Machines and cities. An evolving relationship in the age of artificial intelligence

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Otello PalminiMarco NegriGabriele Lelli

Abstract: This contribution aims to investigate contemporary conceptualizations of the relationship between city and digital technology, in order to identify useful indications for contemporary cities. Starting from an examination of the most conceptually significant approaches, we aim to shed new light on challenges and opportunities connected with the contemporary urban conditions and particularly with the implementation of Urban Artificial Intelligences (UAI). The issue of UAIs will be investigated through a hybrid approach that connects philosophy of technology and urban planning. An approach that is able to connect the ethical implications of the use of AI in urban contexts and its design consequences. The main objective of the paper is to analyze two of the first and most interesting reflections on the connection between digital technology and urban space (Tòmas Maldonado and W.J. Mitchell) to understand how they can be useful for future planning challenges. One of the first systematizations of this issue stressed the tension between a Platonic interpretation of cyberspace, conceived as an escape from reality, and an infrastructural perspective that regards the physical and digital space as deeply connected (Maldonado 1992, 1997). Maldonado's reflection is useful in exploring the dialectic between an immaterial conception of digital space and its interpretation in an infrastructural sense. This ambivalence was also present in the context of urban planning theory (Mitchell 1996), in which digital space is sometimes conceived as a parallel dimension, sometimes as a dimension inherently embedded into the physical one. In Mitchell's urban planning thought and practice, this ambivalence gives rise to decisive differences in the design of hybrid objects and spaces This historical analysis will be useful in understanding how the concepts of materiality and immateriality also come into play in contemporary discourse on AI Urbanism by defining its planning trajectories, modes of human-machine-environment relationship, and guiding its investments (Barnes 2021, Cugurullo 2021, Batty 2018). Urban Artificial intelligences have the potential to re-shape ontologically and epistemologically (Floridi 2022 Benanti 2018, Carpo 2017) our cities, influencing physical space and the way in which cities are represented. The analysis of these two frameworks will result in a better understanding of the concept of urban space in the age of UAI. The interaction between various forms of agency (human, natural, artificial) in the urban context will be a decisive design theme in the coming years. The geometry of this interaction will also be defined by the ability we have to think concretely and appropriately about digital space, making use also of the insights that can be drawn from the recent history of the relationship between the city and digital technology

Keywords: AI Urbanism Digital Space Tòmas Maldonado W.J Mitchell Urban Artificial Intelligence

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1004023

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