FTP032: Aric Dromi - Smart Cities of The Future
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Mike: [00:02:00] Aric, welcome to the show. It’s good to have you.

Aric: Hey guys, great to be here.

Mike: So, today we’re talking a bit about Smart Cities. We’ve connected with you in the past and had some interesting conversations about visioning the future, especially as it relates to where we’re currently living, which is Plovdiv, Bulgaria. I’m interested to hear your perspective on what you think a future city looks like.

Aric: I’m not sure the future city is actually a city at all. I’m more and more realizing in migration that we are experiencing right now, [00:02:30] half of the world’s population lives in the cities and the expectation is to go beyond 75 percent of the world population living in the cities in the next few years. But there’s an interesting evolution of loved technologies that will find themselves in the mass market, from AI to biotech to NIRO science. The rise of mixed reality, or virtual reality landscape, will eventually eliminate our needs to physically move from one place to another

You don’t really need to live in [00:03:00] the city once you can plug yourself into a [inaudible [0:03:02] and appear in another reality. It’s an extremely philosophical question if there is actually a future to a city. I think cities is the oldest society structure that we know, nations came way after that. With that being said, we have been moved to live in the cities after the industrial revolutions. By that time, our human values were already shaped and they were shaped as farmers, we were living in the farms. That is what we carry [00:03:30] into the city. I think it’s going to end up as a circle, that the future cities are going to be scattered and there will be much more digital than actually physical.

Mike: We’ve seen that a lot actually in little micro movements with the digital nomad community.

Euvie: Yeah.

Mike: These people no longer have to work from a specific location so they can go anywhere in the world and work. I definitely see less pull to be in the city. Then again, the size of the city and what you need changes when you can work online. It will probably change a lot more, virtual reality, [00:04:00] too. I’m curious as to know what online workers are going to want and need out of their city when they’re using virtual reality to do their digital commute.

Aric: I believe in the future of city mayors, as they are the decision makers on the day to day life of citizens. The government has no clue what’s going on in my day to day life. When cities start to think as Fortune 500 and not as a governmental municipality, we will start to see these changes actually occurring. [00:04:30] If you look at any Fortune 500 company, you cannot really pinpoint an exact location of the company. To be honest, none of the current Fortune 500 companies are capable to sustain their existence if they would be chained to their physical location.

So, they need to expand beyond the physical geographic borders and position themselves to move to better locations. Now, technology such as AI and VR will enable cities to create digital [00:05:00] citizenship models, which, by default, will recreate GDP structures. And I like the idea of digital nomads, of being able to work from anywhere you would like to work in the world. But you will be able to be part of any city using your digital representation regardless of where your organic matter resides. When that will happen then we are going to see a massive change in the way cities are being structures and the size of the cities [00:05:30] and the ability of the city to create a whole new holistic infrastructure for its citizens.

Euvie: How do you think the physical structure of the cities will be different in 5 years, in 10 years?

Aric: If you take any city from a bird’s eye view, you see that on average 75 percent of the city today, it’s roads and parking lots. It’s 75 percent. More and more people right now want to live in the cities and the city has a certain capacity of upscaling or cross-scaling to accommodate [00:06:00] the needs of the people that migrate into the city. So, to start with, we will start to see new economical and business models that cities are going to run upon.

Second, we will see a set of rules. Some people will say taking the freedom out of the cities. The citizens, I would say, they are actually giving more freedoms. Let’s look at mobility for a change. The idea of autonomous driving cars, robotic cars, will eliminate the need for ownership in the cities. Oslo, Helsinki, Amsterdam, [00:06:30] already are looking into forbidding manual driven cars within city centres. Once you do that, you take away certain perceptions of a need for such infrastructure. So, you can literally start redesign or repurpose these spaces in a whole new way.

I think that’s the first step in the near future that we are going to see. Unfortunately, most governments today are anchored in paper-based democracy. They don’t see beyond the next two years. But I do see a lot of [00:07:00] hope within corporations such as Google, Apple, Facebook and other giant corporations. Uber or Air BnB stepping in and literally buying certain properties in the cities in order to digitalize the interaction models within these areas. In the short-term it’s going to be a little bit chaotic, it’s going to be a little bit confusing.

Probably new generations of politicians will need to take the stage. But in the long run, no need to actually own a car in the city [00:07:30] to go from one place to another. Uber, Google, Air Bus, already looking at the space above the roads. All of them are looking into from flying cars to autonomous drones to autonomous taxis by Air Bus that will enable to move people longer distance in mega cities. Just the mobility change will force a massive reshuffle of resources in the city, which will affect energy and communication accordingly.

Euvie: How do you think blockchain will play into this?

Aric: I think [00:08:00] the only way for blockchain to play into this is if Smart City mayor will decide that this is the infrastructure that is going to monetize the data the city is actually generating. When I’m looking at businesses today, I don’t ask, “What’s your product?” or, “How many people work for you?” I simply ask, “How many lines of code makes your business?” Those cities that will think in these terms and will use blockchain in order to facilitate the data interactions within the city [00:08:30] will have a whole new supply chain that can scale the city beyond any other city that exists.

It will literally become a Fortune 500 city. For me, we are fast moving from information driven internet to a value driven internet or experience driven internet. The current infrastructure will not be able to hold the values that it needs to hold. Blockchain is not a technology, it’s a philosophical abstract of an idea. Once a city implements that, [00:09:00] they will rule the world.

Mike: Yeah, interesting. I’ve never heard it referred to as an idea or a methodology than a technology, but it’s totally true. It’s not like the technology itself is that complicated or revolutionary, it’s what it allows for. I’m interested to know your perspective on whether you think existing cities can retrofit and change and adapt to this type of future city you’re describing, or if you think the opportunity is going to be contained more in creating new cities from the ground up?

Aric: [00:09:30] I just read a few weeks ago that the US legislation is slowly under the rug starting to pull some rules that will restrict autonomous driving cars of going on the roads in the cities, because they don’t have the money to fit the infrastructure to accommodate the need of an autonomous driving car. I gave an interview a few months back to a UK magazine. I said, “If London is not going to be careful, they are going to end up a third-world city 10 years from now.” That’s my view on all major cities in [00:10:00] Europe and in the developed world.

I think the potentials of really building a city that is sustainable and can accommodate society’s future needs is in the places like Africa, places like South America, places that has shit for infrastructure and they don’t need to retrofit legacy systems. Unfortunately, when cities we live in today were designed so many years ago, they were designed under the influence of [00:10:30] industrial revolution. There is a great book called the Second Machine Age, which [inaudible [0:10:34]. We’re about to experience what machines have done to our bodies, what digital can do to our brains, and I don’t think cities… their current infrastructure is not fit to handle these changes.

But places such as Africa, which really don’t have an infrastructure right now but they have more mobile phones than sanitary toilets. It’s so much more easy to deploy and build a [00:11:00] sustainable infrastructure that is based on and grounded in digital frameworks. China, for example, is building this they call it ghost cities, but if you look under the ground you understand that they are all connected.

They’re using connectivity as one of the infrastructures that they’re building the cities upon. Outside of Manila, they built a whole new business process city that is based on connectivity and they slowly took over India when it’s come to [00:11:30] support centres. It’s these cities that think like that who will be able to survive the change. In Europe, I can point only on one city that is able to do that and that’s Berlin.

Euvie: Why do you think Berlin is different?

Aric: I think the leadership in Berlin is actually listening to the digital nomads. They are trying to learn from them, they are using them as a model. These are the changes that are happening. You can see that the educational layout in Berlin is fitting itself to the changes that are happening today.

Mike: What about places like Estonia?

Aric: I would include Estonia in one [00:12:00] of this, Estonia and Singapore, alongside – they are one of these places that can very much shine a light on how things should be done. Estonia, after all, created the first digital citizenship model. I do think they created it in the wrong way with the wrong set of tools, but they had the balls and the guts to create it, and all the respect goes to that. Now, I want them to be smart enough to evolve their entire governance model alongside the model they have created.

Euvie: And Singapore?

Aric: [00:12:30] If you look at Singapore, there are only two things that you can fully immerse yourself when you’re going into. The first thing is the car, right, the car is a computer today and it’s the only computer you can sit inside, that you can literally put your entire sensory data. We don’t have five senses, we have between 14 and 21 senses. Singapore is like a car. When you step into Singapore, you’re immersing yourself in an amount of sensors that read [00:13:00] every single data point that you generate. The city is able to capitalize and monetize that, it’s amazing. So, it’s a really great model of using a physical structure to digitalize the data that it’s generating.

Euvie: Can you talk a bit more about that? How are they using the data?

Aric: The simple thing of be able to understand traffic behaviour, traffic patterns in Singapore. London is spending around 4.4 billion pounds on congestions every year. Even though they have more cameras than any other place on the planet, they’re not able to [00:13:30] adjust the right algorithms to understand traffic behaviour in the city in order to reduce congestions. Only 3 percent is a hell of a lot of money.

While in Singapore, they are smartly analysing traffic data just to understand how many people are going to be on a certain street and for how long the congestion is going to last in order to deploy the right resources to ease the congestion. They can understand behavioural buying patterns by seeing how many people are going to a specific store. The simple things [00:14:00] they’re able to do but if you look deep down they’re able to understand how many lonely people they have in the city, how many old people that no one visits they have in the cities. Just be capturing human data.

Mike: Can you talk about cities like Plovdiv, ones that are sort of middle of the road, not overly technologically advanced but maybe are perhaps more open to this sort of retrofitting and changing?

Aric: You’re touching a very interesting nerve because you both know that Plovdiv is one of my most [00:14:30] favourite cities on the plant. Plovdiv as being part of Bulgaria is one of the most unbranded potentials in Europe today. I like the comparisations of being in Plovdiv is like walking around 1920s USA virgin of possibilities. There is a great promise and a great talent that Plovdiv holds if just people will be able to realize it. It’s one of these places that the infrastructure is so old that you don’t have to patch it and upgrade it like other cities. [00:15:00] You do have all of the layout in front of you to start from scratch and really create a digital society.

Mike: What makes cities like it different in that it has so much opportunity on the technological side?

Aric: No one ever cared about this city for years and years. It got stuck in an era that was free of the pre-capitalistic changes that happened to the rest of the cities today, right. No one put new roads so they can increase the amount of cars in the city. You don’t have the amount of congestions you get in [00:15:30] other places. It’s easier to convert roads to autonomous driving roads and deploy autonomous cars and fit the sidewalks in order to support that.

One of the best internet connections [inaudible [0:15:42] the city already carries connectivity as its backbone. So, to come and implement, for example, blockchain as a payment method or data capturing methods, to deploy sensors on top of blockchain is extremely easy in that city because there is nothing else there. You don’t need to budge, you don’t need to replace, it’s just virgin.

Euvie: [00:16:00] And I guess it’s not too big, so in terms of infrastructure, for example, in a city like London, it’s extremely big and complex, and there’s layers and layers of different ages of infrastructure. Whereas in Plovdiv, it’s small enough that if you wanted to replace all of the infrastructure in the whole city, you actually could do it.

Aric: And it would be fast and easy. When you just walk around Plovdiv and talk to people, you see that the people will really welcome that one. Plovdiv is already one of the cities [00:16:30] that created dark GDP structure. So, you have a lot of street merchants that are actually selling you physical things but they’re using digital means in order to collect the payment, and the payment doesn’t run through the normal banking system. They’re using Etsy and PayPal to complete the payment systems. So, you can actually capture that and [inaudible [0:16:53] that. It’s not done today but the city has the potential of doing that.

I’m hunting a lot of stuff, second hand things, [00:17:00] on Etsy quite often and I’m surprised of the amount of merchants I actually find in Plovdiv that are shipping me things. Which is quite impressive if you think about, you know, people say Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU. Where their GDP, their real GDP, is richer than a lot of any other countries in the EU right now.

Euvie: Yeah, I agree. I think the GDP of so many countries these days is made up of income from financial instruments that has no real production value, it’s just numbers being [00:17:30] shuffled around. Whereas in Bulgaria, when you look at it on paper it’s poor, but when you come here and see all of it you see how rich it really is in terms of the culture and the food. When you come out on the street, people are always sitting at coffee shops and they’re buying stuff at shops. There’s so much activity.

Aric: I’m pretty sure it was John F Kennedy that complained about the fact that it’s very easy for us to capture the physical elements of our society and calculate our GDP upon that, but we don’t include the [00:18:00] level of education the population is getting or their happiness or their health. I think it’s easier to do these things and to see these things and [inaudible [0:18:08] in a place like Bulgaria, Plovdiv in particular, because people jumped over a certain stage that the rest of Europe got hung on.

Mike: Say digital nomads want to find a new city or a city to invest in long-term, what are the check mark boxes they’re going to look for in terms of investment opportunity for creating an alpha future [00:18:30] city like you imagine?

Aric: Well, number one I will look at infrastructure. I think this is one of most important things for a digital nomad community to have if they would like to establish some kind of a structure in that city. That infrastructure needs to be part of the city DNA, that’s connectivity. On top of that, there should be free vertical platforms that’s running or rising from that infrastructure, [00:19:00] which is energy, mobility, and communication. Once you have that established, any digital nomad community can establish basically design and build any structures or any ecosystem they would like on top of that.

Euvie: So, how do you envision those things being fulfilled in Plovdiv?

Aric: Well, we do have the beginning of the infrastructure, like we said, it’s one of the best internets around the world. But it needs to be anchored and it needs to become a commodity in that city, or at least in certain areas of the city [00:19:30] it needs to become a commodity. So, a company needs to step in and make it so. The second part is you really need some kind of attraction for a specific set of digital nomads. I think when we talked about Plovdiv would be one hell of a place to try out blockchain business models.

Again, I’m caring less about cryptocurrency running a blockchain, because the potential is so much bigger than that. As I do believe that blockchain should be the infrastructure for any mixed reality landscape outside there [00:20:00] in order to monetize it I would focus on blockchain and mixed reality technologies in order to facilitate the first wave of digital nomads into that city.

Mike: Actually, that’s a really interesting point. We’ve talked a lot about augmented reality and implementing a digital layer over cities, can you talk a bit about that and how you envisioned that being more practical for people on a day to day use?

Aric: Let’s look at education to start with. I’ve seen small [00:20:30] implementations of interesting VR environments, but no one actually went beyond the minimum games. I have four kids, all of them have a computer or iPad and the school says, “Look at us, we are very, very advanced. We gave all of our students iPads.” But you haven’t taught them how to be curious and you haven’t taught them how to explore. Google Book Project is scanning all of the books around the world and then they’re giving me a piece of glass in my hand and says, “Hey, look, you can access all of the [00:21:00] books in the world.”

Great. I cannot read all of the books in the world. We don’t read faster as in the days of Aristotle. We actually read two pages a minute. So, if you read for your entire life two pages a minute, how many books are you going to cover? Not even a fraction of one percent of the books that exist out there. So, it doesn’t really help me that I have access to all of the books around the world if I don’t know how to find what I need, or I’m not curious enough to explore and to go into the deep places that my mind is attracted to. [00:21:30] Technology like VR and AI can really open a whole new sense of education potentials.

I have the [inaudible [0:21:38] and I played a lot with [inaudible [0:21:41] and I gave my kids the world tour of Rome through the HoloLens experience. They stood in the middle of the living room and they were gone for half an hour. You could see their expressions and the body language. Once it finished [00:22:00] me and my wife said, “What do you think? Should we go to the city for a vacation?” The comment was like, “But we have just been there.” The second question is like, “What other cities can we see now?”

So, we gave them Machu Pichu, but this is the only two things that they can do right now. The idea is that you can really boost kids’ curiosity to go and explore beyond the limitations of the physical school that they reside in. This is just the beginning of how you can expand the city borders, [00:22:30] expand the knowledge of the kids. You can use AI technologies to capture pieces of data that our conscious mind is not able to process, our brain is not capable of handling big data.

It’s not our subconscious, it’s our awareness, we are not able to process more than that. Technologies like AI and VR will literally help you to expand beyond them to understand more of the world that you’re living in. That is what needs to be tackled first [00:23:00] when it comes to education systems.

Mike: I studied audio when I was in college and I was really surprised to hear how much of the audio spectrum the human being can actually hear. It’s the same thing with sight, too, we just have this tiny narrow bandwidth of sight. There’s so much more information happening outside of that. I think that could be a really interesting element is seeing all these new layers of information through augmented reality and virtual reality.

Euvie: And also using AI to process information for you and present it to you in a way that you [00:23:30] can understand and grasp.

Mike: Yeah.

Euvie: Because like you’re saying, with all inputs coming in we’re simply not able to understand it or process it.

Aric: There are two [inaudible [0:23:40] when people talk about AI. I never saw AI as a technology but more as a philosophical idea that contains different types of technologies under it, such as machine learning, deep learning, cognitive science and so on. There is the discipline that says, “Let’s develop an AI as a stand-alone entity.” [00:24:00] And there is the discipline that says, “We should become our own AI,” meaning we are the AI, we can use the technology to really enhance our intelligent capabilities into digital spaces. I’m fascinating by that truck because, like you said, it can expose us to so many ideas that we are not able to see right now.

When we talked before this conversation we talked about your meditation app. EEG technology [00:24:30] is pretty much advanced today, you can buy it for $100, you can buy an EEG receiver and visualize your brainwave on a 2D screen. Now, imagine if we can take that and put yourself inside your brainwaves with VR technology.

Euvie: Yeah. That’s like next level of bio feedback.

Aric: Exactly. Think about putting a city planner inside Russia, or an architect [00:25:00] inside buildings that doesn’t exist yet.

Mike: Back to this artificial intelligence interpreting the data, especially if it’s interpreting the brainwave data, I could see Trip Sitter applications if you’re doing psychedelics, or I could see Meditations Guides where if you’re getting off target or following a thought then you would have some sort of visual reminder that wasn’t just the brainwaves. The AI could interpret your brainwaves.

Aric: And if you think that is insane wait until E Cog [00:25:30] machines will be sophisticated enough, you will be able to experience your own dreams through VR.

Mike: What is an E Cog Machine?

Aric: Well, it’s the machines that enable to take your brainwaves and make a picture out of it. So, right now they are completely not accurate. They are massive but [inaudible [0:25:45] and computation power have proven to use that in fewer time, everything will be small and in your pocket.

Euvie: Yeah, this is so interesting. How can we use this kind of technology to interact with our environments? Because right now the way that cities [00:26:00] are designed, they are not always friendly to us. How can we use this kind of AI technology to make cities an extension of ourselves rather than separate from us?

Aric: Let’s go back and talk a little bit about blockchain and the idea that every block in the chain knows what every other block knows. So, it’s the notions of swarm intelligence that you can look at ant farms or bee hives. Everyone knows what everyone knows at every [00:26:30] given moment. Let’s look at the evolutions of some technologies that are happening around, I like to call it body parts but you can already modify your organic structure with silicon enforcement.

With these things, everyone talks about the internal things but imagine that you have a prosthetic limb that is connected to the internet and can attract sensor data, react to sensor data that’s coming from a building or from a shop. You can take all of this ones you’re getting, you can really [00:27:00] create a big feedback loop like never before. Which is a mix between brain to brain, to brain to physical.

Mike: A lot of people say that artificial intelligence is something we’re really far off on or we may never ever get to, but this idea that we become our own artificial intelligence and we just give ourselves more sensory data to work with and process, allowing us to reach new levels of intelligence and awareness around us, I think this idea is really interesting. We’ve already kind of been doing it. Remember one of our old roommates had [00:27:30] the magnets surgically implanted into her fingertips and she said it just became a normal thing? You could feel magnetic fields around you and it just became something like an extra sense that the brain just automatically processed.

Euvie: What if we had this external brain that could also process data for us and then feed the finished processed few bits of data, like a simple model, back to our biological brain which would perceive it?

Mike: Yeah. [00:28:00] Like your own big data generating system. You’re the big data generating the big data at all times and you’ve got a Siri that can then interpret that data on request.

Aric: I like this concept by a company called [inaudible [0:28:11] Design in the US that illustrated that it’s not more information in computers, it’s people in the information. I think we already passed this stage. We are a piece of an information machine. Computers as eyes and ears. [00:28:30] Companies like Crystal Nose can capture any digital footprint I left behind and create an emotional abstract of who I am, the things that make me tic.

Even if it’s 75 percent accurate right now, for that algorithm it’s fantastic. Algorithms can analyse my posts that arrive behind and copy my way of writing and process it through a flow machine and publish articles on behalf of my name, probably even better because they’re able to connect to places I cannot even connect [00:29:00] to. Six degrees of separation [inaudible [0:29:03] created doesn’t really exist anymore within the digital space. It’s one click and you can see… I love to follow flow machines that you give them the Beetles and it says, “Okay, play that song in a reggae style,” and it’s not bad.

We are literally part of that system, of that information that exists all around. We are generating footprints wherever we go, digital footprints and the computer can see, can hear, [00:29:30] can process. It still happens in silo, there is still not an integration between my brain and what computers are able to do. But if you see the breakthrough that happened with connecting my brains and bypassing nerve damage in order to regain massive control, you can take that way beyond this application and literally use my brain to create a Harry Potter life. I love the Harry Potter moving buildings.

[00:30:00] Why not have a disposable reality? Reality that reacts according to your needs. You have all of the blueprints of the materials from nanotubes and [inaudible [0:30:10] to D2, it’s all out there. I think it’s also an issue of cultural behaviour changes that we need to capture right now. Are we actually ready to have these changes happening? Me? Hell yeah. Of course, I already live there every time I close my eyes. One of the things that I’m afraid of most and one of the things that [00:30:30] most likely will happen, we will see digital cities alongside analogue cities and different types of citizens living in these cities.

The reason I’m afraid of it is because it’s just going to create the same model that we have today; development countries versus the rest of the world. I really hope we don’t need to go through that. I will think that every city needs to start these small steps to accommodate digital citizens and digital transformation needs within its own self, rather than having [00:31:00] digital nomads or young people escaping that city in favour of another city.

Mike: Yeah, I never thought that with such big hubs, big cities like New York or London, that one day they could be competing and struggling to compete with smaller cities and technologically advanced cities in Africa or something. But it’s already happening in Asia now.

Aric: Absolutely. Like we talked about Estonia before, right? Take Estonia versus any other place in Europe. No one was able to predict that and to see that was coming. [00:31:30] So, yes, and this is where I’m talking about culture that we are still governed by baby boomers and I think, for me, the best thing the baby boomers have done is to give birth to the X generations. Thank you, you have done that, move away. Let the X generation come in and pave the way for the Y generation and then the Y generation is confused by [inaudible [0:31:53], they are not the future, they are 30 years old.

They are [inaudible [0:31:56]. I know you guys are Y generation, you are young, but the new [00:32:00] alpha needs to make something out of this future. I see a massive generation cultural gap between digital nomads and the current thoughts that are running the world. Sorry to say, I stayed awake two nights ago just to watch the debates between Hillary and Trump and it became very, very clear to me it’s genius, it’s absolutely genius. They finally found a way to monetize idiocrasy. Come on, we can do better than that as a society. The [00:32:30] current generation is taking care of the current generation.

I published an article a few months back called the Da Vinci Gap. The idea of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Larry Edison, and all of these giants that started these trends, they never created the generation [inaudible [0:32:46] to fill in the gap after they left. Now they’re gone. Not all of them are dead, but they’re certainly, certainly gone, they’re not leading any way. Then you get the new generations that I often say instead of reading the books they are seeing the movies. I’m sorry, [00:33:00] it’s not the same.

We don’t have any assertive leadership that can actually take us to the next needed stage and this is my fear, this is the culture fear I have right now. That we have all of the tools, we have all of the pieces of the puzzle, but we have a blind leadership that is forcing us to sleep through the most important changes humanity has ever seen.

Mike: Do you think there’s leadership missing in the younger generations?

Aric: Yeah, because we taught them they can do whatever they want. [00:33:30] We never taught them to be leaders.

Euvie: Yeah, especially thought leadership that’s missing.

Mike: Since we started travelling, I never would have guessed that I’d have more in common with people my age all over the world than I would with my parent’s generation.

Aric: This scares me. That’s why it’s so important to… for me, it always starts from education. I’m having a chat with a group of people in Russia and we’re talking about education. One of my points is that it should be mandatory [00:34:00] to have in school systems two hours a week lessons on how to fail. Because we are teaching kids that failure is the opposite of success. It’s not. It’s its trigger.

Doing nothing is the opposite of success. My kids, from 15 to 11, they don’t teach them how to fail but by doing that they are not pushing them beyond their potential. They are just floating through the system instead of [00:34:30] excelling the system, instead of designing and repurposing the system. Larry Edison, Bill Gates, they repurpose the system according to their needs. Who has guts or courage to do that today?

Mike: It’s amazing the amount of information this generation has had to learn compared to the older generation. Yet, you’re right, there’s no leadership.

Aric: I just finished a book by Todd Rose called the End of Average. It’s by far coming into the top five [00:35:00] books I’ve ever read. I like the idea that our education system is constantly measuring kids against the average. You’re above average or below average. But in reality, average doesn’t really exist. It simply doesn’t exist. It’s a one-dimensional thinking. You can never succeed in anything if we are telling them you can do whatever you want to do. No, you need to do what you are best at doing and fuck the rest. So, read this book. It’s one of the [00:35:30] absolutely genius books I’ve ever read.

Euvie: Some of the people who are currently in leadership roles, especially in government, especially people who are leading cities, are in this older generation. So, what does leadership of the future look like when it comes to leading a city?

Aric: I think that cities should be lead by an AI in the future.

Euvie: Good one.

Aric: Seriously. Look at it. [inaudible [0:35:52] is connections, it’s combinations of impossible changes, right? Let’s take Google Go algorithm [00:36:00] and let’s have an experiment. Let it run a city for one month. Let it coordinate traffic and food deliveries and mobility and public transportation. For one month. Trust me, it will do better than any other engineer on the planet today.

Mike: Do you think there’s a lead up point with decentralized governance before an AI governance happens? Or, do you think that’s too difficult and there’s going to be too much resistance?

Euvie: Or, can they work in parallel?

Aric: [00:36:30] They can work in parallel. I think one of the first countries you can actually implement that one in Canada. The new Prime Minister for them, I think he’s in the right age to understand that pop stars are not the only thing you need to govern. It wasn’t his quantum physic quotes, it’s some of his other speeches that indicate that he can actually govern parallel to an AI. He can get advice from an AI, he would be able to understand the true value of experimenting [00:37:00] something like that. Mike, you’re Canadian, so you can offer that to him.

Euvie: Email, “Hey, yo, Justin, you should try this thing.” So, what is the role of humans in leadership in the future? If AI is making, let’s say, most of these quantitative decisions, do humans actually have anything to offer?

Aric: As we said before, I don’t think an AI is a stand-alone thing, I think it’s an extension of us, it enables us to [00:37:30] expand our potential beyond our organic matter. So, I think when I say the city needs to be governed by an AI, it needs to be governed by a human that is extending his potential for an AI infrastructure or AI services. I think humans as we know them today will cease to exist in the future and we will be, eventually, we will descend from organic matter into I will not call it silicon but a new generations of materials.

There is always the philosophical debate what [00:38:00] happened to the soul and the consciousness and can we actually literally transcend. I believe we can. I think we tend to see an AI, we tend to look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, right? We think that’s an AI, but I see more AI as the Red Queen and Her child. If you take the concept of the movie Her and you take the concept of Resident Evil of the Red Queen and you marry them and you put a child together. You use that as an extension of human beings, that’s where, at least, [00:38:30] my line of thinking is going.

We don’t need to teach an AI everything from scratch. We carry a DNA signature within us that makes us who we are: curious and passionate. And there is certain type of values that we can [inaudible [0:38:45] into technology around us, so we can refer to it as an [inaudible [0:38:49] intelligence rather than artificial intelligence. But it can start acting on behalf of our name and extend us and make us into a fragmented being. [00:39:00] And each fragment of us can interact with other fragments of other human beings and you end up in this swarm intelligence type of structure. I think that’s the true transcendence.

Euvie: That’s like decentralized intelligence kind of.

Aric: Yeah.

Mike: I have one more practical question for you. What can leaders in cities, what should they open to you that maybe most leaders wont’ be open to at the beginning? What should they be open to in order to create a future city?

Euvie: Most importantly, [00:39:30] why should they be open to it?

Aric: Let’s start with why, it’s always an important question. If you are not open to understand the changes, you will govern a bunch of old people that eventually will die and fade away, and your city is going to collapse. So, right now is the right time in order to stop thinking tactics and start thinking strategy on how to create a true sustainable model of an alpha city. That model [00:40:00] carries a lot of elements within it from education, to empathy, to wellbeing, to intelligence, to creativity, to economics, to politics. All of these things are going to be digitalized at one time or another.

If you, as a leader of a city, can actually synchronize and strategize the way they are being digitalized, the way they are being augmented, you can really benefit the citizens of your city and really create or repurpose [00:40:30] your current structures of the cities in favour of a city that will become a culture rather than a city. We tend to think about… many people in the world are talking about mega cities but they are really relevant is the alpha cities that count. That’s why they need to do it, otherwise they are literally fucked.

What do they need to do? They need to surround themselves with people that understand that artificial intelligence is not, “I’ll be back.” It’s much more than that. [00:41:00] And robotic and genomic and biotechnology and neurotechnology and adjustable reality of and the codifications of value interactions, these are and should be part of the decision-making elements within the day to day activities of the city. I would love to see every mayor in the world one day a week spending within a digital nomad think tank. Imagine that, right? And he doesn’t decide the topics of the conversations, they do.

He’s there to listen. [00:41:30] And that one day a week is not going to destroy the city but really, really benefit it. So, that’s the simple advice I give to any major today. Make sure that you’re constantly surrounded by digital nomads because they are the only ones that understand what does it mean to write life in code. Your old architect and transportation engineers and sewage engineers, they are brilliant people but they are not writing in code. Like it or not, the future of society is [00:42:00] written in code.

Mike: Aric, that’s a great note to end on. I want to thank you for coming on the podcast, that was really interesting.

Aric: My pleasure.

Volvo Futurologist Aric Dromi interview on Future Thinkers Podcast with Mike Gilliland and Euvie IvanovaOur cities are changing. Sometimes it looks like we are already living in the future. Some of the changes are more outwardly visible – you may see a driverless car on the street or a solar panel on a neighbour’s roof. But the biggest changes are happening behind the scenes. Technologies like AI and Blockchain are positioned to transform how our cities function on a meta-level. This is not some science fiction fantasy for the distant future, it’s already happening.

The future of society is written in code. Click To Tweet

Smart Cities of Today

The Prince of Dubai has announced that Dubai is aiming to be the first government in the world to run on the blockchain by 2020. And Singapore plans to become the world’s first smart nation, using a network of interconnected data-capturing sensors to optimize everything from street lights and garbage collection to traffic flow, and even how the elderly access medical services.

Dubai aims to be the first government in the world to run on the #blockchain Click To Tweet

The model for a city of the future will not be the megalopolis. As old behemoth cities struggle to upgrade aging infrastructure, agile small cities may rise to become global players. Others will compete by building cities from the ground up. One Chinese electric car manufacturer is doing just that. Wanxiang has invested $30 Billion into building a brand new smart city which will run on – you guessed it – the blockchain.

Cities of the future may look more like international businesses than local government structures. Singapore has opened up 8,000 government data sets so that entrepreneurs from around the world can help invent solutions that the country can later test and implement. And Estonia has started offering fully digital business services for entrepreneurs around the world through its e-residency program.

If cities like London are not careful, they may end up 3rd world cities in 10 years Click To Tweet

Cities of The Future

Cities of the future may not even look like cities. Meta-layers of connectivity through blockchains, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality could make cities less and less geographically defined. Your body could be physically in one location, while you are at a conference in another location in Virtual Reality, meeting with people who are each in a different location around the world.

These are some of the ideas we talk about in this podcast interview with Aric Dromi. Aric is a digital philosopher, speaker at Tempus Motu, and Futurologist at Volvo Cars. In this conversation, we discuss many fascinating topics from smart cities of the future, to how artificial intelligence and virtual reality will shape our perception of the world around us, to the way blockchain technology and digital nomads are influencing our society.

“Technologies such as AI and VR will enable cities to create digital citizenship models, which by default will recreate GDP structures.” – Aric Dromi

In This Episode of Future Thinkers Podcast

  • What smart cities of the future will look and feel like
  • Creating digital representations of ourselves in VR
  • Autonomous cars, drones, and new infrastructure
  • Why AI will be an extension of ourselves
  • What kids needs to learn to be future-proof
  • How digital nomads will affect cities of the future
  • The potential of small cities like Plovdiv

Mentions and Resources

Recommended Books:

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More From Future Thinkers:



Comments are closed.

  1. Khannea Suntzu 8 years ago

    Interesting presentation, but extremely elitist. Many people loathe this particular economic and infrastructural system and will resist it for decades to come. This presentation describes a reality that will be utterly unpalatable to the vast majority of voters, and as we have seen with Brexit and Trump they are organizing to put up a fight. My objection is this way of looking at things is zero sum – it rewards the winners exponentially more, and simply discards everyone else.

  2. Khannea Suntzu 8 years ago

    And it is even worse than that – in a few years, at most a few decades there will be life extension and rejuvenation technologies. This will make established generations even more reactionary towards their own established way of life. The change has to make sense to them, or they will abort it, any way possible.

  3. Euvie Ivanova 8 years ago

    Khannea, do you mean that in relation to the digital-reputation-based systems discussed in the podcast?

    Last night I watched S03E01 of Black Mirror, which painted a picture of where digital-reputation-based society can go wrong. I can definitely see how it would create and encourage elitism.

  4. AndreasS 8 years ago


    Tank you for making this podcast, it was very informative and also positive.
    You already give a good summary here and some links mentioned in the podcast. But I think it would be a very nice addition to that to supply a full text transcript.

    I wanted to comment on your discussion regarding leadership for the digital transformation in smart cities and in general. (if we had the transcript i could put you here in quotes now :) )

    I think it is a bit like Aric said you should look at Blockchain technology more from a philosophical point of view. This talk gives a hint in the right direction:


    Blockchains are a technology yes, but it is REALLY about us humans. With trust ( careful about the definition here) you can enable a conversation about consensus. This is interesting on a technical level Blockchains use a consensus algorithm to ensure correctness across the chain. Once you have “technical correctnes” or as other would call it: (technical) trust (see TED talk).

    You can start have a conversation with all blockchain participants about what is right or desired. And _that_ is the very important thing.

    So I think it is not about asking “who” will take the leadership. That is just a proxy for asking: Can please make someone other , someone “supermart” make all the difficult decisions and we *just* get by?

    No it doesn’t work that way. You need the Blockchain as a Medium to enable a discussion on a Level which currently simply does not exist. You want to discuss and find a consensus on what people really want. The Blockchain for the first time in history enables us to have that discussion because of the technical trust. The Blockchain enables you to find a consensus on a human-social level which is (otherwise) today simply not possible.

    Now on to Aric mentioning the AI. If you have all the data all the desires and opinions of all people in the city on the blockchain. You need to analyze it and react accordingly and here come programs and other machines ( Internet of things) into play.

    This may sound very abstract but projects like ehtereum and IPFS are on the best way into making this a reality. It will be very exiting to see the first smart cities around the world.

  5. Euvie Ivanova 8 years ago

    We are planning to add transcripts to our podcasts in the future, when we have the budget for it.

  6. AndreasS 8 years ago

    What do you think about think about the shared leadership/consensus thing regarding blockchains?


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