Forwards to the past! Technology’s greatest triumph



There are so many reasons why what you have set out below is interesting. But I think I can take a different position to the one that you are developing.

My approach will be that, far from taking the human mind, behaviours, and cultural norms beyond where they have ever been before, the true value of modern technology, analytics and predictive capacity will be for cities and civilisations to recover the unbelievable sophistication that they once had.

Urbanism was progressively degraded by the advancement of the mechanical technology of the car. The urban consequences of the combustion engine have been – and continue to be – manifested in the increasing division in city living between one community and another. Divided by highways. Governed by car-obsessed administrations.

Not only do digital technologies help people overcome such divisions by talking through the ether, they also – through the work of organisations like Space Syntax – expose the fallacy of the urban planning theories that created the divisions in the first place. The consequence of these exposés will be, I hope, for future physical and spatial development to be fine-grained and more connected as in the city of old.

This may be digital technology’s greatest contribution: to take us back to where we once were or, to rework the title of the great DeLorean trilogy: “Forwards to the past!”


Note to Rick Robinson ahead of Thursday’s Future City debate in Milton Keynes

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