Smart Cities Make Eastern Debut

Technology tends to redefine society and, in the case of Japan’s newly-planned smart cities, there is certainly no exception. Set to make use of medical data, digital payments, electrical usage and online forums, Japan’s smart cities seem like they were pulled from the works of Isaac Asimov or Ernest Cline. However, fact is often stranger than fiction, and, for better or worse, the efficient potential of these supposed cities of the future cannot be ignored.

“Although at first it seemed interesting and sci-fi-esque,” said Woodson junior Samantha Kee, “the data-harvesting tech of these smart cities could be misused in the wrong hands.” For this reason, coupled with the fact that “we already have integrated tech and the convenience provided by such cities is not essential,” Kee would not want to live in a smart city. Despite this, Kee recognizes the ways in which smart cities can expedite societal functions and allow denizens to make more informed decisions. However, she feels that the introduction of smart cities throughout the United States “would ignite the public’s discontent and would be criticized for infringing upon individuals’ data privacy, regardless of the benefits.”

Smart City
Photo courtesy of COX BLUE.

To that end, the very idea of a smart city somewhat harkens back to the failed utopias of old. Oneida, Brook Farm, Epcot; the list goes on. Many idealists have tried to create and sustain similar paradises to little success, and entire movements like Technocracy Inc. of the 1930s have pushed to reshape society into a more efficient haven of innovation. And the desire for a grander and more convenient society is, like many others, prevalent amongst the minds of mankind.

But will this deep desire for a city of bliss make us lose sight of things that matter more? Will we embrace a big tech surveillance state merely for ease and leisure?

We may not have all the answers now, but these are certainly questions to consider. The smart cities in Japan may be a prelude to a worldwide boom; a spring of Technates (Technocratic societies) if you will. And this boom may exacerbate social issues we already face in the present year. Only through communication and action can we as a people determine what’s best for our future.