By 2050, (you may have heard this statistic a lot) 70% of the world's population will live in cities or urban areas, up from 54% today. That means they the future of cities is also the future of humankind. In this short film, Oscar Boyson looks at what that future could be. Specifically, he explores the future of London, Shenzhen, Singapore, Detroit, and Copenhagen.
Cities are the most efficient way to handle lots of people. They might look messy, like huge resource hogs, sucking up power and goods, and spewing out air pollution and trash, but imagine trying to supply the needs of a million people spread out across the countryside instead. Urbanization, then, is the only way to deal with the climate crisis, and to house a growing world population.
Because cities are so varied—not only across the world, but in terms of the people that live and work in them—a single city is many different things. While a more pleasant environment and cleaner air would be high on most people's lists, businesses view cities differently than people, and different people have different needs. "Most of us can hope we can spend a little less time on our commutes to work and a little more time with our families," writes Boyson. "For a rich white dude up in a 50th floor penthouse, 'the future of cities' might mean zipping around in a flying car while a robot jerks you off and a drone delivers your pizza."
The history of cities is as fascinating as their future. For instance, just supplying water to a city is hard. According to the film, at the beginning of the 20th century, U.S. cities spent as much on water as the federal government spent on everything except the Post Office and the army. Today, Detroit has an app that lets people track their water usage in real time, which means that low-income people can avoid getting their water cut off.
Because cities are not in competition with each other, and more open to one another than countries might be, they can also share their breakthroughs. The Detroit water app, for example, would be useful not just in drought-prone Los Angeles, but in any city around the world. And LA pipes in water from 1,400 miles away, using 19% of California's state energy budget in the process. Future cities might, then, find ways for individual buildings to extract their own water from the air, eliminating the need to transport water altogether.
Cities aren't just about water, of course. They're about people, and the air we breath, the transport we use to get around, the buildings we live in, and the crimes we enact on one another. Watch the video to find out how all these issues and more are evolving—and being solved—in urban centers around the world