Future Neighbourhood Technologies

At the Workshop: Trust, AI and Neighbourhood Technology led by Loraine Clarke from Dundee University, a small group of us were brainstorming emergent technologies for our neighbourhood communities.

We started by thinking of the neighbourhoods that we live in, described and drew the neighbourhoods. And then, we designed what information we’d put up on the community notice boards.

My neighbourhood.

The brainstorming was driven by the problems we had at hand:

A vegan participant would like to share his veg box with his neighbour. To solve this problem, we thought a communal smart fridge or an Amazon locker would be a good way forward for sharing unused food.

Some participants pondered how to identify neighbours who shared the same interests or needs (e.g., for childcare). Social media appeared to be useful for such match-making purposes. And, increasingly, social media like Facebook is replacing the traditional function of a communal notice board. Our memory of advertising our lost cats on a lamp post will soon be forever gone.

I came up with an idea of having a driverless robotic cleaning truck shared by local communities. Thanks to the gov’s austerity policy, many local councils cut funding for street cleaning. Future communities may have to clean the streets themselves (well, with volunteer manpower). To access this driverless robotic cleaning truck, volunteers registered with the system will access the garage by scanning their face. In so doing, we also known who the volunteers are, and can honour them publicly.

One of the participants is living in the shiny new smart apartment in Portland in the US. Every apartment includes an Echo equipped with Alexa. He could use his mobile phone to unlock his flat, and switch the heating off or turn the heating on remotely. There are also lockers in the common space for easy delivery and pickup of packages from any sender at any hour. The system also told the residents about their neighbours. If we think about how long it takes to familiarise oneself with a neighbourhood after moving over there, it is scary to see how quickly AI systems offers the neighbour information that probably would take someone a decade to gather. But whether or not a sense of belonging and a sense of community can be enabled by AI is questionable.

Outcomes from the brainstorming session for future neighbourhood technologies.

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