smart city ted talks, career prepatation

10 TED Talks That Outline The Smart City of The Future

According to the United Nations, over the next twenty years, nearly forty percent of the planet’s population—around three billion people—will move into cities and urban areas. Thus, by 2050, 66% of the entire world’s population then, will live in urban areas (you should read this thrilling UN report).

Where will they go? How will they live? Will we be able to maintain modern standards of living and ensure health and wellbeing for all? And where can you turn to today for reliable smart city education resources? Answering these questions is one of the biggest challenges of our time. You can already peek into Europe’s most relevant Smart City university level programmes online, or elegantly deep-dive into the knowledge of Smart City thought leaders directly from your couch at home. 

In these 10 TED Talks, world leaders in architecture, urban planning, and technology question our view of what a city can be and explain their strategies for building a smarter, fairer world. Read on to discover what the future holds!

1. “Why Buses Represent Democracy in Action” — Enrique Peñalosa

In this moving talk, Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, recalls the difficulty of reclaiming public pedestrian spaces from cars. He underlines the unique potential of the next fifty years, during which 80-90 percent of the developing world’s future cities will be built, to determine new public planning strategies that make a higher quality of life possible for everyone. A “smart” city is one in which a small child can walk the streets without fear and everyone can enjoy what their city has to offer. Peñalosa’s cost-effective yet hardline solution—to reserve vast swaths of city streets exclusively for buses, bicycles, and pedestrians—sparked controversy, but revitalized an entire community.

2. “Greening the Ghetto” — Majora Carter

Years ago, MacArthur-winning activist and urban developer Majora Carter led the community-based revitalization of the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City. Her emotional talk delves deep into the topic of environmental justice, and explores how social factors such as race and class can make it difficult for city residents to stay healthy and improve their lives. She focuses on the “triple bottom line” produced by stable development, from which communities, governments, and private companies alike can benefit. Here, smart city education also means talking about sustainability.

3. Don’t Build Your Home, Grow It! — Mitchell Joachim

Would you like to live in a house made of muscles and bones? Architect Mitchell Joachim believes that we all should—and can—in the future. His journey into sustainable architecture began with an ancient tree-growing technique called grafting. By fusing organic, extracellular materials together, he shows how the smart architects of the future will build homes that can adapt like natural forests and reduce human carbon impact. Joachim’s vision opens the door to homes made from all kinds of organic materials, from plants to regenerative tissues harvested from animals. It may sound crazy, but it just might work.

4. Architecture That Repairs Itself? — Rachel Armstrong

Rachel Armstrong, an innovative sustainability expert and smart city education thought leader, argues that the answer lies in moving away from one-sided “top-down” methods, which try to impose a strict order on their surroundings, toward “bottom-up” construction methods that converse with the environment. What if the materials that our homes were made from could monitor the atmosphere and independently respond to changes in their environment? Using Venice as an example, Armstrong presents a sustainable plan for regenerating the city’s crumbling foundations by depositing protocells that calcify beneath its buildings. Her talk is an illuminating glimpse into the technology and creativity that will make the future possible.

5. “Why We Should Build Wooden Skyscrapers” — Michael Green

Redwood trees can grow to over forty stories tall, but United States building codes still restrict wooden structures to less than four stories. In addition, forty percent of the world—over three billion people—will move into cities over the next 20 years, requiring a massive urban building effort. In his quest to advocate for an architecture that embraces “nature’s fingerprints on a built environment,” Michael Green discovered the skyscraper building potential of mass timber panels. Contrary to assumptions, he believes that wooden skyscrapers may be the key to sustainable city construction. In this informative talk, Green addresses frequent objections such as fire safety, carbon impact, and structural integrity.

6. “The Walkable City” — Jeff Speck

Jeff Speck doesn’t like cars. In fact, the influential urban planner thinks that vehicles can be directly implicated in some of the most pressing economic, environmental, and epidemiological crises of our time. In this talk, he shows how driving drains money from local economies, creates inactive and unhealthy lifestyles, and results in thousands of accidental deaths each year. He believes that moving into a walkable city does as much for the environment in just one week as switching to energy-efficient appliances does in a whole year. Speck emphasizes environmental friendliness, efficient high-capacity transportation, and individual living choices, inspiring his listeners to make good on their commitment to the planet.

7. “7 Principles for Building Better Cities” — Peter Calthorpe

How can you build new cities for three million people without further diminishing their quality of life or jeopardizing the health of the planet? For urban planning expert Peter Calthorpe, the answer lies in addressing the growing problem of urban sprawl and finding innovative ways to bring communities closer together, both socially and geographically, thus integrating smart city education into a broad spectrum of curricula. By preserving natural environments, encouraging sensible land use, and diversifying transportation options, the architects of the future will be able to build robust connections between city-dwellers. In this talk, he describes how his team’s sensible and ingenious recommendations are beginning to transform California’s largest metropolises.

8. “Brilliant Designs to Fit More People In Every City” — Kevin Larson

Beginning with a brief history of city development, from the earliest settlements to the factory towns of the industrial era to the sprawling megacities of China and the United States, Kevin Larson describes how the obsolete building models of the past can be optimized to better suit the future. While cities offer incredible opportunities to many people, they still suffer from lower quality of life due to overcrowding and pollution. By exploring novel concepts such as convertible living spaces, autonomous technologies, and fluid transport solutions, Larson explores some of the ways that cities can remain efficient and organized while still attending to our deepest human needs.

9. “Creative Houses from Reclaimed Stuff” — Dan Phillips

Dan Phillips likes unusual houses. The Texan architect and construction manager has built dozens of family homes out of 70 to 80 percent recycled and reclaimed materials, most of which would otherwise have ended up in landfills. Using everything from chicken eggs and cracked toilets to hickory nuts and cell phone parts, he builds coherent and beautiful patterns that are as appealing to the human eye as they are to the environment. His organic, intuitive approach embraces varieties in texture, colour, and form, creating a creative architectural mindset that minimizes waste while visualizing beauty. In this inspiring talk, he gives the principles of his building process and shows many photos of the homes he has built.

10. “A Smog Vacuum Cleaner and Other Magical City Delights” — Daan Roosegaarde

Futuristic artisan and inventor Daan Roosegaarde is in the business of getting people to think creatively about their surroundings. In this talk, he envisions a highly technological world in which unique human skills such as empathy, complex problem-solving, and creativity are our most valuable assets. Through a tour through some of his most famous public installations—from bike paths and light displays in the Netherlands to the “smog vacuum cleaner” that cleans up Beijing’s polluted air—he shows how imagination and innovation are the keys to unlocking our own potential.

Conclusion: Many paths to Smart City education

Smart City TED Talks are a great source if you are looking for explanations that unravel the challenges and opportunities of Smart Cities in the future. They are a convenient and insightful resource to keep up to date on what is happening in terms of Smart Cities. They are the perfect addition to Online Courses that help you acquire relevant skills to start your Smart City career.

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Theresa Kern
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