Does Westworld Provide a Glimpse of What Smart Cities Hold for Us in the Future?

Posted on by Michelle Adams-Dixon

Ever get annoyed when you hit a red light then it turns green only to watch the very next light turn red? What the heck?! Smart cities are the way of the future…and not just to fix outdated timer vs. sensor stoplights and grumpy drivers. Smart cities have the ability to regulate traffic flow through advanced data and analytics to keep people moving smoothly and happily along their way. And who knows, one day it likely won’t be us driving the cars anymore (one step at a time).

Growing populations, outdated critical infrastructure, environmental hazards, and density overflow are all common issues that are only getting worse. Smart cities present a more livable, workable, and sustainable future.

One such future looks like Westworld, the dystopian neo-Western science fiction thriller currently on HBO. It’s well…a bit creepy for some. But is it completely out of the realm of possibility? Certainly, crazier ideas have been put into production. The premise looks at theme parks filled with android artificial intelligence beings that recreate scenes (like an old Western) in the future for humans to enjoy.

They may harm each other, but never a human being. These artificial beings are products of technology companies and that snowballs into a distorted reality of what is real and what is not, for both the robots and the humans eventually. Neither like being controlled by a “higher power,” and that leads to revolts, murder, revelations to the general public about atrocities, and general anarchy as the show’s fourth season debuted in the summer of 2022.

Are we headed toward an I, Robot or Terminator-type robots controlling the future like Westworld? Let’s certainly hope not. But what do smart cities really mean in today’s world? They are improving operational efficiency by using electronic methods and sensors to collect data. These smart cities are designed to bring about economic growth.

Feels like a pie-in-the-sky-type dream? Think again. There are hundreds of smart city projects underway globally in hundreds of cities. Just take a look at some of the smart city initiatives in the US: New York City (smart waste management), Chicago (reduced energy costs), Seattle (data to reduce food waste), Boston (reimagining its streets), and San Francisco (sustainable mobility),  just to name a few. Earlier this month, two major global smart city initiatives were unveiled as a 100-mil-long emission-free smart city is set to be constructed in Saudi Arabia and an $8.2 billion smart city in Greece that will be twice the size of NYC’s Central Park is set to be completed by 2026.

The collective question or concern of course is, aren’t there cybersecurity risks to building smart cities with so much technology woven throughout? Absolutely. It’s a high-reward initiative, but it comes with high risk as well.

Will robots or androids be driving you around, picking up your dry cleaning, or in amusement parks for entertainment purposes like in Westworld? Not tomorrow. But smart cities are for real. And they are a thing of the future. Artificial intelligence will have a heavy hand in that. Just think back a couple decades ago to what life was like before the digital age. Before the Internet. Now think about what the world might hold decades from now. Never count out or underestimate the power of technology and how it can advance our world.

Michelle Adams-Dixon

Vice President, Global Marketing & Comms, RSA Conference

RSAC Insights Analytics Intelligence & Response Human Element

artificial intelligence & machine learning critical infrastructure

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