Which road do I take? She asked.
Where do you want to go? Responded the Cheshire Cat.
I don’t know. Alice answered.
Then, said the Cat, it doesn’t matter.
– LEWIS CARROLL (Alice in Wonderland)

By 2030 nearly 70% of the world’s population will be residents of a city. That means 3 billion more urban residents in just 30 years.

Our generation is destined to witness an incredible number of new cities and buildings being built to host our new neighbours. Once these cities are built, they won’t be built again. And they won’t be easily changed either.

For good or ill, we’ll be forced to live in our creations for a very long time. Do it right, and we will provide great quality of life to ourselves and to our neighbours. Do it wrong, and we will condemn ourselves to a miserable existence: endless hours of commuting, loneliness, pollution, disease, crime, stagnation.

Technology is already playing a major role in this scenario. In the last four years I’ve met more than 120 companies developing new technologies for our cities, and I’ve shared some of their stories in this book.

Driverless Cars
Driverless cars from . . . an unusual point of view

WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?

Cities already provide 80% of the global GDP, and this share is destined to expand in the near future.

Consider just one market – the Internet of Things (IoT). The financial opportunities around smart buildings and cities are estimated to be worth €234 billion ($260 billion), 40% of the entire IoT budget.

As a comparison, the manufacturing industry, with all its robots and technology, will be worth just €17 billion, less than 3% of the IoT budget.

In my job I have the opportunity to meet investors and public officers. I’ve asked each of them where they think the money will be going, and shared their answers. Some of the responses may surprise you.

THE BEST WAY TO PREDICT THE FUTURE

Driverless cars, 3D printers, artificial intelligence and digital medicine are going to change the status quo. The rise of the sharing economy is speeding up the process. These changes are already happening without the help of governments – sometimes despite the government.

Search for “Exponential Growth” on Google and you’ll notice a dramatic increase in the number of documents and videos uploaded. The interest in exponential growth is – well – exponential. Because we live exponential growth on a daily basis.

I regularly meet and mentor tech startups. Five years ago there were just one or two companies per year in this area. Now I get at least one pitch every other week. What’s going to happen in the next five years?

WRONG ANSWERS, RIGHT QUESTIONS

As in the tale of Alice in Wonderland, to get the right answers, you first have to find the right questions.

I’ve travelled to 23 countries in person, and more than that digitally through my email and Skype contacts. I don’t have all the answers—nobody does—but I’ve collected many tools along the road.

These tools may help you and me to understand current and future trends in tech and culture. It’s a small competitive advantage, but in the coming days it may be essential.

Enjoy the interviews. I’ll be here waiting for your feedback. If you don’t agree, I welcome your challenge. This isn’t a one-way conversation, after all. This is a global game.

— STEFANO L. TRESCA
London, United Kingdom

 

Images by Jai Kapoor and xkcd.


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