Laurence Vanin

Design the Smart City to build it better!

Wealth Monaco wishes to give the floor to accompany your summer weekends to Laurence Vanin, philosopher, essayist, holder of the Smart City Chair: Philosophy and Ethics, Doctor of political philosophy and epistemology at IMREDD, UCA.

The Smart City, the smart, ultra-connected city is proving to be the space of new economic challenges, ecological challenges, achievements and technical prowess, but it cannot meet the demands of innovation and the markets alone.

The smart city must certainly encourage them without neglecting the fact that it must be at the service of humans. This is why questioning the city of the future corresponds to asking us what we expect from it – as a virtuous project – and how we would like to reformulate it, apart from the proposals set out by the actors of the territory, according to our desires as citizens, actors in the City.

In this regard, Jean-Christophe Bailly evokes the idea of ​​a puzzle: “The city appears today and on a world scale as a puzzle whose pieces do not necessarily join and which it would be futile to wait until they can all set up a somewhat stable image […]. That the cities write today sentences other than those of the era of their constitution and their coming […], this is what imposes itself to anyone who wanders a little around the world, but it is also what is to be questioned: what are the urban sentences that are written today? What is or should be their syntax? [1]

This assumes that the current representation that everyone has of the Smart City has its own shortcomings.

Indeed, as the Smart City project tends to describe the city of 2050, it is urgent to wonder if the project – as it is exposed today – will be able to attract its occupants. Occupants, who if they are twenty years old in 2050, have not yet been born. They cannot therefore be consulted today and participate in debates, yet it is the responsibility of the actors at work in the “definition of the concept” not only to project themselves, and by analogy, to affirm whether they would like to live or not in that city.

Perhaps it is desirable before building the Smart City, to suspend the concept, the time of a deconstruction, because to deconstruct is not to destroy. Derrida thinks that “Deconstructing means preparing for the coming of the other: letting it come,” inviting “, heterogeneous and incalculable”.

Derrida explains in particular that “to get prepare for” is to open up to the possibility of becoming something else, which is already a matter of anticipatory participation. The Smart City project therefore invites such deconstruction, that the imagination can seize the definition to represent the future city not only as a common place for the achievement of technical prowess but to project itself into a scenario in the simulation of a “lived at a distance”.

From this “participation” thought can meditate the desire that the subject might feel at the idea of ​​residing there. As Bernard Stiegler attests: “The future of a human society lies in its ability to adopt new lifestyles – that is, also and above all, new techniques or technologies, and in particular, hypomnematas.

However, an adoption process is only promising for the future insofar as it contributes either to reinforce an existing process of individualization, or to constitute a new process of psychic and collective individualization: only to the extent that those who adopt the new way of life find it possible to individualize themselves differently, and by themselves: to trans-form themselves by intensifying their singularity, that is to say their negentropic potential. »

Town planners, engineers, IT specialists, politicians investissent the Smart City on the principle of necessity and present to us the city of tomorrow as the solution city, as the answer to pollution or overcrowding problems. However, we could invite them to identify themselves with the future inhabitants, in order to reconsider the subject based on their singularity.

In fact, everyone can read their own city, by applying for a Smart City, as it is presented on the plans, as a project, in order to then ask themselves “if they would like to live there”.

Paradoxically, it then becomes complex to grasp a universal Smart City because, conversely, it is from the singularity that new questions can arise about this “proposed city” and which, if it is successful, can perfect happiness of the inhabitants or conversely if it misses its objectives, contributing to accentuate the despair of the residents and the intensification of the feeling of unhappy conscience.

It is in benevolence towards future generations that the categorical imperative of the “You must” dear to Emmanuel Kant can arise.[2]. A moral imperative whose expressive form of duty is essential in order to contribute to the achievement of a “good” and “happy” Smart City.

Kant considers that “Man is an animal who, from the moment he lives among other individuals of his species, needs a master. For he undoubtedly abuses his freedom with regard to his fellows; and, although, as a reasonable creature, it wishes a law which limits the freedom of all, its animal inclination to selfishness however incites it to reserve as much as possible a regime of exception for itself . He therefore needs a master who defeats his particular will and forces him to obey to a universally valid will, thanks to which everyone can be free.[3]

The Smart City project cannot only be subject to the power of money, even if this project is necessarily carried by investors. He must also respond – according to Kantian thought – to the imperative of protecting the unborn child. A child raised to the rank of master so that he can be considered as the “universal” referent, of a being to be preserved. And not just any being, but the one who will populate the city of tomorrow and who also carries with it the future of our humanity.

This is why it seems to me that the Smart City is not a project but an intention, the benevolent end of which should be subject to duties. « A characteristic point of the existence of the consciousness which then presents itself to us, is intentionality, the fact that all consciousness is not only consciousness, but also consciousness of something, having a relation to the object.[4] »

It is appropriate for the actors of regional planning to make “inbecome” [5]» this new being, who can both “be himself but also other” in the implication and the application to represent himself – in the future – as himself being the user of this Smart City. Wisdom also consists in saying that this conception of the city of the future remains unfinished because it is not yet, and that the human who thinks it is a being of the “now”, a now which will be only one “Yesterday” or that “past” for future generations.

Article : Laurence Vanin – www.philosophiedelasmartcity.fr – www.laurencevanin.fr


[1] Quote by Olivier Mongin inThe city of flows, Upside down and the place of urban globalization. Globalization from below. Tangled Tales, p. 329.

[2] « Always act in such a way that you regard your reasonable will as establishing universal legislation.»

[3] Booklets on History, Idea of ​​a History froma Cosmopolitical Perspective, Sixth Proposal, Ed. Garnier-Flammarion, Paris, 1990, VIII, 23. p. 77.

[4] Lévinas (1930), The theory of intuition in Husserl’s phenomenology, Paris, Vrin, p. 66.

[5] Derrida (1987), Psyché, Inventions of the Other (tome 1), Paris, Ed : Galilée, p 53. Cf. footnote 58 in that same book.

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