This is the title of chapter 8 that I wrote in a book*) about “Smart Cities”, see picture.
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What Makes Cities Bloom and Prosper?: Connected & Cooperating People
Jaap van Till
Prof Emeritus Network Architecture and Digital Infrastructures, Tildro Research, Rhenen, The Netherlands
People are amazed at the complexity and size of anthills in Africa, but what they do not realize that these are built not by leadership or architectural instructions, but by emergent behaviour from hundreds of thousands of face-to-face interactions between ants and subsequent massive numbers of small actions, by groups of ants with different functions. From these they together build ventilation channels, humidity control, storage rooms, escape tunnels, carry food, etc etc. These face-to-face interactions are done by smelling each other with only eight different smell codes. In the present cities of the world most tasks are done by also face-to-face in real life (IRL) meetings of people, but our small and big human-hills are much influenced by tele- (on a distance) communication also. By watching TV broadcasts, by talking on the telephones together, by looking and interacting from their PC’s, smartphones or Laptops connected to fast Internet. These hundreds of millions of parallel messages and interactions daily have a massive effect on what cities look like and how they evolve.
In this chapter we present a number of ways these interactions influence and exert power on the cities. From e-mail and telephone to more complicated collaboration tools that are carrying information, knowledge and practical knowhow to get things done, to wisdom and conscious shared visions. It is not the ICT technology only, but what individuals and groups of people do together with those power tools that matter.
Keywords: Smart Cities, Social Networks, Connectivity, Collaboration, Network Effects, Synergy, Synthetic Apertures, Collective Intelligence, Corridoria, network effects, telescope metaphor, value creation, chains of city regions, global brain, weavelets, commons, synthecracy.
An interesting example of a very successful, recently constructed, mega-city is Dubai, an important hub in international airline flights. In a promotional video about this city, Parag Khanna, famous map-maker of international infrastructures , tells what is so good about the resilience and strategy of Dubai’s architects . But the question remains after you see this film: what is the MOTOR of that city? Therefore, one of the research questions of this book chapter is “How can we make small and big cities bloom? What drives prosperity there?
Many scholars have published answers to these questions. For instance Richard Florida derived guidelines for American cities who noticed that some cities where successful in attracting talented young people who started new businesses. He published the three T’s related to 3 magnets: Technology, Talent, and Tolerance; which do interact and mix to produce a kind of ‘chimney effect’ of growth. Cities that do not create these conditions can be shown in the statistics to decline fast. The movers and kickers leave those towns. Other more recent influential work is in the books and lectures of Jeremy Rifkin . His main advice for prosperity and attractiveness of city area’s is to construct and improve the three vital infrastructures for (mega-poli) city-area’s: Energy distribution infrastructure, ICT& communication digital flows infrastructure, physical goods and persons & goods transport infrastructure for logistics. For these infrastructures in order to operate & maintain there must be in place: a Communications Internet, an Energy Internet and a Transportation Internet!!!
A smart energy grid cannot operate without a smart digital network. Same applies for logistics. That can only function without a vast grid of computer and human communications.
I will focus in this chapter not on the vital conditions, but on what people DO TOGETHER in cities based on those infrastructures and why that, as a motor, can create value and wealth.
8.2 Human Networking
It should be clear that the activity of “networking” is very much empowered, supported and speeded up in recent decades by Internet-Email and Social Media use. What are less visible are the informal networks of people who help each other or refer them to others who maybe can solve the stated problem.
There is always (1) a formal network of decision makers with authority and power who delegate tasks in hierarchies and to which you have to report and (2) a second network of specialists who have knowledge on a certain, usually very narrow but deep, subject and its solutions to problems.
Problem is that these much respected specialists do not refer to each other because they consider themselves as the centre of the universe and often do not think other people know anything relevant. Fortunately there is also (3) a third network present in every organization, otherwise the organization would not have existed anymore. It is the network of “carriers”/gatekeepers. They keep decision makers and specialists in balance by carrying issues forward, often by transferring questions to somebody somewhere that they think knows everything about a solution, and if not transfer it to somebody else, etcetera.
Scientists are very good at this, which can usually solve anything insides or outsides the organisation within six or seven steps. There are a number of rules & ethics, elucidated in my published lecture  for this very important social “networking” which can take place on eMail, in corridors, at lunch, in coffeehouses or pubs. These carriers/transfer agents test each other out to know if they can be trusted to solve problems. So there is a lot more behind this than shaking hands at parties and exchanging business cards. You must have done work together and shown your abilities to be included in one of the many “networks” in a city. Otherwise you will be bypassed.
Interestingly there is another level of social networking which is less well known but even more important not only for the functioning of cities but for the stability of society. In 1973 the sociologist M. Granovetter noticed that graduates from universities got more successful jobs from referrals & recommendations by distant acquaintances (weak links) than from their own family members (strong links). These ‘weak links’ are in fact very strong and effective, that is why I have given them another name “Btwieners”, see .
Key is that they are respected in more than one tribe, like the traveller Gandalf the Gray in Tolkien’s books, welcome wherever he arrived. This rare breed of super-networker I call Btwiener who is able to interconnect people in different tribes/families to work together in teams based on their respective shown different abilities/skills/crafts allowing to contributing whatever their background is. The super-networker activates their ability to learn very fast from their colleagues. Such open teams learn from their clients and from the environment they work in and improve and innovate so fast that others can copy but not overtake them. I call that ‘trans tribal collaboration’.
Prof. Peter Csermely studied  these interconnecting people and found that a vast variety of networks, varying from proteins, people, brain repair cells to eco-systems also use weak interactions to function and solve damages. These mobile units stabilize the whole system. And only a few of them are around. You will not find them on any formal organization chart though.
Social networks on Internet support & speed up very much the activities of ‘networking’ as well as the ‘Btwiening’. I recommend that cities identify and support these Btwieners because although they most often do their work voluntary, the effect of what they do is most often underestimated. They are a make or break asset
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The full text of my chapter can be downloaded here ==> 08_Chapter_08
The basic message of my chapter is that Human networks of unique/different cooperating people connected will drive prosperity in the new societies worldwide.
- Therefore I launched my new slogan: : “CONNECTING DiFFERENCES Multiplies DHARMA”
*) The book was recently (June 10, 2017) published by River Publishers and is called ” Breakthroughs in Smart City Implementation” and it can be purchased from them or ordered from Amazon.com or amazon.co.uk https://www.amazon.co.uk/Breakthroughs-Smart-City-Implementation-Ligthart/dp/8799923726/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497347670&sr=1-1
PS. During the recent Conasense Workshop in Amsterdam I briefly presented my chapter + some general observations, to the other authors and EurAsian scholars with the following powerpoint sheets ===> Human Networks JvT CONASENSE
jaap van till, TheConnectivist