use of technology
In the world in which we try to realize the sustainable city of the future, digital technology is developing rapidly, in the fort place under the influence of commercial and political interests. Cities are confronted with these technologies through powerful smart city technology marketing.
The most important question for cities to ask is How do we assess available technologies from an ethical perspective.
In the government of cities, both trains of thought come together: Together, the answers to these questions can lead to the choice, design, and application of digital techniques as part of the realization of a vision for an ecologically and socially sustainable future of the city.
In the next two articles I examine how ethical principles are dealt with in practice. In the first article I will put Amsterdam in the spotlight and next, I look at how several municipalities are digitizing responsibly in the context of the Agenda stad.
The link below opens an overview of all published and future articles in this series.
Het AI, Media & Democracy Lab, een samenwerking van UvA, HvA en CWI, krijgt een subsidie van 2.1 miljoen euro toegekend binnen de NWO-call ‘Mensgerichte AI voor een inclusieve samenleving – naar een ecosysteem van vertrouwen’. Hiermee gaan onderzoekers in de zogenoemde ELSA Labs zich samen met mediabedrijven en culturele instellingen inzetten om de kennis over de ontwikkeling en de toepassing van betrouwbare, mensgerichte AI te vergroten.
In totaal honoreert NWO in deze call vijf aanvragen; bij elkaar gaat het om meer dan 10 miljoen. HvA-lectoren Nanda Piersma en Tamara Witschge en Hoofddocent Responsible AI Pascal Wiggers hebben zich hier - samen met vele anderen - tot het uiterste voor ingespannen.
Het AI, Media & Democracy ELSA Lab is een van de gehonoreerde projecten binnen de categorie Economie, Binnenlands bestuur en Cultuur & Media, en onderzoekt de impact van AI op de democratische functie van media. Samen met journalisten, mediaprofessionals, designers, burgers, collega-onderzoekers en publieke en maatschappelijke partners, ontwikkelt en test het lab waarde-gedreven, mensgerichte AI-toepassingen en ethische en juridische kaders voor verantwoord gebruik van AI.
Doel van het Lab is het stimuleren van innovatieve AI-toepassingen die de democratische functie van media versterken. Er wordt samengewerkt met partners als RTL, DPG Media, NPO, Beeld en Geluid, Media Perspectives, NEMO Kennislink, Waag Society, Gemeente Amsterdam, Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties, Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap, Commissariaat van de Media, Hogeschool Utrecht, Universiteit Utrecht, Cultural AI Lab, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, BBC en het Bayrischer Rundfunk AI Lab.
Prof. dr. Natali Helberger , universiteitshoogleraar Law and Digital Technology aan de UvA en medeoprichter van het AI, Media & Democracy Lab: "Deze subsidie stelt ons in staat om samen met onze partners te onderzoeken hoe AI een rol kan spelen in de democratische en onafhankelijke rol van de media, de publieke sfeer en burgers die zich willen informeren. Met het AI, Media & Democracy Lab kunnen we onze bijdrage leveren aan onafhankelijke innovatie, maar ook aan het vormen van een visie op de toekomst van de media in onze digitale maatschappij."
Dr. Nanda Piersma , wetenschappelijk directeur van het Centre of Expertise Applied AI, HvA-lector Responsible IT en onderzoeker bij CWI: "We willen een verschil maken in het huidige medialandschap door samen met de mediapartners en de publieke partners AI op een verantwoorde manier in de praktijk te brengen. Deze subsidie stelt ons in staat om een experimentele ruimte te creëren waar we AI kunnen uitproberen, en bij goed resultaat ook met de partners in de praktijk te implementeren. Daarmee krijgt het Nederlandse medialandschap een enorme impuls.”
Dr. Tamara Witschge, HvA-lector Creative Media for Social Change: “Met dit consortium van kennisinstellingen kan de HvA echt een belangrijke bijdrage leveren, omdat het gaat over het ontwikkelingen van technologische innovaties die publieke waarden en grondrechten borgen en mensenrechten respecteren, en deze in de journalistieke praktijk te testen. In het project komen de verschillende expertisegebieden van de faculteit Digitale Media en Creatieve Industrie samen: van AI tot media en design.”
GRONDRECHTEN, MENSENRECHTEN EN DRAAGVLAK
De ELSA Labs (ELSA: ‘Ethical, Legal and Societal Aspects’) zijn co-creatieve omgevingen waar interdisciplinair en met elkaar samenhangend onderzoek wordt gedaan naar verschillende technologische en economische uitdagingen waar we als samenleving voor gesteld worden. Het met de NWO-subsidie gefinancierde onderzoek moet niet alleen bijdragen aan technologische innovaties die publieke waarden en grondrechten borgen en mensenrechten respecteren (en waar mogelijk versterken), maar ook op maatschappelijk draagvlak kunnen rekenen. Nanda Piersma: ”We zijn trots dat het AI Media and Democracy Lab eerst het NLAIC ELSA label heeft gekregen en nu ook deze subsidie van NWO. Het voelt dat we het vertrouwen hebben gekregen en we willen dit maximaal waarmaken in de komende jaren.”
OVER MENSGERICHTE AI
NWO en de Nederlandse AI Coalitie hebben, als onderdeel van de Nationale Wetenschapsagenda (NWA), het programma ‘Artificiële Intelligentie: Mensgerichte Artificiële Intelligentie (AI) voor een inclusieve samenleving – naar een ecosysteem van vertrouwen’ gelanceerd. Het programma bevordert de ontwikkeling en toepassing van betrouwbare, mensgerichte AI.
In dit publiek-private samenwerkingsverband werken overheid, bedrijfsleven, onderwijs- en onderzoeksinstellingen en maatschappelijke organisaties samen om de nationale AI-ontwikkelingen te versnellen en bestaande initiatieven met elkaar te verbinden. Dit NWA-onderzoeksprogramma verbindt AI als sleuteltechnologie met AI-onderzoek voor een inclusieve samenleving. Daarbij spelen de nationale onderzoeksagenda AIREA-NL en maatschappelijke en beleidsvraagstukken een belangrijke rol.
In the 12th and 13th episode of the series Better cities: The contribution of digital technology, I will use the ethical principles from the 9th episode to assess several applications of digital technology. This episode discusses: (1) Internet of Things, (2) robotics and (3) biometrics. Next week I will continue with (4) Immersive technology (augmented and virtual reality), (5) blockchain and (6) platforms.
These techniques establish reciprocal connections (cybernetic loops) between the physical and the digital world. I will describe each of them briefly, followed by comments on their ethical aspects: privacy, autonomy, security, control, human dignity, justice, and power relations, insofar relevant. The book Opwaarderen: Borgen van publieke waarden in de digitale samenleving. Rathenau Instituut 2017 proved to be valuable for this purpose. Rathenau Institute 2017.
The Internet-of-Things connects objects via sensors with devices that process this data (remotely). The pedometer on the smartphone is an example of data collection on people. In time, data about everyone's health might be collected and evaluated at distance. For the time being, this mainly concerns data of objects. A well-known example is the 'smart meter'. More and more household equipment is connected to the Internet and transmits data about their use. For a long time, Samsung smart televisions had a built-in television camera and microphone with which the behavior of the viewers could be observed. Digital roommates such as Alexa and Siri are also technically able to pass on everything that is said in their environment to their bosses.
Machines, but also trains and trucks are full of sensors to monitor their functioning. Traffic is tracked with sensors of all kinds which measure among many others the quantity of exhaust gases and particulate matter. In many places in the world, people are be monitored with hundreds of thousands CCTV’s. A simple signature from American owners of a Ring doorbell is enough to pass on to the police the countenance of those who come to the front door. Orwell couldn't have imagined.
Internet of Things makes it possible to always track every person, inside and outside the home. When it comes to collecting data in-house, the biggest problem is obscurity and lack of transparency. Digital home-law can be a solution, meaning that no device collects data unless explicit permission is given. A better solution is for manufacturers to think about why they want to collect all this data at all.
Once someone leaves the house, things get trickier. In many Dutch cities 'tracking' of mobile phones has been banned, but elsewhere a range of means is available to register everyone's (purchasing) behavior. Fortunately, legislation on this point in Europe is becoming increasingly strict.
The goal of constant addition of more 'gadges' to devices and selling them as 'smart' is to entice people to buy them, even if previous versions are far from worn out. Sailing is surrounded by all of persuasive techniques that affect people's free will. Facebook very deftly influences our moods through the selection of its newsfeeds. Media, advertisers, and companies should consider the desirability of taking a few steps back in this regard. For the sake of people and the environment.
Sensors in home appliances use to be poorly secured and give cybercriminals easy access to other devices. For those who want to control their devices centrally and want them to communicate with each other’s too, a closed network - a form of 'edge computing' - is a solution. Owners can then decide for themselves which data may be 'exposed', for example for alarms or for balancing the electricity network. I will come back to that in a later episode.
People who, for example, control the lighting of their home via an app, are already experiencing problems when the phone battery is empty. Experience also shows that setting up a wireless system is not easy and that unwanted interferences often occur. Simply changing a lamp is no longer sufficient to solve this kinds of problems. For many people, control over their own home slips out of their hands.
The digital component of many devices and in particular the dependence on well-configured software makes people increasingly dependent on suppliers, who at the same time are less and less able to meet the associated demand for service and support.
Robotics is making its appearance at great speed. In almost every heart surgery, robotics is used to make the surgeon's movements more precise, and some operations are performed (almost) completely automatically. Robots are increasingly being used in healthcare, to support or replace healthcare providers. Also think of robots that can observe 3D and crawl through the sewage system. They help to solve or prevent leakages, or they take samples to detect sources of contamination. Leeds aims to be the first 'self-repairing city' by 2035. ‘Self-driving' cars and metro trains are other examples. Most warehouses and factories are full of robots. They are also making their appearance in households, such as vacuum cleaners or lawnmowers. Robots transmit large amounts of information and are therefore essential parts of the Internet of Things.
Robots are often at odds with privacy 'by design'. This applies definitely to robots in healthcare. Still, such devices are valuable if patients and/or their relatives are sufficiently aware of their impact. Transparency is essential as well as trust that these devices only collect and transmit data for the purpose for which they are intended.
Many people find 'reversing parking' a problem and prefer to leave that to robotics. They thereby give up part of their autonomous driver skills, as the ability to park in reverse is required in various other situations. This is even more true for skills that 'self-driving' cars take over from people. Drivers will increasingly find themselves in situations where they are powerless.
At the same time, robotics is a solution in situations in which people abuse their right to self-determination, for example by speeding, the biggest causes of (fatal) accidents. A mandatory speed limiter saves untold suffering, but the 'king of the road' will not cheer for it.
Leaving operations to robots presupposes that safety is guaranteed. This will not be a problem with robotic lawnmowers, but it is with 'self-driving cars'. Added to this is the risk of hacking into software-driven devices.
Robots can take over boring, 'mind-numbing' dangerous and dirty work, but also work that requires a high degree of precision. Think of manufacturing of computer chips. The biggest problems lie in the potential for job takeovers, which not only has implications for employment, but can also seriously affect quality. In healthcare, people can start to feel 'reified' due to the loss of human contact. For many, daily contact with a care worker is an important instrument against loneliness.
Biometrics encompasses all techniques to identify people by body characteristics: iris, fingerprint, voice, heart rhythm, writing style and emotion. Much is expected of their combination, which is already applied in the passport. There is no escaping security in this world, so biometrics can be a good means of combating identity fraud, especially if different body characteristics are used.
In the US, the application of facial recognition is growing rapidly. In airports, people can often choose to open the security gate 'automatically’ or to stand in line for security. Incode, a San Francisco startup, reports that its digital identity recognition equipment has already been used in 140 million cases by 2021, four times as many as in all previous years combined.
In the EU, the privacy of residents is well regulated by law. The use of data is also laid down in law. Nevertheless, everyone's personal data is stored in countless places.
Facial recognition is provoking a lot of resistance and is increasingly being banned in the public space in the US. This applies to the Netherlands as well.
Biometric technology can also protect privacy by minimization of the information: collected. For example, someone can gain access based on an iris scan, while the computer only checks whether the person concerned has authorization, without registering name.
Cyber criminals are becoming more and more adept at getting hold of personal information. Smaller organizations and sports clubs are especially targeted because of their poor security. If it is also possible to obtain documents such as an identity card, then identity fraud is lurking.
Combining different identification techniques as happens in passports, contributes to the rightful establishing someone's identity. This also makes counterfeiting of identity documents more difficult. Other less secured documents, for example driver's licenses and debit cards, can still be counterfeited or (temporarily) used after they have been stolen, making identity theft relatively easy.
The opposition to facial recognition isn't just about its obvious flaws; the technology will undoubtedly improve in the coming years. Much of the danger lies in the underlying software, in which bias is difficult to eliminate.
When it comes to human dignity, there is also a positive side to biometrics. Worldwide, billions of people are unable to prove who they are. India's Aadhar program is estimated to have provided an accepted form of digital identity based on biometrics to 1.1 billion people. The effect is that financial inclusion of women has increased significantly.
In many situations where biometric identification has been applied, the problem of reversed burden of proof arises. If there is a mistaken identity, the victim must prove that he is not the person the police suspect is.
To be continued next week.
The link below opens an overview of all published and future articles in this series. https://www.dropbox.com/s/vnp7b75c1segi4h/Voorlopig%20overzicht%20van%20materialen.docx?dl=0
In the 11th episode of the series Better cities: The contribution of digital technology, I will apply the ethical principles from episode 9 to the design and use of artificial intelligence.
Before, I will briefly summarize the main features of artificial intelligence, such as big data, algorithms, deep-learning, and machine learning. For those who want to know more: Radical technologies by Adam Greenfield (2017) is a very readable introduction, also regarding technologies such as blockchain, augmented and virtual reality, Internet of Things, and robotics, which will be discussed in next episodes.
Artificial intelligence has valuable applications but also gross forms of abuse. Valuable, for example, is the use of artificial intelligence in the layout of houses and neighborhoods, taking into account ease of use, views and sunlight with AI technology from Spacemaker or measuring the noise in the center of Genk using Nokia's Scene Analytics technology. It is reprehensible how the police in the US discriminate against population groups with programs such as PredPol and how the Dutch government has dealt in the so called ‘toelagenaffaire’.
Thanks to artificial intelligence, a computer can independently recognize patterns. Recognizing patterns as such is nothing new. This has long been possible with computer programs written for that purpose. For example, to distinguish images of dogs and cats, a programmer created an "if....then" description of all relevant characteristics of dogs and cats that enabled a computer to distinguish between pictures of the two animal species. The number of errors depended on the level of detail of the program. When it comes to more types of animals and animals that have been photographed from different angles, making such a program is very complicated. In that case, a computer can be trained to distinguish relevant patterns itself. In this case we speak of artificial intelligence. People still play an important role in this. This role consists in the first place in writing an instruction - an algorithm - and then in the composition of a training set, a selection of a large number of examples, for example of animals that are labeled as dog or cat and if necessary lion tiger and more . The computer then searches 'itself' for associated characteristics. If there are still too many errors, new images will be added.
The way in which the animals are depicted can vary endlessly, whereby it is no longer about their characteristics, but about shadow effect, movement, position of the camera or the nature of the movement, in the case of moving images. The biggest challenge is to teach the computer to take these contextual characteristics into account as well. This is done through the imitation of the neural networks. Image recognition takes place just like in our brains thanks to distinguishing layers, varying from distinguishing simple lines, patterns, and colors to differences in sharpness. Because of this layering, we speak of 'deep learning'. This obviously involves large data sets and a lot of computing power, but it is also a labor-intensive process.
Learning how to apply algorithms under supervision produces reliable results and the instructor can still explain the result after many iterations. As the situation becomes more complicated and different processes are proceeding at the same time, guided instruction is not feasible any longer. For example, if animals attack each other, surviving or not, and the computer must predict which kind of animals have the best chance of survival under which conditions. Also think of the patterns that the computer of a car must be able to distinguish to be able to drive safely on of the almost unlimited variation, supervised learning no longer works.
In the case of unsupervised learning, the computer is fed with data from many millions of realistic situations, in the case of cars recordings of traffic situations and the way the drivers reacted to them. Here we can rightly speak of 'big data' and 'machine learning', although these terms are often used more broadly. For example, the car's computer 'learns' how and when it must stay within the lanes, can pass, how pedestrians, bicycles or other 'objects' can be avoided, what traffic signs mean and what the corresponding action is. Tesla’s still pass all this data on to a data center, which distills patterns from it that regularly update the 'autopilots' of the whole fleet. In the long run, every Tesla, anywhere in the world, should recognize every imaginable pattern, respond correctly and thus guarantee the highest possible level of safety. This is apparently not the case yet and Tesla's 'autopilot' may therefore not be used without the presence of a driver 'in control'. Nobody knows by what criteria a Tesla's algorithms work.
Unsupervised learning is also applied when it comes to the prediction of (tax) fraud, the chance that certain people will 'make a mistake' or in which places the risk of a crime is greatest at a certain moment. But also, in the assessment of applicants and the allocation of housing. For all these purposes, the value of artificial intelligence is overestimated. Here too, the 'decisions' that a computer make are a 'black box'. Partly for this reason, it is difficult, if not impossible, to trace and correct any errors afterwards. This is one of the problems with the infamous ‘toelagenaffaire’.
The cybernetic loop
Algorithmic decision-making is part of a new digital wave, characterized by a 'cybernetic loop' of measuring (collecting data), profiling (analyzing data) and intervening (applying data). These aspects are also reflected in every decision-making process, but the parties involved, politicians and representatives of the people make conscious choices step by step, while the entire process is now partly a black box.
The role of ethical principles
Meanwhile, concerns are growing about ignoring ethical principles using artificial intelligence. This applies to near all principles that are discussed in the 9th episode: violation of privacy, discrimination, lack of transparency and abuse of power resulting in great (partly unintentional) suffering, risks to the security of critical infrastructure, the erosion of human intelligence and undermining of trust in society. It is therefore necessary to formulate guidelines that align the application of artificial intelligence again with these ethical principles.
An interesting impetus to this end is given in the publication of the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers: Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. The Rathenau Institute has also published several guidelines in various publications.
The main guidelines that can be distilled from these and other publications are:
1. Placing responsibility for the impact of the use of artificial intelligence on both those who make decisions about its application (political, organizational, or corporate leadership) and the developers. This responsibility concerns the systems used as well as the quality, accuracy, completeness, and representativeness of the data.
2. Prevent designers from (unknowingly) using their own standards when instructing learning processes. Teams with a diversity of backgrounds are a good way to prevent this.
3. To be able to trace back 'decisions' by computer systems to the algorithms used, to understand their operation and to be able to explain them.
4. To be able to scientifically substantiate the model that underlies the algorithm and the choice of data.
5. Manually verifying 'decisions' that have a negative impact on the data subject.
6. Excluding all forms of bias in the content of datasets, the application of algorithms and the handling of outcomes.
7. Accountability for the legal basis of the combination of datasets.
8. Determine whether the calculation aims to minimize false positives or false negatives.
9. Personal feedback to clients in case of lack of clarity in computerized ‘decisions’.
10. Applying the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity, which means determining on a case-by-case basis whether the benefits of using artificial intelligence outweigh the risks.
11. Prohibiting applications of artificial intelligence that pose a high risk of violating ethical principles, such as facial recognition, persuasive techniques and deep-fake techniques.
12. Revocation of legal provisions if it appears that they cannot be enforced in a transparent manner due to their complexity or vagueness.
The third, fourth and fifth directives must be seen in conjunction. I explain why below.
The scientific by-pass of algorithmic decision making
When using machine learning, computers themselves adapt and extend the algorithms and combine data from different data sets. As a result, the final ‘decisions’ made by the computer cannot be explained. This is only acceptable after it has been proven that these decisions are 'flawless', for example because, in the case of 'self-driving' cars, if they turn out to be many times safer than ordinary cars, which - by the way - is not the case yet.
Unfortunately, this was not the case too in the ‘toelagenaffaire’. The fourth guideline could have provided a solution. Scientific design-oriented research can be used to reconstruct the steps of a decision-making process to determine who is entitled to receive an allowance. By applying this decision tree to a sufficiently large sample of cases, the (degree of) correctness of the computer's 'decisions' can be verified. If this is indeed the case, then the criteria used in the manual calculation may be used to explain the processes in the computer's 'black box'. If there are too many deviations, then the computer calculation must be rejected at all.
In the US, the use of algorithms in the public sector has come in a bad light, especially because of the facial recognition practices that will be discussed in the next episode. The city of New York has therefore appointed an algorithm manager, who investigates whether the algorithms used comply with ethical and legal rules. KPMG has a supervisory role in Amsterdam. In other municipalities, we see that role more and more often fulfilled by an ethics committee.
In the European public domain, steps have already been taken to combat excesses of algorithmic decision-making. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in 2018, has significantly improved privacy protection. In April 2019, the European High Level Expert Group on AI published ethical guidelines for the application of artificial intelligence. In February 2020, the European Commission also established such guidelines, including in the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence and an AI regulation. The government also adopted the national digitization strategy, the Strategic Action Plan for AI and the policy letter on AI, human rights, and public values.
I realize that binding governments and their executive bodies to ethical principles is grist to the mill for those who flout those principles. Therefore, the search for the legitimate use of artificial intelligence to detect crime, violations or abuse of subsidies and many other applications continues to deserve broad support.
Follow the link below to find one of the previous episodes or see which episodes are next, and this one for the Dutch version.
The 10th episode in the series Better cities: The contribution of digital technology deals with the impact of ethical principles on four pillars of digitization: accessibility, software, infrastructure and data.
In the previous episode, I discussed design principles - guidelines and values - for digital technology. The report of the Rathenau Instituut Opwaarderen - Borgen van publieke waarden in de digitale samenleving concludes that government, industry, and society are still insufficiently using these principles. Below, I will consider their impact on four pillars of digitization: accessibility, software, infrastructure, and data. The next episodes will be focused on their impact on frequently used technologies.
Accessibility refers to the availability of high-speed Internet for everyone. This goes beyond just technical access. It also means that a municipality ensures that digital content is understandable and that citizens can use the options offered. Finally, everyone should have a working computer.
Free and safe Internet for all residents is a valuable amenity, including Wi-Fi in public areas. Leaving the latter to private providers such as the LinkNYC advertising kiosks in New York, which are popping up in other cities as well, is a bad thing. Companies such as Sidewalk Labs tempt municipalities by installing these kiosks for free. They are equipped with sensors that collect a huge amount of data from every device that connects to the Wi-Fi network: Not only the location and the operating system, but also the MAC address. With the help of analytical techniques, the route taken can be reconstructed. Combined with other public data from Facebook or Google, they provide insight into personal interests, sexual orientation, race, and political opinion of visitors.
The huge internet that connects everything and everyone also raises specters, which have to do with privacy-related uncertainty and forms of abuse, which appeared to include hacking of equipment that regulates your heartbeat.
That is why there is a wide search for alternatives. Worldwide, P2P neighborhood initiatives occur for a private network. Many of these are part of The Things Network. Instead of Wi-Fi, this network uses a protocol called LoRaWAN. Robust end-to-end encryption means that users don't have to worry about secure wireless hotspots, mobile data plans, or faltering Wi-Fi connectivity. The Things Network manages thousands of gateways and provides coverage to millions of people and a suite of open tools that enable citizens and entrepreneurs to build IoT applications at a low cost, with maximum security and that are easy to scale.
Computer programs provide diverse applications, ranging from word processing to management systems. Looking for solutions that best fit the guidelines and ethical principles mentioned in the former episode, we quickly arrive at open-source software, as opposed to proprietary products from commercial providers. Not that the latter are objectionable in advance or that they are always more expensive. The most important thing to pay attention to is interchangeability (interoperability) with products from other providers to prevent you cannot get rid of them (lock in).
Open-source software offers advantages over proprietary solutions, especially if municipalities encourage city-wide use. Barcelona is leading the way in this regard. The city aims to fully self-manage its ICT services and radically improve digital public services, including privacy by design. This results in data sovereignty and in the use of free software, open data formats, open standards, interoperability and reusable applications and services.
Anyone looking for open-source software cannot ignore the Fiwarecommunity, which is similar in organization to Linux and consists of companies, start-ups and freelance developers and originated from an initiative of the EU. Fiware is providing open and sustainable software around public, royalty-free and implementation-driven standards.
Computers are no longer the largest group of components of the digital infrastructure. Their number has been surpassed by so-called ubiquitous sensor networks (USN), such as smart meters, CCTV, microphones, and sensors. Sensor networks have the most diverse tasks, they monitor the environment (air quality, traffic density, unwanted visitors) and they are in machines, trains, and cars and even in people to transmit information about the functioning of vital components. Mike Matson calculated that by 2050 a city of 2 million inhabitants will have as many as a billion sensors, all connected by millions of kilometers of fiber optic cable or via Wi-Fi with data centers, carrier hotels (nodes where private networks converge) to eventually the Internet.
This hierarchically organized cross-linking is at odds with the guidelines and ethical principles formulated in the previous post. Internet criminals are given free rein and data breaches can spread like wildfires, like denial of service (DoS). In addition, the energy consumption is enormous, apart from blockchain. Edge computing is a viable alternative. The processing of the data is done locally and only results are uploaded on demand. This applies to sensors, mobile phones and possibly automated cars as well. A good example is the Array of Things Initiative. Ultimately, this will include 500 sensors, which will be installed in consultation with the population in Chicago. Their data is stored in each sensor apart and can be consulted online, if necessary, always involving several sensors and part of the data. Federated data systems are comparable. Data is stored in a decentralized way, but authorized users can use all data thanks to user interfaces.
There is a growing realization that when it comes to data, not only quantity, but also quality counts. I will highlight some aspects.
Access to data
Personal data should only be available with permission from the owner. To protect this data, the EU project Decode proposes that owners can manage their data via blockchain technology. Many cities now have privacy guidelines, but only a few conduct privacy impact assessments as part of its data policy (p.18).
There is growing evidence that much of the data used in artificial intelligence as “learning sets” is flawed. This had already become painfully clear from facial recognition data in which minority groups are disproportionately represented. New research shows that this is also true in the field of healthcare. This involves data cascades, a sum of successive errors, the consequences of which only become clear after some time. Data turned out to be irrelevant, incomplete, incomparable, and even manipulated.
Those for whom high-quality data is of great importance will pay extra attention to its collection. In. this case, initiating a data common is a godsend. Commons are shared resources managed by empowered communities based on mutually agreed and enforced rules. An example is the Data and Knowledge Hub for Healthy Urban Living (p.152), in which governments, companies, environmental groups and residents collect data for the development of a healthy living environment, using a federated data system. These groups are not only interested in the data, but also in the impact of its application.
Many cities apply the 'open by default' principle and make most of the data public, although the user-friendliness and efficiency sometimes leave something to be desired. Various data management systems are available as an open-source portal. One of the most prominent ones is CKAN, administered by the Open Knowledge Foundation. It contains tools for managing, publishing, finding, using, and sharing data collections. It offers an extensive search function and allows the possibility to view data in the form of maps, graphs, and tables. There is an active community of users who continue to develop the system and adapt it locally.
To make the data accessible, some cities also offer training courses and workshops. Barcelona's Open Data Challenge is an initiative for secondary school students that introduces them to the city's vast dat collection.
As the size of the collected data, the amount of entry points and the connectivity on the Internet increase, the security risks also become more severe. Decentralization, through edge computing and federated storage with blockchain technology, certainly contribute to security. But there is still a long way to go. Only half of the cities has a senior policy officer in this area. Techniques for authentication, encryption and signing that together form the basis for attribute-based identity are applied only incidentally. This involves determining identity based on several characteristics of a user, such as function and location. Something completely different is Me and my shadow, a project that teaches Internet users to minimize their own trail and thus their visibility to Internet criminality.
There is still a world to win before the guidelines and ethical principles mentioned in the previous episode are sufficiently met. I emphasize again not to over-accentuate concepts such as 'big data', 'data-oriented policy' and the size of data sets. Instead, it is advisable to re-examine the foundations of scientific research. First and foremost is knowledge of the domain (1), resulting in research questions (2), followed by the choice of an appropriate research method (3), defining the type of data to be collected (4), the collection of these data (5), and finally their statistical processing to find evidence for substantiated hypothetical connections (6). The discussion of machine learning in the next episode will reveal that automatic processing of large data sets is mainly about discovering statistical connections, and that can have dire consequences.
Follow the link below to find one of the previous episodes or see which episodes are next, and this one for the Dutch version.
On December 14 2021, we had a very special demo day. Of course, it was the last of the year. As the Amsterdam Smart City core team, we are very proud of all the collaborations our partners and community started and that's why we wanted to highlight a few of them. To give the demoday a typical Christmas vibe, the pitchers had a 'gift' for the participants: their lessons learned that everyone could benefit from. And the participants had a gift in return: answers to the questions of the pitchers. In short, a demo day with new projects, questioning and sharing insights!
Responsible Sensing Lab and Drones
Hidde Kamst of the City of Amsterdam tells the participants about the Responsible Sensing Lab, a collaboration between the municipality and AMS Institute. This Lab works on the implementation of (social) values in technology in the city. Cameras and sensors in public space can put values such as privacy and anonymity under pressure. The Responsible Sensing Lab researches and designs alternatives. This also applies to the subject of Responsible Drones. A group of civil servants, companies and knowledge institutions worked on a vision on the responsible use of drones. The subjects 'proportionality', 'communications' and 'rules of the game' were discussed.
Hidde’s lessons learned: behind the scenes there are many parties working on drones, but the involvement of residents and civil society is low. It is important to change this because drones can have a big impact on our society. In addition, it is a complex topic where more research is needed. Hidde's request for help 'How do you convey the urgency of a subject that is important, but not yet urgent?' was very recognizable for the participants. A selection of their ideas: repeat the urgency over and over again, visualize the urgency, use storytelling and name the risks.
Shuttercam and Measuring Public Space
Pitch 2 had a big link with Hidde's story. Tom van Arman does various sensing projects on the Marineterrein, also covered by the Responsible Sensing Lab. An example is the Shuttercam, a camera that citizens can put on or off. In this way they can have an influence on the technology in the city. We start Tom's pitch with a question to the participants. Do they find it important that we measure a lot and collect data to improve the city or would they rather see more privacy for residents? A question that provokes discussion.
Tom has been engaged in measuring and testing in the public space for years, with an important role for public values. That's why he learned a lot of lessons: make sure you take the time to get legislation in order, take vandalism into account, do everything you can to make your work understandable for citizens. And a very nice one to remember: a hot camera attracts many insects. They block the image or get into the devices. One of the best tips he got from the participants: let passers-by write down what they see. That way you can get great feedback.
Braking energy and Pilot OV E-hub
André Simonse from Firan (Alliander) introduced us to the 'braking energy' issue, or as it is now is called: the OV E-hub pilot. This started as a search with partners such as AMS Institute, Arcadis, the City of Amsterdam, the
VRA and Alliander. Now the process evolved into a collaboration between Strukton Rail, Hedgehog Applications and Firan. Big cities can no longer cope with the increasing demand for sustainable energy. This makes it more difficult to access mobility hubs, such as stations, to provide electricity. It is therefore important to use existing energy smartly.
The lessons learned in this pitch were about taking action. Although talking is important for ideation and understanding and trusting each other, the art is to work together on a targeted plan for implementation. André's request for help was on how to organize political support. Willem from the City of Amsterdam wants to be part of the initiative and can help to achieve official support.
Social side of hubs
Willem van Heijningen of the City of Amsterdam took the floor to tell us more about its hub mission. A hub can organize mobility in an effective way. Together with others, he is looking how Q-park Europarking in the center of Amsterdam can be transformed to a hub. Think of shared mobility, charging cars and logistics, while preserving the monumental character of the city. Hearing the word ‘hub’, many people will think of a place to connect different forms of mobility. But it is also about energy. At some point, vehicles, vessels or even drones will come by. Since we want to get rid of fossil fuels, a hub will also become the place where these forms of mobility are charged. The success or failure of hubs is all in the hands of people. It depends on their behavior whether hubs will be useful. Until now, they have got too little attention. T
his is where Willem could use some help: What is needed to bring the social aspect of hubs further? How does the hub prove its effectiveness towards humans? A selection of the answers from the group: investigating the needs of the residents, connect with existing social initiatives in the city, involve local entrepreneurs.
Else Veldman and Hans Roeland Poolman from AMS Institute took us on a tour to their Southeast Energy Lab. This is a collaboration to accelerate sustainability in the southeast of Amsterdam through practical research, meetings and concrete projects. One of the current projects is the LIFE project, an open platform to plan energy supply and demand in a smarter, inclusive way. An enormous ambition that is driven by partners such as Johan Cruijff ArenA, Alliander, Spectral, CoForce and the Utrecht University. AMS Institute is committed to ensuring this platform is not only a technical contribution to the energy transition, but also provides social value to the inhabitants of South-East.
Hans and Else asked the network to think about the latter. The result was a tidal wave of tips to involve residents: co-develop communication strategies such as storytelling and visualization, pay attention to the result, the dream, show what it means to participate in the process, and above all, invest time.
New narrative for the energy transition
The last pitch was about the New Narrative where Kennisland and What Design Can Do on behalf of RES Noord-Holland have been working on. Dave van Loon from Kennisland told us that a new story about the energy transition is being developed to move away from the negative image, people's concerns and to give a new impulse to the energy transition. This narrative is based on a design thinking process. Subsequently, the organizations developed building blocks to focus on:
- a shared sense of urgency
- a positive future perspective
- inspiration by concrete and recognizable examples and success stories
- a sense of pride
- a way to take of action
Dave's request for help was for a reflection on this process. And the reactions were praising. On the one hand, the feedback focused on how to make the story as concrete as possible for the target groups and on the other hand on reaching the masses, while incorporating those who are left behind.
The next demoday will take in place in February or March. Do you have a nice story to tell or would you like to join as audience? You are more than welcome! Drop a line below to let us know!
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The 9th episode of the series Building sustainable cities: the contribution of digital technology deals with guidelines and related ethical principles that apply to the design and application of digital technology.
One thing that keeps me awake at night is the speed at which artificial intelligence is developing and the lack of rules for its development and application said Aleksandra Mojsilović, director of IBM Science for Social Good. The European Union has a strong focus on regulations to ensure that technology is people-oriented, ensures a fair and competitive digital economy and contributes to an open, democratic and sustainable society. This relates to more than legal frameworks, also to political choices, ethical principles, and the responsibilities of the profession. This is what this post is about.
Politicians are ultimately responsible for the development, selection, application and use of (digital) technology. In this respect, a distinction must be made between:
• Coordination of digital instruments and the vision on the development of the city.
• Drawing up policy guidelines for digitization in general.
• Recognizing related ethical principles next to these policy guidelines.
• Creating the conditions for democratic oversight of the application of digital technology.
• Make an appeal to the responsibilities of the ICT professional group.
Guidelines for digitization policy
In the previous post I emphasized that the digital agenda must result from the urban policy agenda and that digital instruments and other policy instruments must be seen in mutual relation.
Below are five additional guidelines for digitization policy formulated by the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance. 36 cities are involved in this initiative, including Apeldoorn, as the only Dutch municipality. The cities involved will elaborate these guidelines soon. In the meantime, I have listed some examples.
Equity, inclusiveness, and social impact
• Enabling every household to use the Internet.
• Making information and communication technology (ICT) and digital communication with government accessible to all, including the physically/mentally disabled, the elderly and immigrants with limited command of the local language.
• Assessing the impact of current digital technology on citizens and anticipating the future impact of this policy.
• Facilitating regular education and institutions for continuous learning to offer easily accessible programs to develop digital literacy.
• Challenging neighborhoods and community initiatives to explore the supportive role of digital devices in their communication and actions.
Security and resilience
• Developing a broadly supported vision on Internet security and its consequences.
• Mandatory compliance with rules and standards (for instance regarding IoT) to protect digital systems against cyberthreats.
• Becoming resilient regarding cybercrime by developing back-up systems that seamless take over services eventually.
• Building resilience against misuse of digital communication, especially bullying, intimidation and threats.
• Reducing the multitude of technology platforms and standards, to limit entry points for cyber attackers.
Privacy and transparency
• The right to move and stay in cities without being digitally surveilled, except in case of law enforcement with legal means.
• Establishing rules in a democratic manner for the collection of data from citizens in the public space.
• Minimalist collection of data by cities to enable services.
• Citizens' right to control their own data and to decide which ones are shared and under which circumstances.
• Using privacy impact assessment as a method for identifying, evaluating, and addressing privacy risks by companies, organizations, and the city itself.
Openness and interoperability
• Providing depersonalized data from as many as possible organizations to citizens and organizations as a reliable evidence base to support policy and to create open markets for interchangeable technology.
• Public registration of devices, their ownership, and their aim.
• Choosing adequate data architecture, including standards, agreements, and norms to enable reuse of digital technology and to avoid lock-ins.
Operational and financial sustainability
• Ensuring a safe and well-functioning Internet
• The coordinated approach ('dig once') of constructing and maintenance of digital infrastructure, including Wi-Fi, wired technologies and Internet of Things (IoT).
• Exploring first, whether the city can develop and manage required technology by itself, before turning to commercial parties.
• Cities, companies, and knowledge institutions share data and cooperate in a precompetitive way at innovations for mutual benefit.
• Digital solutions are feasible: Results are achieved within an agreed time, with an agreed budget.
The guidelines formulated above partly converge with the ethical principles that underlie digitization according to the Rathenau Institute. Below, I will summarize these principles.
• Citizens' right to dispose of their own (digital) data, collected by the government, companies and other organizations.
• Limitation of the data to be collected to those are functionally necessary (privacy by design), which also prevents improper use.
• Data collection in the domestic environment only after personal permission and in the public environment only after consent by the municipal council.
• The right to decide about information to be received.
• The right to reject or consent to independent decision making by digital devices in the home.
• No filtering of information except in case of instructions by democratically elected bodies.
• Ensuring protection of personal data and against identity theft through encryption and biometric recognition.
• Preventing unwanted manipulation of devices by unauthorized persons.
• Providing adequate warnings against risks by providers of virtual reality software.
• Securing exchange of data
• Ensuring public participation in policy development related to digitization
• Providing transparency of decision-making through algorithms and opportunity to influence these decisions by human interventions.
• Decisions taken by autonomous systems always include an explanation of the underlying considerations and provide the option to appeal against this decision.
• Using robotics technology mainly in routinely, dangerous, and dirty work, preferably under supervision of human actors.
• Informing human actors collaborating with robots of the foundations of their operation and the possibilities to influence them.
• Ensuring equal opportunities, accessibility, and benefits for all when applying digital systems
• If autonomous systems are used to assess personal situations, the result is always checked for its fairness, certainty, and comprehensibility for the receiving party.
• In the case of autonomous analysis of human behavior, the motives on which an assessment has taken place can be checked by human intervention.
• Employees in the gig economy have an employment contract or an income as self-employed in accordance with legal standards.
• The possibility of updating software if equipment still is usable, even if certain functionalities are no longer available.
• Companies may not use their monopoly position to antagonize other companies.
• Ensuring equal opportunities, accessibility, and benefits for all when applying digital systems.
The above guidelines and ethical principles partly overlap. Nevertheless, I have not combined them as they represent different frames of reference that are often referred to separately. The principles for digitization policy are particularly suitable for the assessment of digitization policy. The ethical principles are especially useful when assessing different technologies. That is why I will use the latter in the following episodes.
In discussing the digitalization strategy of Amsterdam and other municipalities in later episodes, I will use a composite list of criteria, based on both the above guidelines and ethical principles. This list, titled 'Principles for a socially responsible digitization policy' can already be viewed HERE.
Currently, many municipalities still lack sufficient competencies to supervise the implementation and application of the guidelines and principles mentioned above. Moreover, they are involved as a party themselves. Therefore, setting up an independent advisory body for this purpose is desirable. In the US, almost every city now has a committee for public oversight of digitization. These committees are strongly focused on the role of the police, in particular practices related to facial recognition and predictive policing.
Several cities in the Netherlands have installed an ethics committee. A good initiative. I would also have such a committee supervise the aforementioned policy guidelines and not just the ethical principles. According to Bart Wernaart, lecturer in Moral Design Strategy at Fontys University of applied sciences, such a committee must be involved in digitization policy at an early stage, and it should also learn from mistakes in the field of digitization in the past.
The latter is especially necessary because, as the Dutch Data Protection Authority writes, the identity of an ethically responsible city is, is not set in stone. The best way to connect ethical principles and practice is to debate and questions the implications of policy in practice.
Experts’ own responsibility
A mature professional group has its own ethical principles, is monitoring their implementation, and sanctioning discordant members. In this respect, the medical world is most advanced. As far as I know, the ICT profession has not yet formulated its own ethical principles. This has been done, for example, by the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) in the field of artificial intelligence. Sarah Hamid: Data scientists are generally concerned more with the abstract score metric of their models than the direct and indirect impact it can have on the world. However, experts often understand the unforeseen implications of government policy earlier than politicians. Hamid addresses the implications for professional action: If computer scientists really hoped to make a positive impact on the world, then they would need to start asking better questions. The road to technology implementation by governments is paved with failures. Professionals have often seen this coming, but have rarely warned, afraid of losing an assignment. Self-confident professionals must therefore say 'no' much more often to a job description. Hamid: Refusal is an essential practice for anyone who hopes to design sociotechnical systems in the service of justice and the public good. This even might result in a better relationship with the client and more successful projects.
Establishing policy guidelines and ethical principles for municipal digitization requires a critical municipal council and an ethics committee with relevant expertise. But it also needs professionals who carry out the assignment and enter the debate if necessary.
The link below opens a preliminary overview of the already published and upcoming articles in the series Building sustainable cities: the contribution of digital technology. Click HERE for the Dutch version.
The eighth episode in the series Better cities - The contribution of digital technology provides a frame to seamlessly integrate the contribution of (digital) technology into urban policy. The Dutch versions of this and already published posts are here.
From the very first publication on smart cities (1992) to the present day, the solution of urban problems has been mentioned as a motive for the application of (digital) technology. However, this relationship is anything but obvious. Think of the discriminatory effect of the use of artificial intelligence by the police in the US – to which I will come back later – and of the misery it has caused in the allowance affair (toelagenaffaire) in the Netherlands.
The choice and application of (digital) technology is therefore part of a careful and democratic process, in which priorities are set and resources are weighed up. See also the article by Jan-Willem Wesselink and Hans Dekker: Smart city enhances quality of life and puts citizen first (p.15). Below, I propose a frame for such a process, on which I will built in the next five posts.
My proposal is an iterative process in which three clusters of activities can be distinguished:
• Developing a vision of the city
• The development and choice of objectives
• The instrumentation of the objectives
Vision of the city
The starting point for a democratic urban policy is a broadly supported vision of the city and its development. Citizens and other stakeholders must be able to identify with this vision and their voice must have been heard. The vision of the city is the result of a multitude of opposing or abrasive insights, wishes and interests. Balancing the power differences between parties involved is a precondition for making the city more just, inclusive, and democratic and the residents happier.
The concept of a donut economy is the best framework I know of for developing a vision of such a city. It has been elaborated by British economist Kate Raworth in a report entitled A Safe and Just Space for Humanity. The report takes the simultaneous application of social and environmental sustainability as principles for policy.
If you look at a doughnut, you see a small circle in the middle and a larger circle on the outside. The small circle represents 12 principles of social sustainability (basic needs). These principles are in line with the UN's development goals. The larger circle represents 9 principles of the earth’ long-term self-sustaining capacity. A table with both types of principles can be viewed here. Human activities in cities must not overshoot its ecological ceiling, thus harming the self-sustainable capacity of that entity. At the same time, these activities must not shortfall the social foundation of that city, harming its long-term well-being. Between both circles, a safe and just space for humanity - now and in the future - is created. These principles relate to both the city itself and its impact on the rest of the world. Based on these principles, the city can determine in which areas it falls short; think of housing, gender equality and it overshoots the ecological ceiling, for instance, in case of greenhouse gas emissions.
Amsterdam went through this process, together with Kate Raworth. During interactive sessions, a city donut has been created. Citizens from seven different neighborhoods, civil servants and politicians took part in this. The Amsterdam city donut is worth exploring closely.
The urban donut provides a broad vision of urban development, in particular because of the reference to both social and ecological principles and its global footprint. The first version is certainly no final version. It is obvious how Amsterdam has struggled with the description of the impact of the international dimension.
The formulation of desired objectives
Politicians and citizens will mention the most important bottlenecks within their city, even without the city donut. For Amsterdam these are themes like the waste problem, the climate transition, reduction of car use, affordable housing, and inclusion. The Amsterdam donut invites to look at these problems from multiple perspectives: A wide range of social implications, the ecological impact, and the international dimension. This lays the foundation for the formulation of objectives.
Five steps can be distinguished in the formulation of objectives:
• Determine where the most important bottlenecks are located for each of the selected themes, partly based on the city donut (problem analysis), for example insufficient greenery in the neighborhoods.
• Collect data on the existing situation about these bottlenecks. For example, the fact that working-class neighborhoods have four times fewer trees per hectare than middle-class neighborhoods.
• Make provisional choices about the desired improvement of these bottlenecks. For example, doubling the number of trees in five years.
• Formulate the way in which the gap between existing and desired situation can be bridged. For example, replacing parking spaces with trees or facade vegetation.
• Formulate (provisional) objectives.
This process also takes place together with stakeholders. More than 100 people were involved in the development of the circular economy plans in Amsterdam, mainly representatives of the municipalities, companies, and knowledge institutions.
Prioritizing objectives and their instrumentation
Given the provisional objectives, the search can begin for available and desirable resources, varying from information, legal measures, reorganization to (digital) techniques. The expected effectiveness, desired coherence, acceptability, and costs must be considered. With this knowledge, the goals can be formulated definitively and prioritized. It is also desirable to distinguish a short-term and long-term perspective to enable the development of innovative solutions.
The inventory, selection and ethical assessment of resources and the related fine-tuning of the objectives is best done in the first instance by teams representing different disciplines, including expertise in the field of digital technology, followed of course by democratic sanctioning.
My preference is to transfer the instrumentation process to an 'Urban Development and Innovation Department', modeled on the Majors Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) in Boston. Changing teams can be put together from this office, which is strongly branched out with the other departments. In this way, the coherence between the individual goals and action points and the input of scientific research can be safeguarded. According to Ben Green, the author of the book The smart enough city and who has worked in MONUM for years, it has been shown time and again that the effect of technological innovation is enhanced when it is combined with other forms of innovation, such as social innovation.
From vision to action points: Overview
Below I give an overview of the most important building blocks for arriving at a vision and developing action points based on this vision:
1. The process from vision to action points is both linear and iterative. Distinguishing between the phases of vision development, formulating objectives and instrumentation is useful, but these phases influence each other mutually and eventually form a networked process.
2. Urban problems are always complicated, full of internal contradictions and complex. There are therefore seldom single solutions.
3. The mayor (and therefore not a separate alderman) is primarily responsible for coherence within the policy agenda, including the use of (digital) technology. This preferably translates into the structure of the municipal organization, for example an 'Urban Development and Innovation Department'.
4. Formulating a vision, objectives and their instrumentation is part of a democratic process. Both elected representatives and stakeholders play an important role in this.
5. Because of their complexity and coherence, the content of the policy agenda usually transcends the direct interests of the stakeholders, but they must experience that their problems are being addressed too.
6. Ultimately, each city chooses a series of related actions to arrive at an effective, efficient, and supported solution to its problems. The choice of these actions, especially when it comes to (digital) techniques, can always be explained as a function of the addressing problems.
7. The use of technology fits seamlessly into the urban agenda, instead of (re)framing problems to match tempting technologies.
8. Implementation is at least as important as grand plans, but without a vision, concrete plans lose their legitimacy and support.
9. In the search for support for solutions and the implementation of plans, there is collaboration with stakeholders, and they can be given the authority and resources to tackle problems and experiment themselves (‘right to challenge’).
10. In many urban problems, addressing the harmful effects of previously used technologies (varying from greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution to diseases of affluence) is a necessary starting point.
Back to digital technology
(Digital) technology is here to stay and it is developing at a rapid pace. Sometimes you wish it would slow down. It is very regrettable that not democratically elected governments, but Big Tech is the driving force behind the development of technology and that its development is therefore primarily motivated by commercial interests. This calls for resistance against Big Tech's monopoly and for reticence towards their products. By contrast, companies working on technological developments that support a sustainable urban agenda deserve all the support.
In my e-book Cities of the Future. Humane as a choice. Smart where that helps, I performed the exercise described in this post based on current knowledge about urban policy and urban developments. This has led to the identification of 13 themes and 75 action points, where possible with references to potentially useful technology. You can download the e-book here.
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Six weeks ago, I started a new weekly series answering the question how digitization can contribute to the development of better cities and their surroundings. Technology alone cannot reach this goal. Far-reaching social and economic reforms are needed, also to ensure that the benefits of digitization are shared by everyone.
Below you will find links to the articles published until now:
Part A: Digital technology as a challenge
Part B: Digital instruments and ethics
13. Amsterdam benchmarked
14. ‘Agenda stad’ and digital instruments
Part C: Applications
15. Artificial intelligence abused
16. Government: services and participation
18. Circular economy: Construction
19. Circular economy: Waste
21. Energy transition
23. Smart cities from scratch
Links to the Dutch versions, you will find below:
The seventh edition of the series Better cities. The contribution of digital technology is about forecasts, trends and signals regarding the role of technology in the development of cities, as seen by Cornell University's Future of Urban Tech-project. The Dutch versions of this and other already published posts are here.
A source of new insights
Technology has changed the planet for better and for worse. Will this change continue, and which direction will dominate? To answer this question, scientists at the Jacobs Institute at Cornell University in New York developed a horizon scan, named The Future of Urban Tech. At first, they made a content analysis of hundreds of recent scientific publications, from which they distilled 217 signals. These signals were grouped into 49 trends, full of contradictions. Each trend is tagged with an indication of time frame, probability, and societal impact. In the end, they modeled six forecasts. These describe dominant directions for change.
Readers can use the site in their own way. I started from the 17 sectors such as built environment, logistics, mobility, and energy and explored the related trends. It is also possible to start top-down with one of the six forecasts and examine its plausibility considering the related trends and signals. I will show below that each of the forecasts is challenging and invites further reading.
Content selection is supported by dynamic graphics, which connect all signals, trends and forecasts and enable the reader to see their interrelationships. Just start scrolling, unleash your curiosity and decide after some explorations how to proceed more systematically.
The website briefly describes each of the forecasts, trends, and signals. Each signal reflects the content of a handful of (popular) scientific publications, which are briefly summarized. Read the articles that intrigue you or limit yourself to the summary.
Take the time to explore this site as you will encounter many new insights and opinions. The link to the project is at the end of this article.
Below I will explain some aspects of the content of the project, followed by some caveats.
The forecasts reflect the multiplicity of views in contemporary scientific literature, stimulating readers to form a judgment. The wording of the forecasts is reproduced in abbreviated form below.
1. All buildings, houses, means of transport, infrastructure, but also trees and parks will be connected with sensors and cameras and form one web.
Many buildings, buses, trains, and roads are already equipped with digital detection, but they are not linked yet up at city scale. The next decade will change this, which will, for example, mean a breakthrough in the management of energy flows, but also raise questions regarding privacy.
2. Cities will use advanced biotechnology to take livability to new heights.
Growing understanding of human dependence on nature will lead to mapping the physical-biological world as well as its threats and its blessings to humans. City authorities will equip trees, parks, and waterways with sensors to measure and control the vitality of ecosystems.
3. Resilient corridors will mitigate the impact of climate change, but citizens will be prepared for the inevitable shocks to come.
Cities will reduce CO2 emissions but also prepare for the inevitable consequences of climate change. Political and financial centers of power will be concentrated in places where the impact of climate change can be controlled by technical means.
4. Artificial neural networks provide advanced forms of machine learning with unparalleled predictive capabilities that will bring order to the chaos of urban life.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence will become inscrutable black boxes that make decisions without giving explanations. The ultimate questions are whether the machines to which we outsource our decisions can still be controlled themselves and whether the impact of spontaneous encounters and human ideas disappears if computers produce the best solutions after all?
5. New Screen Deal that redistributes the risks and benefits of urban technology.
“Everything remote” – learning, healthcare, work, and entertainment – is becoming the new normal. The predictive power of AI will lead to conflicts over the concentration of wealth and power that digital platforms cause. But on the other hand, new stakeholders will focus on equity.
6. A global supply chain for city-building technologies will 'crack the code of the city'.
In the smart cities-movement there is a tension between top-down and bottom-up, between proprietary versus open and between Big Tech and Makers. A new urban innovation industry will take dominance but will be more attuned to societal concerns. Governments, in turn, will have a clearer picture of the problems that the industry needs to solve. A public-private structure for investments and governance is indispensable to counter the power of Big Tech.
A few notes
As mentioned, each of the six forecasts is based on trends. Nine trends, in the case of the latest forecast mentioned above. Each trend is illustrated by a handful of signals, documented by various publications. One of the nine trends supporting the latter forecast is “Regional clustering from enterprises to ecosystems”, for example New York, London, Berlin, and Amsterdam. This refers to the growing power of local technology hubs, supported by regional capital and involving governments, start-ups, knowledge institutions and citizens. This concentration could even lead to a new “space race” between cities instead of countries. However, the underlying signals show that this "trend" is more open-ended and uncertain than its description warrants.
I went through many publications documenting the signals and concluded that "trends" essentially map the bandwidth within developments within a domain will occur. To me, this does not detract from the value of the exercise, because the more doubts there are about the future and the more insights we have into the forces that shape it, the more opportunities we have to influence the future.
As the six forecasts must match the open nature of the trends, I have reformulated each of these forecasts as pairs of conflicting directions for development.
1. The commercial or political interests behind urban technology versus the well-being and privacy of citizens.
2. The struggle between 'Big Tech' versus (supra)national political over leadership over technological development.
3. The infusion of technology into all domains of society versus acceptance of unpredictable outcomes of human interactions resulting from creativity, inner motives, and intuitive decisions.
4. Controlling nature through biotechnology versus restoring a balance between humans and natural ecosystems.
5. The concentration of power, political influence, and wealth through control over technology versus open licensing that allows technology to be used for the benefit of the entire world population.
6. Autonomous decision-making through machine learning and artificial intelligence versus the primacy of democratic and decentralized decision-making over the application of technology.
Studying the Future of Urban Tech-project has been a rich and thought-provoking learning experience and has helped fueling the insights underlying this series.
You can find the Future of Urban Tech project behind the link below:
This is the sixth episode of the Better Cities; The Contribution of Digital Technology series. It is about the expectations of the Majors Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) in Boston from representatives of tech companies crowding its doors to sell turnkey "smart" solutions. The Dutch versions of the published posts in this series are here.
Jascha Franklin-Hodge, former head of MONUM, recalls meeting representatives of a Fortune 500 technology company that had tendered to equip all the city's lampposts with cameras and sensors. When asked if this equipment had already proven its worth elsewhere, the answer was that the company would appreciate Boston investigating it. It goes without saying that the city has resolutely rejected this 'offer'. It was one of many exhausting encounters with eager salespeople offering 'promising' technological solutions, with limited knowledge of urban problems. As a result, Franklin-Hodge and his colleague Nigel Jacob decided to incorporate the feedback normally given to these people into a document that they could share with companies. This became the famous Boston Smart City Playbook, with the primary purpose of propagating Boston's intent to develop technology that is responsible, people-centric and problem-driven.
Below I go through the book, paraphrasing (italics) and commenting on each chapter
Stop sending salespeople
The introduction to the booklet sighs, send us someone who knows about cities, someone who wants to talk to the residents about what they like (and don't like!) about Boston. The MONUM team appreciates when technologists come to talk about topics that matter rather than fire well well-prepared pitches. Shared understanding of urban problems and the nature of their solution is the only way to establish a long-term relationship between the company and the city. The team announces to ask examples of how the product has worked or failed elsewhere.
In addition, I believe that representatives of technology companies who believe that a vendor’s pitch will do, sometimes forget that their interlocutors are technologists too, who are often better educated than themselves. However, civil servants often lack knowledge of successful examples from elsewhere, therefore they sincerely hope that representatives of a technology company can provide these. Unfortunately, that rarely turns out to be the case. The best solution is pre-competitive triple-helix collaboration between representatives of municipalities, knowledge institutions and companies. Together they can compensate for each other's knowledge gaps.
Solving real problems for people
Municipal employees often feel that their colleagues from companies lack involvement and knowledge about the concerns of ordinary people. That's why the Playbook expects them to talk to workers, unemployed, entrepreneurs, artists, citizen groups, advocacy groups and architects before visiting MONUM. The team would like to know what companies have learned during this conversation and especially why their products will make a difference.
Such an assignment is not easy. Citizens are easy to speak out about their problems and come up with solutions too. These solutions rarely have a technological component. The tech companies itself must build bridges and ask citizens for their opinion. Even citizens they don't see the value of the proposed technologies, city councils can still be confident in their long-term value.
Don't worship efficiency
Efficiency must be part of the solution to any problem, as cities have finite resources and infinite needs. However, efficiency is never a motive in the phase in which alternative choices are weighed up. Once a choice has been made, the next step is to implement it as efficiently as possible.
Talking prematurely about efficiency often results from ignoring underlying political positions. The question is always: Efficient on the basis of which criteria, for what purposes and in whose interest? As Ben Green wrote in ''The smart enough city' (p. 14): For those on the front lines, words like “better” and “more efficient” are the tip of an iceberg, below which sit the competing interests and conflicting values of the city and the people who live in it. In my opinion, the same applies to the misuse of the adjective 'smart'.
To become a competent partner, representatives of tech companies must not only be familiar with urban problems, but also with current political debates and the mission of mayor and aldermen. Anyone who mentions arguments such as 'cost savings' and 'efficiency gains' as main motives in the discussion about technological solutions for urban problems will immediately be questioned about the real benefits and for whom.
Better decisions, not (just) better data
The price for the purchase of technology must be paid immediately. Often a city can only reap its benefits in the future. The problem is that the success of the technology acquired will depend at least as much on how it is applied. This in turn depends on the behavior of the people involved. The often have to adapt themselves and targeted management is required to bring about behavioral change. Technological innovation usually goes hand in hand with social innovation or at least behavioral change. This could be, for example, breaking through silos between departments whose data must be shared. In essence, the quality of the data depends on its ability to improve decisions. Better decisions, in turn, should pay off in greater satisfaction for all stakeholders involved.
In my opinion, representatives of tech companies do not think enough about the 'soft side' of implementing technological change. In addition, they neglect after-sales contacts, which can provide them with valuable information about the impact of organizational conditions on technological innovation.
Platforms make us go ¯\_(**ツ)_/¯
In 2015, Ross Atkin, a critic of smart cities, wrote his Manifesto for the clever city. In the 'clever city', technology is used radically bottom-up to solve the problems that ordinary citizens experience with as little data as possible and in a way that citizens can understand. In the smart city, 'platforms' are often proposed as networks of sensors that collect huge amounts of data because they can potentially be used to solve problems. But many problems that affect people, such as pollution, stench and particulate matter, have been known for years, as have their causes: factories, heavy traffic and unhealthy homes. Installing a sensor network delays the resolution of these problems and is at the expense of it.
Moreover, because of vendor lock-in municipalities risk being stuck for years to solutions that companies have developed, as long as there are no standards or there is no guarantee of interoperability. Representatives of technology companies should be asked what they believe to be the cheapest solution for collecting critical data and what the interoperability of this solution is.
Police monitor video cameras throughout the city and transit companies use GPS trackers to detect the location of buses and trains. Since the observation of people in public space is increasing rapidly, the question is what is the bottom-line of privacy of citizens that must always be respected. Representatives of tech companies should be surveyed to make explicit the privacy risks of their technologies and whether these technologies meet data minimization requirements.
In my opinion, it is up to cities to draw up guidelines about internet safety, privacy security and data minimization, but also to make explicit which means are acceptable for crime prevention and law enforcement. The development of such guidelines is also an opportunity for pre-competitive collaboration between cities, companies, and knowledge institutions.
Ben Green, also a former member of the MONUM team and now a teacher at the Ford School of Public Policy, Michigan University, also refers to the Smart City Playbook in his work 'The smart enough city' and emphasizes that the last thing to happen is considering technology as imminent and inevitable, thus beyond dispute and deliberation (p. 7). Technology must always be justified by its proven contribution to human well-being.
The Boston Smart City Play Book makes it clear that before they can provide 'solutions', tech companies must become familiar with urban problems, preferably through direct contact with stakeholders and citizens in particular. In addition, cities also want to be involved in the development of these technologies.
The Playbook spawned a series of research and development projects, including the Local Sense Lab, a loose group of sensor technologists developing sensors and other devices of demonstrable value to Boston residents.
Read the Boston Smart City Playbook by following the link below
What advice would you give to mayors of cities worldwide? In the first season of the Mayor's Manual Podcast, Sacha Stolp (Director of Future-Proof Assets, City of Amsterdam) and Kenneth Heijns (Managing Director of AMS Institute) have embarked on a journey to discuss solutions for urban challanges together with over 50 frontrunners from different countries working for governmental institutions, knowledge institutions and businesses. Each frontrunner was asked what advice they would give to Mayors and cities worldwide. The Mayor’s Manual Book Edition is a compilation of these advices accompanied by 6 Essays written by guest writers. The book is meant not only to inspire, but also to provide actionable recommendations for cities globally.
We invite you to read the first Mayor’s Manual Book and share
your insights with us!
Download the book for free on our website or by clicking here.
Currently, we are working on a Dutch edition so keep an eye on our site
On the 25 and 26st of November the Amsterdam Smart City network worked together to tackle big wicked problems that exist in the region. But is it even possible to tackle wicked problems? In a masterclass on the first day, initiated by the ASC wicked problems team, Marije Poel (HvA) and Nora van der Linden (Kennisland) tried to change the perspective: what if we aim to navigate wickedness together?
While we work on big and complex issues like the energy transition or the digital transition, we try to get a grip on problems and come up with a structured plan or linear project. But that approach is not always in line with reality, where we struggle with complex, unstructured and undefined messiness. In this masterclass, we shared a perspective on the character of wicked problems and on the consequences of working on these kind of challenges. Most of the participants recognised the reflexes we have, trying to master or control a wicked problem and come up with a concrete solution.
To give some perspective on how to deal with wickedness, we presented some overall strategies on navigating in wickedness. We suggested to make room for little mistakes (to prevent big ones), invite different perspectives and voices to the table, to be adaptive all along the way, and create time and space for reflection and learning.
The Wicked problems team got positive feed back on the workshop, leading to the idea next time we might dive a bit deeper into this topic and try to apply one or more concrete approaches and tools to navigate around wickedness.
We continue learning and sharing learnings about wickedness in the ASC network. Therefore we are open to work with wicked cases. So, Is your organization a partner of Amsterdam Smart City and do you deal with wicked problems? Let the Wicked Problems know and find out if we can inspire you and find innovative ways to navigate through them together. You can contact Francien who is coordinating this team from the Amsterdam Smart City Baseteam.
In the Wicked problems team are: Dave van Loon (Kennisland), Christiaan Elings (RHDHV), Gijs Diercks (Drift), Giovanni Stijnen (NEMO), Bas Wolfswinkel (Arcadis) en Marije Poel (HvA).
The fifth episode of the series Better cities: The role of technology is about the sense and nonsense of big data. Data is the new oil is the worst cliché of the big data hype yet. Even worse than data-driven policy. In this article, I investigate - with digital twins as a thread - what the contribution of data can be to urban policy and how dataism, a religion that takes over policy making itself, can be prevented (must read: Harari: Homo Deus).
I am a happy user of a Sonos sound system. Nevertheless, the helpdesk must be involved occasionally. Recently, it knew within five minutes that my problem was the result of a faulty connection cable between the modem and the amplifier. As it turned out, the helpdesk was able to remotely generate a digital image of the components of my sound system and their connections and saw that the cable in question was not transmitting any signal. A simple example of a digital twin. I was happy with it. But where is the line between the sense and nonsense of collecting masses of data?
What is a digital twin.
A digital twin is a digital model of an object, product, or process. In my training as a social geographer, I had a lot to do with maps, the oldest form of 'twinning'. Maps have laid the foundation for GIS technology, which in turn is the foundation of digital twins. Geographical information systems relate data based on geographical location and provide insight into their coherence in the form of a model. If data is permanently connected to reality with the help of sensors, then the dynamics in the real world and those in the model correspond and we speak of a 'digital twin'. Such a dynamic model can be used for simulation purposes, monitoring and maintenance of machines, processes, buildings, but also for much larger-scale entities, for example the electricity grid.
From data to insight
Every scientist knows that data is indispensable, but also that there is a long way to go before data leads to knowledge and insight. That road starts even before data is collected. The first step is assumptions about the essence of reality and thus the method of knowing it. There has been a lot of discussion about this within the philosophy of science, from which two points of view have been briefly crystallized, a systems approach and a complexity approach.
The systems approach assumes that reality consists of a stable series of actions and reactions in which law-like connections can be sought. Today, almost everyone assumes that this only applies to physical and biological phenomena. Yet there is also talk of social systems. This is not a question of law-like relationships, but of generalizing assumptions about human behavior at a high level of aggregation. The homo economicus is a good example. Based on such assumptions, conclusions can be drawn about how behavior can be influenced.
The complexity approach sees (social) reality as the result of a complex adaptive process that arises from countless interactions, which - when it comes to human actions - are fed by diverse motives. In that case it will be much more difficult to make generic statements at a high level of aggregation and interventions will have a less predictable result.
Traffic policy is a good example to illustrate the distinction between a process and a complexity approach. Simulation using a digital twin in Chattanooga of the use of flexible lane assignment and traffic light phasing showed that congestion could be reduced by 30%. Had this experiment been carried out, the result would probably have been very different. Traffic experts note time and again that every newly opened road becomes full after a short time, while the traffic picture on other roads hardly changes. In econometrics this phenomenon is called induced demand. In a study of urban traffic patterns between 1983 and 2003, economists Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner found that car use increases proportionally with the growth of road capacity. The cause only becomes visible to those who use a complexity approach: Every road user reacts differently to the opening or closing of a road. That reaction can be to move the ride to another time, to use a different road, to ride with someone else, to use public transport or to cancel the ride.
Carlos Gershenson, a Mexican computer specialist, has examined traffic behavior from a complexity approach and he concludes that self-regulation is the best way to tackle congestion and to maximize the capacity of roads. If the simulated traffic changes in Chattanooga had taken place in the real world, thousands of travelers would have changed their driving behavior in a short time. They had started trying out the smart highway, and due to induced demand, congestion there would increase to old levels in no time. Someone who wants to make the effect of traffic measures visible with a digital twin should feed it with results of research into the induced demand effect, instead of just manipulating historical traffic data.
The value of digital twins
Digital twins prove their worth when simulating physical systems, i.e. processes with a parametric progression. This concerns, for example, the operation of a machine, or in an urban context, the relationship between the amount of UV light, the temperature, the wind (speed) and the number of trees per unit area. In Singapore, for example, digital twins are being used to investigate how heat islands arise in the city and how their effect can be reduced. Schiphol Airporthas a digital twin that shows all moving parts at the airport, such as roller conveyors and stairs. This enables technicians to get to work immediately in the event of a malfunction. It is impossible to say in advance whether the costs of building such a model outweigh the benefits. Digital twins often develop from small to large, driven by proven needs.
Boston also developed a digital twin of part of the city in 2017, with technical support from ESRI. A limited number of processes have been merged into a virtual 3D model. One is the shadowing caused by the height of buildings. One of the much-loved green spaces in the city is the Boston Common. For decades, it has been possible to limit the development of high-rise buildings along the edges of the park and thus to limit shade. Time and again, project developers came up with new proposals for high-rise buildings. With the digital twin, the effect of the shadowing of these buildings can be simulated in different weather conditions and in different seasons (see image above). The digital twin can be consulted online, so that everyone can view these and other effects of urban planning interventions at home.
Questions in advance
Three questions precede the construction of a digital twin, and data collection in general. In the first place, what the user wants to achieve with it, then which processes will be involved and thirdly, which knowledge is available of these processes and their impact. Chris Andrews, an urban planner working on the ESRI ArcGIS platform, emphasizes the need to limit the number of elements in a digital twin and to pre-calculate the relationship between them: To help limit complexity, the number of systems modeled in a digital twin should likely be focused on the problems the twin will be used to solve.
Both the example of traffic forecasts in Chattanooga, the formation of heat islands in Singapore and the shadowing of the Boston Common show that raw data is insufficient to feed a digital twin. Instead, data are used that are the result of scientific research, after the researcher has decided whether a systems approach or a complexity approach is appropriate. In the words of Nigel Jacob, former Chief Technology Officer in Boston: For many years now, we've been talking about the need to become data-driven… But there's a step beyond that. We need to make the transition to being science-driven in ...... It's not enough to be data mining to look for patterns. We need to understand root causes of issues and develop policies to address these issues.
Digital twins are valuable tools. But if they are fed with raw data, they provide at best insight into statistical connections and every scientist knows how dangerous it is to draw conclusions from that: Trash in, trash out.
If you prefer the Dutch version of the Better cities series, find an overview of the already published episodes via the link below.