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Hayek’s Alexa: Architectonic Impulses in the Smart City

Date & Time:
May 17, 2018 | 2:00 pm
Location:
Biological Sciences 561
Speaker:
Elvin Wyly is Professor and Chair of the Urban Studies program in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia. 
Photo by Jonas Jacobsson (Unsplash.com)

Smart cities theory and policy emphasizes the new — new cities, new technologies, and new possibilities of efficiency, innovation, and optimization.  While some of the technological details of smart cities are indeed new, the underlying philosophy involves economic and policy traditions built in the mid-twentieth century—which were in turn premised on nineteenth-century epistemological revolutions. Today’s Silicon Valley smart-city disruptions are the culmination of the social and political philosophies of Friedrich von Hayek, fused with World War II cybernetics and the evolutionary methodological syntheses of Francis Galton and Karl Pearson.  Today’s cosmopolitan world urban system, with its promises of politically neutral managerial efficiency, encodes dominant but unstable operating system of social and cultural conservatism that consolidated the self-perceptions of Western civilization.  Yet the evolution of conservatism—especially American conservatism—has produced an ignorance of its own history and contradictions. The planetary urbanization of Hayek’s smart-cities triumph, therefore, promises a transhumanist future of apocalyptic beauty in a robotic siege of the very foundations of cultural conservatism.

Elvin Wyly is Professor and Chair of the Urban Studies program in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on the interplay between market processes and public policy in the production of urban social inequality. His current research projects focus on the racialized dynamics of capital investment and disinvestment in U.S. cities, evolving trajectories of gentrification, histories of epistemology in urban geography, and the urban implications of mass social networking practices. 

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