7 minute read
‘Welfare’ initiatives such as basic incomes are being deemed as an essential part of our future by some people in the Silicon Valley. For the proponents, the advantages of welfare initiatives go beyond just catering to the survival needs. In fact, as Gareth Old from Harvard Business School has noted, benefit and welfare programs spur business creation. Hence, it is not presumptuous to assume that the future eco-city will encompass state-led or privately-initiated welfare projects.
Loving trees- loving future
The New York City Street Tree Map is a precise and elaborate database of the urban forests in the city. The data for the trees was collected during the TreeCount! 2015 census and is checked for and updated on daily basis. The collection is in the form of a map where the trees are located spatially and marked with their individual species and width. Anyone who browses the website can have a look at all the trees in the city, the many different species and can visit the locations to update any discrepancies. The project hence gives a quantum of the trees in the city, keeping a check on its population.
On the surface, this welfare project might seem solely for information purposes. However, the creators of the website hope to do more. In the website, there is the option of ‘My trees’ where you can select and track your favorite trees. In other words, the website seeks to encourage an emotional relationship with greenery, making the society more environmental and ecological. The spread of this nature-friendly attitude has many environmental and health advantages. A city with more plants is less polluted, decreasing stormwater run-off and reducing energy costs. All of this leads to healthier lives of the population which mean more economic productivity. Similarly, the environmental advantages can attract more businesses in the city, leading to increased investment and decrease in unemployment. Hence, the seemingly small welfare initiative has many potential advantages as far as economic activities are concerned which will easily contribute a lot more than the initial investment used for the website.
Individuals can make a difference
Private enterprises initiated for welfare purposes can be profitable as well. Pol.is is one such example. With Pol.is, users can take interactive online surveys with changing questions based on machine-based analytics. The creators of the app saw that public opinion was difficult to organize and predict. The polling services used a lot of time, workforce, and energy to collect and then analyze polls. Moreover, the answers were inflexible and hence failed to present the true voice of the surveyed individuals. Most importantly, the prevalent system failed to truly represent the voice of the people. To cater to these issues, the CEO Colin Megill along with his other co-founders formed the Pol.is open source software designed specifically for democratic systems. The application uses machine learning and algorithms to design an interactive online survey platform. In the application, the respondents can contribute new statements for others to respond to. The crisscrossing responses then generate maps and clusters which can give a clearer picture of public opinion. This method, according to Megill, is a lot more effective in both understanding public opinion as well as generating a ground level movement that would trigger more political activity. Pol.is has been very successful doing just that.
The Taiwanese government used the software to break a six-year-old deadlock over the regulation of alcohol. Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister, said that Pol.is allowed different sides to gradually see that they share the same underlying concern despite superficial disagreements’.Alternativet,[nbsp]a progressive Danish political party that has a small number of MPs, is also using Pol.is to give them a direct role in formulating policy. The app has also helped the company to revamp itself, giving each member a better medium to voice opinions.
A similar example of an individual pioneered welfare initiative is the one spearheaded by Lawyer Afroz Shah, who single-handedly started the cleaning campaign on Versova Beach, India. The beach had been littered with tons of garbage dumped into the Arabian Sea by nearby factories, houses, and fishers. Shah and his team of volunteers picked up the 4500 tons of trash from the beach, making it attractive to tourists while simultaneously easing the lives of the residents. The UNEP has called the initiative ‘the biggest beach clean-up in history’ and has awarded Shah the ‘Champions of the Earth’ award. The cleaned beach now invited tourists who, in turn, generate economic activity in the area. Moreover, the attention by the world media also garners an altered response from the locals who are now wary of littering the beach again. In other words, the one-man triggered movement has changed the social and economic reality of the area.
still important today
The importance of public libraries has diminished due to many different factors. However, in a future society that is knowledge oriented, the importance of information will bring the culture of information-seeking backing in the mainstream. With that in mind, states today are still investing in public libraries. A report published by Australian Library Information Association emphasizes how welfare investments such as investments in libraries are very profitable for the communities and cities. The report estimates that for a $1.03 billion investment, the libraries provide a benefit of $3 billion. In fact, the benefit comes in the form of facilitation on education, social interaction, recycling of books and health advantages of communal gatherings.
The future eco city will keep such results in mind to enhance the lives of their citizens. As we would grow more and more solitary, dependent on personal digital assistants and wary of human interactions, institutions such as public libraries might be the ‘escapes’ of the future. In this library of the future, a combination of man and machine will work towards replicating the local amenity afforded by libraries of today. The libraries of the future might be the epicenter of social cohesion in the future where people can get together and share information with each other.
David Pescovitz, research director at the Institute for the Future, predicts that libraries of the future will be all-in-one hyper-connected data banks for learning, sharing, creating, where people will experience different realities. The experiences collected will be a representation of data collected by humanity in the form of history and experiences. Pescovitz believes the future humans will be able to sense the information, rather than just read them. This experience could also come about due to interaction with personal collections of fellow librarians, hence forming a social relationship between the lender and the original experiencer.
Free public transport:
the hallmark of the future eco-city?
Tallinn with its free transport adds into the importance of state-initiated welfare investments. The first EU city to give free transport to its residents, Tallinn has seen an increased number of people use public transport instead of personal cars. Moreover, as stated on the transport website, the city has seen a ‘significant increase of the number of registered Tallinners’. This means that there has been an influx of people in the city who have been attracted by the free transport option. This, in turn, has generated increased investments, jobs, and economic activity. The new Tallinners have also sought more housing, more food and other products and services triggering more investments in all industries. In other words, the welfare-investment has led to increased economic activity and has improved the local landscape with improved infrastructure and a more thorough collection of businesses. Free public transport could very well be the hallmark of the future eco-city for it represents the eco-friendly culture of the society while generating an ever-increasing and expanding economic activity that would be an essential need of the cities of the future.