TEDprize.org has announced that the winner of the 2012 Ted Prize is, “The City 2.0”
TED, which is an acronym for “Technology, Entertainment, Design” was established in 1984 as a think tank to bring together these three industries. Each year, a $100,000 award is given by the group to one individual who best represents the ideals of these elements. In addition, the recipient is granted “One wish to change the World”, whereby the sponsors and members agree to take steps to accomplish that wish for the year.
As an example, in 2011 the winner was an artist/photographer named JR who wished,
“…for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world…INSIDE OUT.”
The result of this was the Inside Out – Project where participants upload a photo; the photo is then turned into a poster which is then mailed back to the participant so that they can display the poster – and take a picture of it being displayed in a public setting.
Ok, so for future reference we now know that it is ok to waste time, paper, ink & contribute to greenhouse gas emissions so long as your goal is global art awareness. Check.
But for the last 7 years the TED prize has gone to an individual – for their creative genius. This year, it goes to an idea. According to the press release the TED prize will bring together,
“a group of visionaries — urban planners, architects, technologists, authors, policy makers, and economists — to act as advocates for The City 2.0 and craft a wish capable of inspiring collaborative action by many“.
The panel will then unveil the wish on February 29, 2012 at their annual conference.
Three things bother me about this.
The first is that they don’t disclose who these, “visionaries” are, although we could probably guess. Pick a name and put the initials: FAIA, USGBC or LEED AP after it and you will have most of the panel. Follow that up with a list of elected officials that have a (D) after their name to round out the panel. Not that there is anything wrong with that – just a blaring observation.
The second thing is that this is old news. Architects, Planners and Futurists have been planning and promoting the “Future City” for as long as recorded history. For Pete’s sake, the Romans had a “Future City” in 45 BC with indoor plumbing. Archeologists have even found sewer systems dating back to 2600 BC.
After indoor plumbing came electricity. Then the use of steel and elevators brought us the High Rise. How about Insulation and Air-Conditioning? What about the transition from horse and carriage to automobiles and streetcars? Don’t they get any credit?
They call it “the City 2.0” – Really? Perhaps it should be called “the City 20.0”, their hubris is thick.
The third thing that bothers me is that this panel of “visionaries” won’t even come up with anything new. Sure, they may have a few new ponies in the show – but I’m certain it will still be the same old 3 ring circus. Let me get out my crystal ball and run it down for you.
Recycling –The city of the future will have all kinds of ways to lower the carbon footprint. It will be built with recycled materials and will have all sorts of recycling systems. Trash, sewer and water will all be recycled. Rain water will be collected.
Green Energy – Of course, the City 20.0 will use all those wonderful clean energy sources. Geo-thermal, Wind, Solar. Maybe even some new ones like – Ocean wave power or Clean Plasma. Those evil fossil fuels that have powered our industrialization and made the United States the greatest nation that ever existed on Earth – will not be allowed in the City 20.0
Public Transportation – The City 20.0 will be a public transportation Utopia. The Streets will be lined with lush gardens which are only interrupted by the occasional public transportation “bus stop”. But it won’t be a bus that picks you up. No, it will be a state of the art electric vehicle – a people distribution system, whipping pedestrians around like baggage at the airport.
Green Roofs & Walls – These roofs and walls are not just for show. These urbanites demand that they grow their food locally. A fine idea, but realistically it takes 1.5 acres of land to provide for the needs of each person. So, while it may help lower imports into the city, it certainly won’t provide all their needs. But it looks good and it makes us feel better.
High Tech Gadgetry – The City 20.0 will undoubtedly have state of the art technology. Our homes will be filled with all of the coolest and greatest gizmos. Don’t forget the Free WiFi phone and internet. In this city, everyone gets free minutes.
The City of the Future might be underground. Or it might be elevated on stilts like as we envisioned with the Jetson’s. It may be enclosed in a dome to protect us from the elements (a really dumb idea – but that is another discussion).
There will be parks and bike trails and jogging paths and dog parks – and everyone will be rich and happy and crime will be a thing of the past. The City 20.0 will be the pinnacle of human civilization.
Right. The point is, whether it is City 2.0 or City 20.0 – it is all old news. We have heard all this before. In 2007, the History Channel even had a “City of the Future” competition. So what is the real motivation behind the new TED prize?
Could it be a new push by the USGBC to urbanize Americans? Are the TED organizers just setting the stage to fund the creation of a new organization of “experts” who will later advise future city planners or even presidents on how we should change our cities? Are they gearing up for a new wave of “green” building regulations?
Or could the motivation for the choice of this latest prize be something as simple as good old fashioned greed or crony capitalism? I’m very interested in finding out how many of these “visionaries” have been having lunch with the TED organizers…and for how long? How many of them have been seeking government grants? How many of them have worked for TED Sponsors? Who, in the Environmental Class is the muscle behind this latest endeavor? Where does Al Gore’s “carbon credits” connection fit in?
We may never know the answers to these questions. The process of selection is not exactly what one would call, “transparent”. But a good rule of thumb is that whenever liberal groups get together to discuss “possible solutions”, you can bet someone is getting richer – and the rest of us are getting poorer.
At the end of the day this project will be one more gigantic social engineering experiment – count on it.
Two Thumbs Down for “The City 2.0” from the Critical Architect.