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Hope on the horizon: Sustainable cities

MIT faculty and researchers offer their thoughts on potentially life-altering
technologies that lie just around the corner.

William J. Mitchell

Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences

The building and rebuilding of our cities in "smart" sustainable form will produce the next big improvement in our lives. This is an essential task, and a massive one that has the potential to generate a long-term economic boom.

As with the Internet, the revolution will not result from a single technology, but from the timely convergence of multiple streams of technological development.

One part of it will be the replacement of the clunky, inefficient, dangerous gasoline-powered automobile with personal mobility systems based upon fleets of lightweight, "smart," wirelessly networked electric vehicles. A second part will be the emergence of clean, efficient, geographically distributed systems for electricity generation, storage and distribution. A third part will be the embedding of networking capability and intelligence in buildings and products of all kinds. And finally, ubiquitous networking will--like a nervous system--tie all this together so that cities respond, like intelligent organisms, to dynamic changes in their environments and the needs of their inhabitants.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 21, 2008 (download PDF).

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