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Cities evolve in awareness like human beings but slower

City of Tomorrow initiative AiREAS was analysed among the Smart City projects in Eindhoven and classified “peer 4” city development. Peer 4 is unique in the world and a major evolutionary accomplishment of both the city and AiREAS. But what are these layers of city development mentioned by the external analysts? And what does it mean for all involved?

City evolutionary steps:
Peer 1: basic infrastructures of the city
Peer 2: functional integration of infrastructures
Peer 3: intelligent interaction between the infrastructures (Smart City)
Peer 4: purpose driven multidisciplinary civilian cooperation with city executives (Eco-city)

There seems to be an important line drawn between peer 3 and 4. While peers 1, 2 and 3 are managed by the city executive through the establishment of a territorial hierarchy, peer 4 has totally different characteristics. Peer 4 involves core human values and value driven interaction with the city’s citizens in which there is no hierarchy anymore. Peer 1, 2 and 3 cities can be seen as destructive black holes that absorbe resources from their surroundings without any return. That is because the citizens and city both interact from a consumption point of view. Peer 4 suddenly transforms the black hole in a warm star that enlightens the surroundings with productivity and core values for life enhancement and wellness. City and citizens work together on those local core human values.

Eindhoven became a peer 4 pioneer with AiREAS (heathy city, healthy people, healthy air) as recognized spark into a new reality.

From an anthropology point of view I compare the city break through from peer 3 to 4 as a “second positive desintegration” at community level, proyecting on the “city’s awareness” the analogy of Kazimierz Dabrowski and the psyche of people. Also, if you like, the level 4 awareness based structuring applies, according MIT’s Sensing views (see below).

AiREAS is pioneer in this field of work

AiREAS is pioneer in this field of work

From black hole to star
Any city starts off as an unaware “foolish” conglomerate of people who, for what ever reason of submission, decide to group together under territorial command. Infrastructures are needed to host those people and create society of some sort. Time evolves and so does the city. The original submissive reasons for any person to come to the city transforms over time too. At one time the motivation was maybe the expected labor in town, now it may be housing, entertainment, care systems, shops and social securities. Many people don’t even decide to come to the city anymore, they are born there and for all they know it is the only reality that exists.

For many generations city governance, with submissive citizenship, was the norm. The city provides a promise of abundance at the expense of one’s human identity. The human being is simply “the consumer”. Nowadays cities cannot keep the promise of abundance. Huge global issues affect the local stability and sustainable progress. Abundance cannot be garanteed anymore even though it is democratically demanded by the citizens. The economic attractiveness and functioning of the city is questioned due to the shortages created by the conglomerate of cities themselves. The lack of productivity of the population makes any city into a massively destructive consumer of resources. Since 70% of the global population lives now in cities, and numbers grow every day, the destructive force of the cities can be seen as black holes that just take without giving anything back. It is not just the resources that are consumed that is devastating, the pollution generated by all cities together and the way countryside productivity has been adjusted to economic norms, produces a lethal natural unbalance.

Human awareness develops when people do things and subsequently enjoy the benefits or suffer the consequences of such actions. The interpretation of suffering develops our understanding of what we are (the “to be” part) through backward analysis.

First phase in life is learning through backward interpretation

First phase in life is learning through backward interpretation

We tend to mature in our understanding of life as we build up (painfull) experiences. At one point an awareness breakthrough is encountered. This is when our matured being starts to consciously determine what we do. We have learned so much about life’s mechanisms and essentials that we can anticipate and learn to create rather than destroy. This inner breakthrough is the one referred to by Dabrowski and a unique benefit of the human psyche. Unfortunately we have not yet based our executive leadership on these breakthroughs but gradually we will.

The awareness breakthrough is a real, memorable point in a person's life

The awareness breakthrough is a real, memorable point in a person’s life

Peer 4 can be seen as a similar breakthrough but at city level. This is unprecedented in human history. It can be seen as a logical and evolutionary consequence of the times we live in and necessary for the survival of the human species. It is an inspiring act of group leadership that steps down from a hierarchical position to adopt a partnership role in a teritorial eco-system.

Sustainocracy is a peer 4 way of addressing regional sustainable progress

Sustainocracy is a peer 4 way of addressing regional sustainable progress

Eindhoven become powerfully aware of it vulnerability already in the 80’s when its major providers of employment (Philips and DAF) either went broke or moved their industrial processes to China. The pain of unemployment and corresponding social costs brought a severe crisis. It made the city reflect about its vulnerability out of dependence. This became the basis to convert into Smart City’s peer 3 with initiatives like Brainport. The city had become aware that it should remain productive even though this was translated primarily in product innovations for the global market. Triple helix is a typical peer 3 structure in which the three pillars for economic growth (government, education and business innovation) work together to optimize resources and results. Yet the triple helix is still focused on the world economic market of trade (to do). Brainport developed into a highly subsidized technology driven creative institute.

Eindhoven became the hotspot for creative product development but remained vulnerable in the economic context of demand and supply. Natural resources are increasingly being dealt with in a competitive manner as consumption peaks. Human consumption has its limits and inflation produces an enormous economic bubble that does not provide securities for all anymore. Poverty rises, migration starts and unbalance and insecurity becomes the standard. The city realizes at all levels (not just executive) that it needs to become much more self sufficient rather than competitive or consumptive. The main resources of the city are not its way to deal with economic growth but its talent to produce its own wellness. This understanding is a major breakthrough. Balancing value driven creativity with economic drivers becomes the deeper understanding of the essentials of life. A totally new way of dealing with one’s surroundings appears as well as the way citizens are seen in the city’s context, and how citizens see their city. Both develop empathy towards eachother and the objectives the community faces. Everything (governance, business development, education, behavior) starts to resonate with the higher purpose of quality of life in harmony with the natural surroundings.

While previously the city’s citizen were mere consuming parasites now they become primary resources for wellness driven creativity and productivity. Everything one can produce together one does not have to buy. The city’s economy balances out because it gradually becomes self supportive and self aware rather than vulnerably dependent of outside resources that it cannot control. The city develops awareness of its own core needs and takes responsibility by facilitating rather than controlling citizen’s interaction and productivity. It is not the city’s executive that leads anymore, it is the common persuit for core values that does. Both the citizens and the executive interact and adjust to produce the best results together. The entire city dynamics transforms.

Obviously the underlying peer 1, 2 and 3 infrastructural resources are still needed but they also need adjustment to the ecosystem that develops in the city. The city becomes self aware, passionate and energetic, less dependent on resources from outside. An energetic turn around can be felt. People in Holland state often “it all happens in Eindhoven” as they sense the warm and positive vibes. Its own resources sustain the city now, applying awareness, knowledge and tools for sustainable progress through quality of life rather than just trade.

Peer 4 transforms the city also economically. Since local values are created by the citizens themselves a local value sharing system needs to be developed. Citizens are no taxable parasites anymore but cocreators of wellness. People from outside the community can interact with the abundance created inside the city through financial means but those local citizens who put energy into the cocreation should be able to share the benefits without having to pay for it. Taxation transforms from money (VAT) over consumption to a sharing system of creative input and output for the city’s self sustaining progress. Housing is key to keep the value driven citizens in the city as the city recognizes that without them it becomes vulnerable again. The citizens become more important than the real estate which becomes functional to productivity rather that consumption. Also issues like pension-schemes become obsolete because peer 4 value driven interaction and contributions are not age but awareness dependent. A new dynamic interaction develops in which the elderly contribute and share as much as the youngest. Regards are measured in tangible reciprocity, not money. The city becomes less dependent on economy and more on social interaction and harmony. The city executive transforms and becomes more like the spinal cord and stemholder of the community than its brain. The community itself becomes the brain as the city starts to behave like a living body, with all its senses and core value awareness. Peer 4 transforms the black hole into a shining star.

In AiREAS we have been able to create and sense the warmth of our own creative powers and it is great for the city and all involved to be recognized as such. Any city can cross the line to peer 4 and we are ready to share our experiences of the new era that presents itself as more and more “black holes” transform in stars. All our progress is being documented and published through open access briefs. We use the global publishing channels of Springer and New Horizon Research. If you follow this blog you will be kept updated too. Also the global AiREAS Blog will provide you the specifics on progress around healthy city from air quality perspective.

A new leadership perspective and perception appears. For a short time both coexist in tension but after some time the persuit for harmony will prevail growth.

Old (current) and new leadership

Old (current) and new leadership

Ethics is human, not institutional

Much is being discussed about “ethics” in business, finance, government, education, etc. The biggest misconception of all is to attribute ethics to institutions. Ethics is human, not institutional. An institution cannot be blamed for unethical behavior, their leaders and employees can.

Definition of Ethics:

Many people confuse ethics with social morality, as in religion, belief or cultural behavior. One of the more useful definitions of ethics is provided by wikipedia in the names of members of the foundation of critical thinking: “a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behavior helps or harms sentient creatures”.

If fact ethics refers to “the conscious way we interact with our environment, human and living nature, in a constructive or destructive way”. Ethics is complex as it demand from us the conscious reflection about our progressive behavior and its consequences. Progress has always a destructive and constructive element, when initiated by human beings as well as evolutionary progress within nature. It opens up a large array of philosophical thinking on the extend of responsibility of the human impact on its environment. How ethic is it to destroy a certain natural landscape for our infrastructures, housing, industrial processes or even agriculture? Where does human progressive dominance end to allow room for other species to evolve or is human dominance and its effects on other species part of their own evolutionary challenge? Hasn’t the competitive crises in the human species stimulated our self-awareness in such a way that we became more creative and competitive? Hasn’t the anthropocene affected life of other species in such a way that new genetic variations have appeared that adopted perfectly well to the human dominance and even to human pollution? Isn’t humankind on its own a challenge for nature to react with destructive force to create balance again in living progress? How ethical must the human species be with its environment and what ethics can we expect from our environment?

When we look at the effects of humankind on its environment then this can be considered very high, especially now, in the era that we live in today. On the other hand we see that these effects are lethal for the long term human sustainability. It is expected that climate changes and pollution will eventually reduce humankind to a much smaller population then we count today. Within 40 years humankind may well implode to a size of little more than 1 billion people (as opposed to more than 7 billion today).

Ethics has hence nothing to do with the way we influence nature itself. This will bounce back to us with equal force as what we did to nature. Nature has this unique ability to find balance in all kinds of extremes, even against humanity. So when we refer to ethics we need to reflect on the way we affect nature in the short and long term to produce effects on us. With this type of ethical consideration we place human evolution within the meaning of sustainable human progress. In this sense we do not dominate nature as we affect our surroundings but assume an adaptive attitude around the effects of nature on us. Nature seeks natural balance no matter what effects this has on humankind. We however seek balance with our consciousness (learning process) about our surroundings to provide us infinite evolutionary chances using the environment properly. We become adaptive partners with our environment for our own benefit. Ethics then refers to the level of reciprocal balance we create with our universe in which we assure our health and security at all times by respecting nature for what it is.

So when people debate on institutional ethics we need to get to terms what an institution really is? From an operational point of view an institution is a specialized group of people performing to reach some predetermined team objective. There are many types of institutions that all perform different types of tasks in a human community. From an ethical point of view we can now look at the institution and determine what impact it has on our sustainable human progress from an environmental point of view? The problem we face is the paradigm in which such evaluation takes place.

Institutions have been traditionally registered and founded to become a legal entity that behaves according human, not natural laws. An institution is a legal instrument that allows the grouping of people around certain objectives protecting the integrity of the people against failure of the institution, while allowing the people involved to share the benefits of it. The institution can hence do things that people would maybe not do themselves from a moral point of view. What motives would an institution have to do what it does and can ethical values be attributed, and by who? Yes, we can, but not to the institution, to the people giving direction to the institution. Why?

The institution is a piece of paper. When no-one does anything with that piece of paper it will not do any harm or good. It is just a number. An institution becomes instrumental in the hands of the human being. It is the human being that deals with the institution that needs to be confronted with the ethics of this usage. The fact that an institution is constituted according to certain human laws does not liberate the user of the instrument from applying moral awareness and consider the ethics of its positioning or functioning. In our current society based on capitalist economics the morality of human progress is expressed in financial means. Within this paradigm ecology and human progress are considered a cost. Ethics are valued against the price one needs to pay and the material benefit one gets in return. The overall holistic picture of a universe reacting back to us is not considered tangible enough to be attributed to the ethics of a single institution nor of its leadership. It is the human system that is unethical because it shows a scientifically proven damaging track record against nature itself and especially our own expectations for a healthy future. What is then unethical? The financial system? Money? Capitalist economics? Consumption? Industrialization? Manufacturing?

None of this is unethical because for every system an alternative system can be chosen. The fact that humankind has self-aware choices makes the usage of instruments that have an unethical impact on our environment unethical. It can be compared with a word. The word itself can never be attributed an emotion or value. It is the context in which the word is being used. The same goes with money. Money has no value, it is the value we attribute to it in a certain context. We can compare it with a hammer. The hammer is a tool that can be used in a constructive way to create a chair. It can also be used to kill. In both cases ethics can be applied, not to the hammer but to the hand that uses it and the purpose it is used for.

So instruments like words, coins, hammers or registered pieces of paper have absolutely no ethical meaning until they are used by human beings for one or another purpose. Right now the ethics of humankind is extremely off course. We are all to blame but those who claim leadership and intentionally keep up the system that is so destructive, should be brought to justice. The problem we have is that ethics has not found its way yet sufficiently in our systems of human laws and that is what is urgently needed. Sustainocracy can be help because it provides the tooling necessary to make a natural selection. It also helps institutions to transform while they still can. The excuse is still that they did not know better, had no choice and were not aware of a new paradigm. Soon no-one will be able to hold with such excuse because new standards are being set. These standards are based on true ethics. When people have a choice they immediately are at fault when their choice is contrary to a true ethical paradigm such sustainocracy. At this stage humankind can not afford to accept unethical leadership or behavior anymore whether we like it or not.