According to Slate's Will Doig, Portugal will be building PlanIT Valley, a modern city filled with hundreds of thousands of sensors that, together with its Urban Operating System (UOS), will be able to manage the entire city with little to no human interaction.
Built-from-scratch cities have been popping up for years, but fully sentient ones are only in the prototype stage (PlanIT Valley will have just 150,000 residents). And their goal, as with all sentient beings, is to replicate. The percentage of global city dwellers will surge to 70 percent by 2050, and many of the fastest-growing cities are sprawling eco-disasters in the making. PlanIT Valley's hyper-efficient model promises to be bright green. A white paper created by Living PlanIT, the company designing PlanIT Valley, details an techno-paradise of energy conservation. (Living PlanIT did not respond to requests for comment.) Cars are guided toward empty parking spaces, personal computers are engaged to run the UOS when they're sitting idle, and rooms not only lower the air conditioning when you've left them (yes, the system will know when you've left them), but can even decide whether it's worth it to do so based on how long you typically leave that room vacant.
But wait, there's more! Leaky faucet? The UOS can detect it, and if it can't do the repair remotely, will dispatch a plumber. Lose your child? Surveillance cameras might be swiveled to ascertain "the child's current location and activity." Apartment on fire? The UOS will alert the fire department, direct each resident to the safest exit, adjust the neighborhood's traffic lights to clear a path for the incoming trucks, tell the firefighters which parts of the building are affected and the locations of anyone inside, automatically unlock doors and windows, increase pressure in that neighborhood's water mains, and allocate patients in priority order when they arrive at the nearest hospital.
It sounds pretty wonderful without the risk of corruption or human laziness. Yet, Doig warns that on a city "built like a valet service" is bound to create friction from its residents.