Smart Cities Or Wise Cities?

Smart cities, smart politicians, smart leaders, smart writers, smart journalists, smart policy makers, smart planners, smart consultants, smart authors, smart… people.

When most people use the word “smart” in civic life they are really saying some person: has technocratic or corporate efficiency, or has skillful rhetoric regardless of logic or ethics, or has an exemplary command of status quo worldview. When these so called “smart” people let society down people don’t often ask why. The reason why is that we praise what is “smart” rather than debate what is “smart” and debate who defines what is “smart”, all of which distracts us from asking, “what is wise?”


2 responses to “Smart Cities Or Wise Cities?”

  1. I do prefer “wise”. Smart can be fleeting and fashionable. The “smart” person is often the one attuned to what is currently defined as valuable. Wisdom assumes varied experience over time, hypotheses tested, lessons learned. Maybe most importantly, wisdom seems to imply that one has seen choices made, experienced the outcomes of those choices, and is able to make determinations on the successfulness of those choices. 

    1. Ed, and the point about currency of smartness being overvalued also connects to (often business-centered) assumptions that wisdom is too slow. A false dichotomy has been set up between fast and slow in terms of smarts and wisdom. Right now I’m thinking about how efficient and effective wise people work, which often makes conventional “smart” people upset because they over value action without reflection and are always willing to re-do things many times and spin their wheels not getting that far, rather than iterate with increasing impact. To bust this cycle I’m interested in Agile methods combined with wisdom traditions, or to put it another way, I’m finding that Agile methods can be skillful means for wise practices in these lean and fast changing times. Somehow this type of Agility needs to be distinguished.