Weeknotes 177; meta clouds

Welcome in February! The first month has passed rapidly. Time to look back to the developments with a Cities of Things Lens, Friday the Cities of Things Reflections 22-01 will drop in your mailbox (if you are subscribed of course (for free)).

Personal updates

Here we look back at last week. After a week with relative a lot of meetings in-person, last week was a mix with online again. Slowly it becomes the new normal that was predicted, although the common trends seem more moving towards the old normal. The first drinks on location were a nice experience; although the inside space was quickly full and we got rather cold after a couple of drinks. But well, it is still rather precarious.

The winter seminar on Tuesday on sharing bikes, with the ‘inventor’ of the OV-fiets, the famously shared bike scheme of the Dutch Railway was nicely warm out of the home. Ronald Haverman did a good job sharing some aspects of the future of shared mobility. How the Chinese supplier Mobike was more an investment product (3 billion worldwide), how the city scale is not the important factor for success, but the neighborhood density is. How it will be hard to get the business model of Mobility as a Service healthy as you are always adding an extra service provider that needs to be paid. The bikes need to be as standard as possible with a flexible service architecture. And as the last statement, I wrote down: if you want to sell a sharing bike scheme as a sustainable solution you need to avoid electrified bikes and scooters. All the logistics of charging bring only extra rides then less.

To keep it with micromobility, I still need to watch the presentations of Micromobility online event.

There was a nice session of Advier on Gen Z and Gen Y differences mainly by Herman Konings. For instance, the financial services approach: Gen Z differs from Millennials (Y). Gen Z is more about planning financial futures than Millennials and more interested in the personal side of banking (again); face-2-face contact.

Upcoming this week

This evening you can listen to a discussion about the ‘flitsbezorgers’ (in Dutch). Other events you can visit this week: Futures Seminar live from Copenhagen (Thursday), Sensemakers DIY (Wednesday).

As we are entering the time we can visit again in-person events, let’s share also some events longer ahead. Like STRP (7-10 April), eyeo (14-17 June), and a bit smaller; the Speculative Design Amsterdam workshop on climate-resilient cities (17 February).

News from last week

Another week with some robotics, Web3 critique, and human-nonhuman partnerships. And meta clouds.

Lego Robot with an Organic ‘Brain’ Learns to Navigate a Maze 
ROBOTICS – “researchers have designed a carbon-based neuromorphic computing device—essentially an organic robot brain—that can learn to navigate a maze.”
Strategic design for society: Making the Oslo Futures Catalogue 
CITIES – Dan Hill is always bringing the thinking on cities on another level; earlier he promoted design based on street ecosystems.Strategic design for society is a good angle to think about city design. Combining this with an understanding and design of structures and social contracts.
The most boring Boston Dynamics robot is coming to a factory floor near you 
ROBOTICS – More attention for the serious robots of Boston Dynamics, that make dances to serve a goal, not only a smile… 
Rise of the ‘cobot’ puts robot helpers alongside humans 
ROBOTICS – “Ocado last week launched what it claims to be the lightest supermarket warehouse robot in the world. Videos of its human-free fulfillment centre, with robots picking and packing groceries, went viral on social media.”The promise is a working based on collabs of human and robots if I understand well.
Sohjoa Last Mile: developing autonomous mobility
INFRASTRUCTURE – “(…) the project seeks to raise awareness of EU and national regulations barriers and enhance the European market for mobility services.”An investment scheme in autonomous mobility in Europe so it seems.
E-scooter simulations highlight head injury risk to riders from falls 
INFRASTRUCTURE – “New Imperial College London research has highlighted the head injury risks to e-scooter riders from falls.”
No surprises I think for everyone that did ride a scooter on uneven pavement. 
‘Web3’ is on the way. Authoritarians should be worried. 
INFRASTRUCTURE – Good to see this optimism: “Thankfully, we are on the cusp of “Web3,” a next-generation Internet that could shift the balance back toward individuals. If the United States embraces Web3, it could also offer a pivotal advantage in its ongoing competition with authoritarian states, especially China.”Though, there is still a long way to become really democratized and not claimed by a small group understanding and monetizing Web3.
The Web3 playbook for brands 
INFRASTRUCTURE – “Web3 is a new source of economic value. It’s a marketplace, a new revenue stream, a fuel for business growth, and a source of competitive advantage. To explore the full potential of the Web3 economy for brands, here is a Web3 playbook.”Having such a playbook is not a guarantee for success imho but it might be useful to structure your thoughts…
PORTL hologram-in-a-box offers a portal to the metaverse
META – Not too many metaverse stories this week, but with this device you connect yourself to a possible Meta reality. Something that is foreseen for a long time in speculative movies…
Researchers Introduce A Novel Human-Like Driving And Decision Making Framework Designed For Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) 
AUTONOMOUS – “Researchers Introduce A Novel Human-Like Driving And Decision Making Framework Designed For Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)”In the transition phase, in the end, we don’t need human-like robots.
vincent leroy imagines enigmatic gigantic cloud floating in the streets of tokyo
META – It is nice to not only use meta thinking for a new way of meeting without legs. Cities can become more interesting…“Vincent Leroy unveils ‘Tokyo metacloud’, a giant floating cloud traversing the streets of the Japanese metropolis.”
Shanghai rated world’s number-one smart city for 2022
CITIES – I am a bit skeptical for the concept of smart cities after all these years of techno utopias, but it seems more layered: “The top cities in our recent ranking are finding innovative ways to leverage that technology to deliver observable benefits for their citizens as well.”
Top Ten Most Exciting Robots Presented in the CES 2022 Event
ROBOTICS – CES has already been over for some weeks, but a nice overview can always be useful…. 
Facebook’s cryptocurrency venture to wind down and sell tech assets 
CRYPTO – “Meta Platforms Inc’s digital currency venture Diem Association is winding down and selling its technology to California-based Silvergate Capital Corp for about $200 million, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing a person familiar with the matter.”

Paper of the week

A couple of articles deal with the relationship between humans and non-humans. The paper of Marenko is dealing with one of the related concepts to approach non-human objects: animism:

Marenko, B. (2014). Neo-animism and design: A new paradigm in object theory. Design and Culture6(2), 219-241.

This article argues that our apprehension of the world is increasingly colored by animistic connotations. Traces of animism—the idea that objects and other nonhuman entities possess a soul, life force, and qualities of personhood—are evident in the way we talk to our computers, cars, and smartphones, and in our expectations that they will reply more or less instantaneously. As the Internet of Things becomes more mainstream, the fact that our phone communicates with our thermostat, car, washing machine, or bathroom scale is no longer a future scenario; it is increasingly a shared reality. Our way of experiencing everyday objects is changing to accommodate their shifting nature, purpose, and agency.

Find the PDF of the paper here.

I found it a great introduction to this concept and gives an extensive overview of the body of work on this at the moment. If you are interested in this, you might also check the work of Phil van Allen, and his explorations on animistic design.

See you next week!

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.