We live in very exciting times. Urbanization, now on an unprecedented scale, is a major contributor to the systemic clash between biosphere and Technosphere. As cities expand geographically, they encroach on the realms of the biosphere, usurping ever-larger living landscapes and paving them over with tarmac and concrete. The challenge of global regenerative development is sometimes conceptualized as a choice between change by design (or managed transition) and change by disaster (or forced transition). The upshot is that there is a very high probability that change will come: either forced change or managed change. It is clear that the relationship between economy and environment is crucial for the socio-ecological transformational challenges ahead. Social as well as ecological issues are intimately linked to economic issues such as growth, efficiency and distribution.
The world is in facing a triple crisis and facing an existential crisis: ecological deterioration and trespassing geo-biophysical planetary boundaries increasingly unequal distribution of income and wealth in a continuously globalizing world, as well as financial upheavals and recurring economic recessions. These crises are interconnected and related to each other. A holistic approach that takes the tension between the economic, ecological, social and technological spheres into consideration is desperately needed.
Bold solutions to an existential problem: humans have become an immensely powerful planetary force, and after millennia of modest Nature-focused ways of living, humanity has morphed into an urban-industrial giant seeking to unshackle from Nature’s embrace. But our remorseless interventions in the world’s ecosystems are threatening our own future existence. Can we still change course?
The challenge is to find a new balance, a SYMBIOSIS BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY – HUMANITY – NATURE.
The unbearable burden of the Technosphere.
Our Technosphere, as an overshoot of the biosphere, has enabled a life of abundance for a minority of the world’s population, whilst a majority is still waiting to benefit. But there is another profoundly systemic problem: today the vastly expanded human economy is essentially linear, ecological externalities are largely unaccounted for, with dire consequences for future life. The Technosphere is, in contrast with life, inanimate and profoundly lifeless (for now). As the blending of technology and humanity into a meta-organism is inevitable, how can we assure a future of regenerative mutual survival? To try and align Technosphere and Biosphere is a historic challenge in this age of the Anthropocene.
While a potentially transformative innovation used to be a once-in-a-century phenomenon, the pipeline is now packed. Moonshots like quantum computing, neural interfaces, solid-state batteries, and fuel cells offer incredible potential to upend the global economy. Closer to the ground, areas like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, drones, and big data are already providing a glimpse into what the future may look like. The confluence of technology and economic forces (techonomics) is increasingly dictating everything from growth rates and incomes to inflation and how we need to learn and work. The last decade was defined by technology disruption. Technology penetration in many industries is still low; the technology adoption curve is just at its beginning and that digital penetration is set to accelerate. Tech firms have dominated digital innovation, but now tech- enabled incumbents are striving to make up for lost ground and to wrest back control of their industries’ future. They are prioritizing investments in key enabling technologies like mobile, cloud, big data, and social, as well as emerging ones like blockchain and AI.
A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES.
The large-scale societal change represented by the integration of artificially intelligent social actors into human society brings with it considerable new practical, ethical, and security challenges. After all, it is one thing for specially trained employees of an Industry 4.0 company to spend a limited amount of time interacting with social robots or AI’s within a specially prepared workplace environment in order to carry out some narrowly defined work-related task; it is something different for millions of ordinary individuals—from children to the elderly—to incorporate such intelligent, social, artificial entities into their homes, their daily routines, and the most intimate aspects of their lives.
What role will human beings will play: it seems possible that the diverse types of robots, advanced AI, sentient computer networks, responsive smart environments, and other non-human intelligent social actors who become incorporated into Society 5.0 will not only do work that had been previously performed by human beings but in some cases may possess physical, intellectual, emotional, and social capacities that exceed those of the human beings whom they are tasked with serving.
We humans view ourselves as separate, dominant and superior to nature. We see nature as a commodity to buy, sell, extract and exploit for our own interests. A dualistic view of our existence on this planet – one that blinds us to our interdependence and interconnectedness with nature, and which has also created enormous divides in our society and across humanity.
All life, including human life, ultimately depends on the wellbeing of our host planet as a vast, interconnected, synergistic system. Without life, the face of the Earth would motionless and inert. The biosphere is a profoundly dynamic place, with a vast variety of living organisms interacting with one another. The understanding of interlocking Earth system cycles and the human interactions with becomes of upmost importance at a time when the relationship between humans and our biosphere is becoming ever more precarious.
A ecological orientated society reminds us that the ecosphere and all life is interdependent and that both human and nonhuman organisms are absolutely dependent on the ecosystem processes that nature provides. An anthropocentric conservation ethic alone is wholly inadequate for conserving biodiversity. Ecocentrism is rooted in an evolutionary understanding that reminds us that we are latecomers in the ‘odyssey of evolution’. This leads quite naturally to a precautionary approach towards all the systems that constitute the ecosphere, so that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, a lack of full scientific certainty ought not to be used as a reason for postponing remedial action.
Ecocentrism encourages empathy with life, listening to the land and, above all, taking action to protect and heal the planet. A society that recognizes the ecosphere as the matrix responsible for unifying every organism on Earth, along with the various elements and processes that sustain them. Bringing awareness to all interrelated components of the ecosphere is fundamental to shifting our focus from human-related desires to the uncompromisable needs of the earth. Before a healthy, sustainable future is truly attainable, we must first abandon our outdated, anthropocentric (human-centered) thought and behavioral patterns.
By 2050 global population will grow to 8.1 to 9.6 billion, and global economic activity will increase by three to six times.
Much of the world has spent the past 50 years refining a degenerative economy, and now it faces a triple planetary crisis: Earth System breakdown, inequalities have deepened across most of the world; amid a rising lack of access to basic services such as clean water, food and safe working conditions for many, inadequacy of our current system in providing a social safety net for its most vulnerable members. In viewing the natural world as a machine separate from humans rather than something intertwined with its existence, humans have systematized, commodified and exploited natural systems.
The dominant linear and extractive economy fuels both climate breakdown and wider social inequalities. Even with the introduction of short-term fixes, continuing with this model means inevitable future shocks—from additional pandemics and recessions to worsening climate breakdown—which will continue to diminish our capacity to recover. The economy must move towards—or return to—a more human-nature-technology based and regenerative approach. To shift from our current economic model that is degenerative and linear, humanity has to move away from a mindset that incremental changes will get us there. A few recycling targets here, a charitable donation there will not deliver us the change of era that is needed.
This transformation must start with a shift in our ideas around what success—economic, social and environmental—looks like.
Due to the growth of world population, continued high levels of consumption in the developed world and the rapid industrialization of emerging economies, worldwide demand for natural resources such as raw materials, energy, water and land is steadily increasing. As a consequence, renewable resources and the eco-logical services they provide, such as clean water or a stable climate, are at great risk of degradation and collapse. While early approaches of resource governance have mostly focused on one single environmental category, such as energy or greenhouse gas emissions, it is now generally agreed that a socio-ecological transformation requires a systemic perspective, taking into account the interrelations between different types of natural resources; the nexus perspective and integrates the dimensions of materials, energy, water, land and food.
A key element required for the transition towards a regenerative economy is significantly lower inputs of natural resources, i.e. those that prevent the trespassing of planetary boundaries with possibly irreversible ecological damage and social implications.
Cities must reinvent and rethink themselves in the context of planetary change. The emergence of complex interactions among human, natural, economic, social and technological systems and the uncertain trajectories that characterize urban futures require that cities critically review their assumptions and expand their capacity to ask new questions. Urbanization is driving systemic changes in socioeconomic ecological structures by accelerating rates of interactions among people and places, multiplying numbers and strengths of connections, and expanding the spatial scales and influences of human activities to global levels. It is increasingly evident that cities amplify the consequences associated with globalization such as the movements of people and products, access to, and disruption of natural resources, and threats to biodiversity.
As 54% of the global population (8 billion) lives in cities, with growth rates projected to continue into the next thirty years, urban environments are becoming humanity’s natural habitat. Do we need to prepare ourselves for a more urbanized and, therefore, more depressed world? Or can we benefit from redefining urban design and architecture? A dynamic architecture, sensitive to the surroundings, in sync with the Earth’s natural processes
Reshape humanity’s relationship with disruptive technologies and nature and to realign our ecological footprint to be within the planet’s carrying capacity. Incremental change has not been an option in the past decade, and in the coming one it must become an approach of the past.
Nothing less than a fundamental change in building, infrastructure and community design is required.
We must rethink, remake our cities, towns, neighborhoods, homes and offices, and all the spaces and infrastructure in between. This is part of the necessary process of reinventing our relationship with the technosphere, our natural world and each other—reestablishing ourselves as not separate from, but part of nature, because the living environment is what really sustains us. envisions a future whereby all.
LIVING URBAN DESIGN 5.0 refers the harmony of living with nature likely in biological term. The design that includes the principle of ecological architecture, high-tech systems and use of metabolic materials wants to contribute the spatial quality between natural and social systems.
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We need to challenge the boundaries of our thinking on a speculative journey to develop a future direction, in which the condition of the planet becomes the main and foremost value in the way we design and produce.
The future exists in an unlimited number of possible futures, but the question what the most desirable future should or could be. We cannot let the future ‘just happen’, the stakes are too high. Rethink the consequences of our own actions and to redesign possible outcomes into preferable outcomes. An open invitation to take agency on our future, to kickstart new dialogues, to enhance critical reflection, to embrace the (un)expected and to intervene with real world challenges. After all, if we’re able to imagine alternative futures, we might also be able to make (some of) them come true.