This is a guest post by Roma Wilson, Quantum Heart Cafe, describing how data and technology is being used to create intelligent communities in Vancouver BC.
As I have been learning more about the planned roll out of Web3, social impact investing, and smart cities, I’ve been paying more attention to advertisements and local media I come across while out for walks or waiting at the bus stop.
One I saw recently was a real estate advertisement for a recently built community called Amber Gate, situated in what is currently called Burke Mountain, Coquitlam BC. The Burke Mountain community was built on the lands of the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nations. It was a homesteading community where immigrants were expected to work the land until they were eligible to own it. It has now become an urban community, part of Vancouver/Lower Mainland.
When I first saw the advertisement for Amber Gate I wondered if it was a pre-planned smart city community, because the logo for it is a tree branch with leaves connected to a main branch. That imagery put me in mind of trunk networks used in IT infrastructure.
When I looked at the list of features and amenities residents of Amber Gate would receive, a few jumped out at me. Among them were on-site daycare, plug-in for EVs, and a bicycle repair shop. This is important because Vancouver hopes to eliminate private vehicle ownership by 2050. Also included in each townhome are work-from-home-ready wired ethernet and USB ports for smart devices, and it was all these amenities and features that sent up some red flags.
I did an online search for the phrases Coquitlam and smart cities to see what connections the municipality has to the smart city initiative and what public-private partnerships they’ve established with various organizations. An organization I came across right away is the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), a global think tank that comprises a network of cities and regions working together to push the smart city initiative.
The ICF nominates seven cities/regions every year that are working on smart city initiatives from a list of twenty-one cities. Coquitlam, along with a number of other cities in and around Vancouver, made the Smart 21 Communities of the year back in 2021. Here is a brief presentation of what the Smart 21 Communities initiative aims to do, which is make cities go from “smart” to “intelligent.”
ICF’s co-founder, Louis Zacharilla, developed the Smart City awards and has overseen the development of smart city institutes around the world. Louis is also Director of Innovation for Space and Satellite Professionals International (SSPI). The relationship between the Smart Cities initiative and space is something I will continue to research.
One of the reasons I wanted to write this letter is because this predatory system is trying to unfold at the local level. While Web3 implementation is global, it needs local municipalities to provide infrastructure and planning. This inspired me to learn about what’s going on in my own part of the labyrinth.
Louis Zacharilla can be seen in this clip talking about how technology and data can give a city a soul. I wonder if that is Smart Cities’ intention, to be the shapers and modelers of each community’s soul.
I’ve also been learning more about the differences between the Western Imperial worldview and Indigenous worldview from a book written by Vine Deloria Jr. called ‘God is Red: A Native View of Religion.’ One of the important differences is the West’s obsession with chronological time and progression of both historical and future events. Whereas, Indigenous Nations living on North Turtle Island place more importance on space and how they relate to those spaces through their ceremonies, stories, rituals, and so on.
This has inspired me to think about my place in the labyrinth. I wonder if a key to navigating it is through rooting myself to the places I am a part of and re-learning how to relate to them and how to relate to the beings that also inhabit the same spaces.
Roma Wilson, Quantum Heart Cafe