This conversation between Shima Beigi and Science of the Noosphere’s David Sloan Wilson focuses on Shima’s book, Mindful Smart Cities: Rethinking Smart Cities with Mindfulness Engineering.
What does Shima mean by “rethinking smart cities with mindfulness engineering”? This description of her book states it thusly:
“The Artificial Intelligence fueled transition toward smart cities and network societies has a tremendous impact on the future of humanity. The current narrative of smart cities and data enabled urban systems totally leaves out the components of human experience, feelings, emotions, and real human relationships. However, what makes a city smart is the degree and quality of human connections and social cohesion that individuals feel. Cities are more than just objects, buildings, and fixed entities. They are about people and networks that encompass system of life as a whole. In turn, people’s behaviour shapes sustainability, resilience, and inclusivity of the future of cities.”
Shima is based at the Center Leo Apostel (CLEA) for transdisciplinary studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels). CLEA is part of an international effort initiated, funded, and directed by Human Energy to provide a scientific foundation for a theory of the noosphere. Their research builds on the related concepts of the Global Brain and the distributed intelligence of the Internet. In addition, CLEA is working with Human Energy to develop an integrated, meaningful, science-based worldview called the Third Story.
Why is Science of the Noosphere interested in smart cities? David explains the connection just as the conversation begins:
“This conversation is…centered on the…concept of the noosphere, and very often that’s discussed in the context of the whole earth and the idea that the whole earth is going to become some sort of thinking unit. But for me, to focus on cities is very insightful because the concept of the noosphere can be applied to any population of any size from a small group to the earth. And cities are such a nice intermediate scale. Before the earth can be a noosphere, cities have to be a noosphere. And that’s pretty much the same thing as saying that they have to be smart.”
We think these ideas are consistent with Teilhard’s descriptions of the noosphere’s anatomy from a biological perspective:
“Directly Mankind, from the nature of its origin, presents itself to our experience as a true superbody, the internal connections of this body, by reason of homogeneity, can only be treated and understood as superorgans and supermembers. Thus, for example (due allowance being made for the change of scale and environment), it becomes legitimate to talk in the sphere of economics of the existence and development of a circulatory or a nutritional system applicable to Mankind as a whole.”
This conversation is an intriguing exploration of the role of cities as organs of the global, noospheric superorganism that is forming around the planet today.