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October 4, 2016

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India's Monstrous Silicon Valley

Using the tragic forecast within Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' story, the Frankencities Project details the worst-case scenarios of the futures of real world cities worldwide. This month, we highlight the future of the Indian city of Bangalore.


Bangalore is one of the largest cities in India, and is sometimes called ‘India’s Silicon Valley’ for all its various info-tech industries. Bangalore’s densely-packed overflowing chaotic form means the city authorities cannot really keep tabs on how many people there are within it but ten million is a good guess—with perhaps an extra five hundred people arriving every day by rail, by bus or by walking. 


To say Bangalore is a city of contrasts is an understatement. As well as high-tech companies and wealthy technopreneurs, there are tens of thousands of people living in slums and tens of thousands of people living in slavery as indentured laborers. In some areas, glamorous high-rise towers dominate the scenery, whilst other areas comprise squalid shanty towns.


The current Indian government is curetly on a drive to make a number of brand new shiny ‘smart cities’ or ‘infotech hubs’ around the nation, including some more within and around the city of Bangalore.


Fast-forward to the future scenario depicted here: Bangalore later this century, where a ‘Smart City within a Smart City’ has emerged.



This ‘Smart City within a Smart City’ will go by many monikers, none of them very original: The City of the Future, India’s Smartest City, or as Bangalore’s 21st Century InfoTech class like to call it: Itopia.


To build Itopia, India’s InfoTech corporations work together in league with Bangalore’s real estate moguls and construction companies, to clear away slums and nature areas, so as to build their ten square mile InfoTech paradise.


It is then populated it with happy IT professionals that get to live and work in a hyper-clean setting and who commute on uncrowded streets in futuristic self-driven solar-powered cars.


Really, this Bangalore Smart City is not much more than a pristine gated-community for technology professionals but like other techno-vanity megaprojects around the nation, Itopia will be promoted as being for ALL India.


Of course, Itopia will need some I-security features to keep out the poor of Bangalore, so the roads and infrastructure don’t get all jammed up, and so Itopians can work productively in peace and tranquility.


Building Itopia won’t just happen because of a few ideas put forward by visionaries, though. It will be a massively expensive proposition for both public bodies and for the private companies involved. There will, however, be generous financial incentives offered to private companies to invest in Itopia, including tax-breaks, free state-built infrastructure, and favorable land laws.


Apart from all the new inventions and commerce, another reason for the Indian state to offer support for Itopia will be because it will be Green.


Not just any kind of Green, mind you, it will be Smart Green. For example:


    --smart windows will open and close automatically depending upon the prevailing weather conditions. If it’s too hot outside, the windows will close. If it’s breezy outside, they will open. If the sun is shining brightly, the windows will detect this and become more opaque to keep the Itopians nice and cool inside. 


    --smart fridges connected to smart cookers will burn just the right amount of gas to make Itopians their favorite dish just the way they like it, though maybe with a bit more added Vitamin B if their smart toothbrush detected that it was lacking in their body this morning.


    --smart trash systems suck domestic waste through underground chutes where it is automatically sorted and recycled, buried, or burned for fuel. These chutes are connected to all apartment buildings and offices. Consequently, there are no untidy street-corner trash cans or noisy garbage trucks needed.  -smart toilets in Itopia knows all about your toilet habits and it’ll use the exact right amount of water, not a drop more, to flush it away.


    --smart sewers will ensure waste-water in Itopia will hurtle through pipes to recycling plants at 100 miles per hour; faster than the average Indian train. The pipes will filter what passes through them, so as to divert recyclable elements back to a food production system. Initially, the smart sewers also send nitrates and phosphates off to fertilize pretty Itopian gardens but over time the infotechies decide they’re not that interested in gardens so much and so they start building even more smart high-tech buildings on top of them.
    --smart eco-security will monitor potential environmental transgressions and alert Bangalore’s Green cops to take care of the perpetrators,  -smart traffic lights will monitor the city’s self-driving cars and send them along the ideal route, -smart parking deploys sensors around the city to monitor when spaces are opening up, and guides cars to the best spot along the most fuel-efficient route.


All of this is very 'utopian' for those living within Itopia but for those outside, it’s another story, since: 


a) many Bangalore slum-dwellers don’t have any kind of toilet; let alone a smart one. They are often forced to defecate into a bag then fling it into the alleys—so called ‘flying toilets’.


b) most Bangalore people don’t have a car, let alone a self-driven one. They move around the city on foot or by bicycle, both far more ecofriendly than smart cars but nevertheless far more dangerous because of all the motorized traffic to contend with.


c) many Bangalore dwellers don’t have regular access to electricity, nor plumbing, nor a sewage system, nor education or training. And for sure, none of these people could ever afford to live in Itopia. Once upon a time, they might have got unskilled jobs to do some cleaning or recycling for an InfoTech company but by the start of the mid 21st century century, Itopia is so smart that even these jobs are taken over by IT robots.


d) when the Indian government in the past has decided to build any kind of new urban technoproject, it usually involves kicking the poor out of some place and knocking down their houses. This same pattern will likely be the same fate of those that have to make way for Itopia.



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