March 22, 2018  |  permalink

New Zealand’s T-Tech Conference & Tech Podcast

I was in Auckland this week as a guest of ITS New Zealand and as the keynote speaker of the T-Tech conference exploring the future of mobility. (To one’s surprise, the Kiwis are away ahead of us.) While I was there, the NZ Tech Podcast host Paul Spain invited me to join him in the studio along with Syndex Exchange’s Mike Jenkins to discuss the conference, Zephyr Airworks’ autonomous electric air taxi, Apple Parental controls, Nest taking on Amazon, and the cold reality of an autonomous Uber killing a pedestrian. It was a great capstone to the trip.

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March 06, 2018  |  permalink

‘Cities-as-a-Service” at the International Builders Show


Back in January, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) invited me to speak at their mammoth annual convention in Orlando, the International Builders Show. As part of their IBS Live education track, I gave a talk titled “Cities-as-a-Service: What Does the On-Demand Economy Mean for Housing?” Running the gamut from dead malls to AVs to co-working and tactical urbanism, I made the case for why the old suburban formula of homes-for-living, office parks-for-working, and malls-for-shopping no longer works anymore. Although the talk is on Vimeo, I’ve password-protected it. Please drop me a line if you’d like to see it.

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February 19, 2018  |  permalink

Wired UK: “Could Uber run the London bus network? It’s complicated”


Wired UK’s Nicole Kobie skeptically considers whether Uber is sincere in its desire to move beyond cars into public transport. “I want to run the bus systems for a city,” says new-ish CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. “I want you to be able to take an Uber and get into the subway… and get out and have an Uber waiting for you.”

Needless to say, I take a dim view of this kind of talk, and Kobie was kind enough to ask me for my thoughts:

Those without transport will welcome anyone who offers them a bus, regardless of whether it’s run by government, a tech firm or a community project, but Uber and its rivals may well prove an existential threat to public transport, says Greg Lindsay, Senior Fellow for mobility at the NewCities think tank. “Uber and other TNCs [transportation network companies] — the others are no more virtuous — have always been about disrupting public transport, about privatising the pieces of public transport that they found profitable and leaving the rest to wither,” he says.

There’s more.

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February 09, 2018  |  permalink

URBAN-X Demo Day

Last night in Brooklyn, URBAN-X hosted its third Demo Day, featuring pitches from nine startups in areas ranging from car-sharing and autonomous vehicle sensors (which you might expect for BMW MINI) to surveillance balloons and sensor-studded constructions cranes (which you might not). An entire livestream of the event is archived above, featuring pre-game commentary by myself, Urban.Us managing partner Shaun Abramson, and URBAN-X program director Miriam Roure, followed by an opening keynote by Zipcar founder Robin Chase. Tune in.

Update: In advance of Demo Day, the URBAN-X team also asked me to guest edit what they delightfully referred to as a “‘zine” spotlighting a few of the teams. A few snaps from its pages are appended below:




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February 07, 2018  |  permalink

Walking in the Street of the Future


Curbed’s Alissa Walker has published an epic history of the rise and fall — and rise again — of walking in America, making the case that sidewalks are too little, too late for our walking needs. I’m honored to be included in the piece as the speculative futurist wondering how new mobility might reclaim streets for people instead of cars:

Instead of a one-size-fits-all equation of lane widths calculated to move cars quickly, with pedestrians pushed off to the side, the definition of a city street will change based on what people need, neighborhood by neighborhood, says Greg Lindsay, director of strategy for the urban mobility festival LACoMotion.

“Streets will become this panoply of different uses,” he says. “What happens when AV sensors get cheap enough that you can put them on tricycles or quadricycles and make the ultimate first-mile/last-mile solution? Maybe you have electric autonomous bicycles that allow seniors to move around the neighborhood. Maybe you’ll hang out in the street of the future.”

Read the entire thing.

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January 29, 2018  |  permalink

“We’re still waiting for a smart city; it hasn’t been created yet.”


Thailand’s Property Report profiled me on the subject of smart cities in Asia. To their credit, they don’t attempt to whitewash the inherent flaws in so-called smart cities and give more than a fair hearing to my own ideas of what a smart city should be. I’ve republished the piece below.

Humankind will make the great crossing from the countryside to urban centres in coming decades. Many will consider themselves lucky to make the move to a so-called smart city.

The notion of living in smart cities has jumped from the drawing board to reality over the last few years. Urban planners are excited about the prospect of urbanites becoming more interconnected than they already are, living in communities packed with sensors and set aside as test labs for the Internet of Everything while digitisation streamlines the very way they lead lives.

Smart cities trigger complex discussions fraught with a myriad of issues ranging from infrastructure to inclusivity. No one could pin down what exactly a smart city is, partly because the concept is so open to interpretation — and because it essentially does not exist yet.

The need for one hangs in the air. As metropolises bloat with over-populace, spewing carbon into the atmosphere and suffering from vestigial inefficiencies of the last century, urban planners and technocrats have agreed that redefining the very fabric of a city is of the essence.

“You need a smart city because, ultimately, there are ways we can enhance the fundamental nature of the city,” said Greg Lindsay of the New Cities Foundation. “We can use technology to make cities better versions of themselves if it’s all about connecting people and systems that were otherwise unconnected, and yet giving people the agency to change them and to use them.”

As leader of the nonprofit’s Connected Mobility Initiative, Lindsay has borne witness to the rise and fall of smart city initiatives around the world. In his 2011 book Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next, Lindsay studied the critical intersections between smart infrastructure and smart cities.

“It was really about air travel. It was what really invented the modern world,” he argued. “It allowed people to act on a global scale within the span of a day or two. Sooner or later, it seemed inevitable that, as with all transportation technology, people would build cities around it.”

Early on, the city of Songdo in South Korea testified to the transformative effects an airport could have on adjacent areas. Built on a 600-hectare reclaimed land parcel outside Seoul, Songdo thrived on its direct link, by way of a seven-mile bridge, to Incheon International Airport, in the same way outlying islands in Hong Kong benefited from the USD20-billion transfer of its old airport in the 2000s.

Lindsay has followed the plight of Songdo in its ultimately disappointing bid to become the world’s first smart city. “The general perception of Songdo after an incredible hype cycle has now descended down into this trough of disillusionment,” he said.

Songdo has failed to measure up to the titanic expectations of being “first.” The USD-40 billion project has made a comfortable home for as many as 100,000, but the figure represents less than half of its capacity, and many of the heralded smarts have yet to pass.

“I don’t think there’s anywhere we could actually point to and say, ‘This is what a smart city is,’” Lindsay said. “We’re still waiting for the best example. It hasn’t been created yet.”

Still, it is likely that a real smart city will burst forth in Asia first, on the rock-solid foundation of an existing, evolving city. Singapore, in Lindsay’s opinion, seems to be leading the way, raising the bar when it comes to giving citizens opportunities to engage directly with government. As does Dubai: housing authorities in the emirate made headlines late last year when they announced lavish investments in blockchain technology, cryptocurrency payments, and drone technology.

While all these advancements tickle futurists, the ‘holy grail’ of smart cities would be to be able to distribute planning decisions to each and every citizen, Lindsay explained. This then raises the question as to whether smart cities can ever be inclusive by their very nature. Critics of the movement lament that smart cities only benefit certain segments of the body politic; somebody somewhere is always left behind in the race toward becoming Smart.

“You can’t run a fully participatory digital democracy because you can’t assume that everyone has a smartphone,” Lindsay said. “It’s very easy to be incredibly innovative if you’re willing to write off portions of the population.”

The fundamentals of smartening an existing city sooner or later require investing in leading-edge technology, an act anathema to poorer economies. Smart technology, in many ways, is designed to dovetail easily with societies that have reached higher rungs of advancement and connectivity.

Before applying smart tech at the grassroots level, an urban planner must engage first with the social context of a city and understand issues endemic to it. Alongside governments, property developers must be aware of their mandate to leverage technology and refine experiences for people in their localities.

“It’s just a question of how do you layer value and add new uses on top of the already great places we’re developing,” said Lindsay.

Smart cities may have that rarefied feel with thorny barriers to entry but in 2016, the world gained a glimpse of the infinite possibilities the majority could have in a smart city. Pokemon Go, a gaming app which conflates the popular ’90s cartoon characters with the ultra-modern trappings of augmented reality, exploded across mobile screens worldwide. It gave people a simulacrum of connectivity that cuts across multiple tiers of the economic situation.

“For a brief, blinding moment it was the most successful smart city app ever developed,” Lindsay said. “It was taking groups of strangers, of all backgrounds and ethnicities, on city street corners and making them stop and take selfies together. It was a flash in the pan, but it really points to what we can do from the concept of games and how these kinds of things to really unlock the value of cities.”

So what will cities of the future look like? They will not spring out of nowhere like Songdo for certain, he suggested. “The cities that we have and that we know and love are the result of decades, centuries, thousands of years of many, many hands building and rebuilding spaces that people love at a visceral level.

“And there is nothing that a single developer or technology can do in a single cycle that can really replicate that.”

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January 24, 2018  |  permalink

Curating reSITE 2018

I’m excited to announce I’ve been invited to curate reSITE 2018 in Prague on June 14-15. If you’re not familiar with reSITE, it’s a non-profit series of events devoted to the future of cities, whose tentpole conference in Prague attracts more than a thousand participants from around the world. I had the pleasure of speaking at both the 2013 and 2015 editions (pictured above), where recent themes have included the “shared city,” infrastructure, and the global refugee crisis.

Given its uncanny topicality, it should be no surprise that this year’s theme is the future of housing. More from the official reSITE 2018 press release below:

Is it time to reconsider what a better city looks like? The tide has clearly lifted all boats over the last two decades of urban development, yet gentrification, rising costs of living and inequality pose considerable challenges for city leaders, investors, planners and architects to design a city that works for everyone.

“The convergence of housing and quality of life in the city will define this year’s work and events for reSITE. We will explore new forms of housing, check out the cost of living and identify cultural and architecture projects that enhance our lifestyle. I’m really excited to change the format this year with a new program curator, Greg Lindsay, who will help us see new ways of living and working in the city – a sort of theory of relativity for the positive impacts that may arise at the intersection of change, tradition and new thinking.” – Martin Barry, Chairman of reSITE

“I’m honored to join reSITE as guest curator after having had the pleasure of watching it evolve as a speaker and attendee since 2013. I’m also humbled to tackle the biggest issue cities face: where and how people live, and how to do it fairly, equitably, and sustainably. The right to the city begins with housing, and so that’s where the theme of reSITE 2018 begins,” explains the new program curator of the event Greg Lindsay, a writer, journalist and urbanist.


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January 24, 2018  |  permalink

Autonomous Everything Livestream & Recap


What happens when you convene 25 architects, designers, public policy experts, aides to both the Mayor of New York and the Governor of New York, and futurists with the brief to imagine a world of autonomous stuff and not just cars? You get five strange and exhilarating scenarios ranging from autonomous libraries to an anonymous ride-hailing service for undocumented migrants living and working in the suburbs to the winning entry (as judged by an audience of more than 100+ attendees): “Liquid Transit,” a wholly dynamic bus network first deployed in the wake of a Hurricane Sandy-style disaster.

The workshop was organized by Dash Marshall’s Brian Boyer, who invited me to a similar workshop last year run on behalf of Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute. (That installment was co-organized by Bits and Atoms’ Anthony Townsend, who wasn’t present this time around.) A partial roster of all-star attendees included Women-Led Cities’ Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman, Gensler’s Richard Tyson, Intersection’s Jeff Maki, Project for Public Spaces’ Ethan Kent, Arup’s Francesca Birks, the Regional Plan Association’s Manu Sen, and many more.

The day was capped by a public presentation moderated by Citylab’s Laura Bliss (pictured above), which included by pitches from members of each team drafting their scenarios. You can watch the archived Facebook Live stream here. (Unfortunately, I can’t embed it.)

If there’s one lesson to draw from the exercise, it’s that the central premise of autonomy — that it will be used to move people from point A to point B, usually in cars — is fundamentally wrong. Throughout multiple rounds of brainstorming and discussion, participants kept coming back to the idea of autonomy being applied to resources and institutions as a stopgap to help deal with failing pubic services. Instead of autonomous cars, we talked about autonomous hospitals or medical clinics deployed to communities whose residents used it to treat themselves. We discussed how shadow transportation networks might arise in response to pervasive surveillance and persecution, and how those networks might steer people toward communities and resources. And we talked about everything except the technology.

I’d like to thank Bryan Boyer, Anthony Townsend, Micah Kotch, Miriam Roure, Laura Bliss, and URBAN-X and Citylab for an amazing day. Let’s do this again some time. (Pictured below: Savinien Caracostea’s rendering of the winning scenario, “Liquid Transit.”)


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January 22, 2018  |  permalink

LA CoMotion Recap with ‘The Augmented City’ Podcast


The Augmented City podcast’s John du Pre Gauntt sat down with me in November to recap the inaugural edition of LA CoMotion. (Note: we both sound utterly exhausted after four exhilarating days.) Please click through to give it a listen. And get ready: LA CoMotion will return to the Arts District of Los Angeles on Nov. 15-18. See you there.

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January 04, 2018  |  permalink

Where the Robot Meets the Road: Autonomous Everything


If you’re free in New York on January 23rd, please join us at A/D/O in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (29 Norman) for Where the Robot Meets the Road: Autonomous Everything, the second installment in a series of URBAN-X events on the future of autonomous vehicles and infrastructure and how they will change the design and function of cities. Description and registration link below:

For 75 years, visions of autonomous urban systems have revolved around the self-driving car. But while AVs remain just over the commercially available horizon, autonomous stuff is already here: delivery bots on the sidewalks of London and San Francisco, a self-driving convenience store in Shanghai, and drones delivering blood to Swiss hospitals.

Anthony Townsend, Bryan Boyer and Greg Lindsay will host an interactive debate where provocative scenarios will be discussed, voted and proposed. This event will come after an afternoon closed-doors workshop with experts across disciplines including urban planning, technology, policy, and real estate, who will also be participating in this session.

How can autonomous systems help solve existing challenges for cities, rather than provide solutions to non-existent problems? Join the discussion.

Free registration here.

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About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

» More about Greg Lindsay

Articles by Greg Lindsay

Fast Company  |  March 2020

How to design a smart city that’s built on empowerment—not corporate surveillance

URBAN-X  |  December 2019


CityLab  |  December 10, 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility in San Francisco, Boston, and Detroit

Harvard Business Review  |  September 24, 2018

Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

CityLab  |  July 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility + U.S. Cities

Medium  |  May 1, 2017

The Engine Room

Fast Company  |  January 19, 2017

The Collaboration Software That’s Rejuvenating The Young Global Leaders Of Davos

The Guardian  |  January 13, 2017

What If Uber Kills Public Transport Instead of Cars

Backchannel  |  January 4, 2017

The Office of the Future Is…an Office

New Cities Foundation  |  October 2016

Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

Inc.  |  October 2016

Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

Popular Mechanics  |  May 11, 2016

Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?

The New Republic  |  January/February 2016

Hacking The City

Fast Company  |  September 22, 2015

We Spent Two Weeks Wearing Employee Trackers: Here’s What We Learned

Fast Company  |  September 21, 2015

HR Meets Data: How Your Boss Will Monitor You To Create The Quantified Workplace

Inc.  |  March 2015

Which Contacts Should You Keep in Touch With? Let This Software Tell You

Inc.  |  March 2015

5 Global Cities of the Future

Global Solution Networks  |  December 2014

Cities on the Move

Medium  |  November 2014

Engineering Serendipity

New York University  |  October 2014

Sin City vs. SimCity

» See all articles


March 31, 2020

NewCities: When a Pandemic Goes Viral

March 31, 2020

The CoMotion Podcast Returns

March 09, 2020

What happens to the gig workers first eventually happens to the rest of us.

March 08, 2020

How to design a smart city that’s built on empowerment—not corporate surveillance

» More blog posts