We’ve just wrapped up the inaugural World Science Festival Brisbane (WSFB). With scientists and thought leaders from around the world here in Brisbane, we have been treated to thought-provoking discussions which included the theory of relativity and gravitational waves; the ethics of science, the morality of robots; and how we can start addressing the problems as we look towards our future cities.
Of particular interest to me was the future of cities discussion. Transport was a major focus, with a key group of interested stakeholders participating in a full-day brainstorming session with Arup Fellow, Chris Luebkeman, about the Future of Transit in Brisbane. Uber, car-pooling and autonomous vehicles were hot topics in those future scenarios, as were cycle-ways, light rail and even the notion of tele-commuting.
The discussions highlighted the need to plan for future generations when it comes to designing a smart and connected Brisbane. A smart, connected city will need to provide choice, the choice of the available “smart tech”, or to get lost without beacons and devices telling us which way we should go next. A smart, connected city must include everyone, not just those who can afford the latest gadget. This is one of the most exciting opportunities of a well-designed, smart city strategy. Cities of today are built on physical infrastructure, which is capital intensive, but cities of the future, which will still require physical infrastructure, will also likely be powered by digital infrastructure that is more accessible to more of the population. Digital infrastructure will enable greater citizen input and engagement with the design and creation of a city.
Most importantly, truly smart, connected cities will be human-centric. It’s really easy to get seduced (or repulsed) by the high-tech gadgetry that the Internet of Things offers, but a city that is built on gadgetry alone will not be human friendly, rather just be a giant showcase of tech. So a smart, connected Brisbane platform needs to enable the residents of the city to do what they want, more easily. It needs to enable a human connection, not just digital connectivity. It needs to enhance our current liveability – which includes everything from quality of work and calibre of jobs, arts, culture, dining to transit and transport options. Most of all, a smart, connected Brisbane will need to provide choices – multi-modal transport, choices around how to connect and choices, if desired, to go off the grid, without missing out on key city functionality.
The World Science Festival Brisbane was an outstanding event. The festival was world class, the discussions were thought provoking and inclusive, the street science fair showcased the value and application of science in everything we do and, yet again, as G20 did, it showcased Brisbane’s ability to host the world. Kudos to Queensland Museum and in particular CEO Suzanne Miller, who had the vision to invite co-founders of the festival, Brian Green and Tracy Day, to bring WSFB here. This first event was fabulous.