In a classic essay, the anthropologist Anthony C.W. Wallace described the phenomenon of cultural awakenings. Such movements are triggered, he said, by stress. “The mazeways of the culture, the customary patterns of behavior, are blocked. People cannot move into the roles they anticipated; their lives do not unfold in the ways they had been led to expect.”
Under the duress of disintegration, both social and economic, a few creative individuals—Wallace called them “New Lights”—propose a way out. They create new pathways through the maze. At first there is nativist backlash, in which traditionalists urge a return to old ways. But eventually the New Lights prevail. Their ideas are adopted, and the society moves into a new era.
Let’s just call the 2017 Top7, now all arrived in New York, the “New Lights.”
But now it is time to get back home for one year and to get the idea mill generating again. (Next year we will head to London.) It is good to be with our partners in New York, including the Digital Government Society, Silicon Harlem, the New York State Conference of Mayors, the Center for Technology in Government and our friends at the Taiwan, Canadian and Australian Consulates.
“Home cooking,” they call it in sports. Emotionally satisfying stuff.
I expect that this Summit will reveal a new light and a new direction for the movement. We will be talking about the “Internet of Cities” and how we must get going from a “smart city” to an “Intelligent Community.” Cisco’s Ned Cabot, whose work helps accelerate national economies, will share his view.
I define the difference this way:
A smart city has at its heart a device, or a technological invention. Call it broadband or IT. An Intelligent Community has at its heart a soul. And that soul is designed for human joy.
One enables the other.
I am looking forward to celebrating this year’s unique group of seven. Two each from nations as far from each other as you can imagine and one, Moscow, a first for Russia. Only two of this year’s Top7 (Ipswich and Taoyuan) have been at the elite level in our Awards program before. Everyone else is a “rookie.” I am sure you will hear their enthusiasm during the Top7 Conversations. www.icfsummit.com
We will see Suneet Singh Tuli again, and hear how he has advanced with the world’s most affordable tablet. He will give 100 of them to our Institute in Mississippi (USA) and to our partners at Silicon Harlem.
We will also hear again the elegant voice of Montreal’s Harout Chitillian, the charismatic city councilor who accepted the Intelligent Community of the Year Award in Columbus. He will tell us where Montreal has advanced, and how much light it has brought, since that evening at the Columbus Zoo when, with models from Lubna Designs onstage and zebras racing around outside the windows, Montreal captured the prize.
We will visit Staten Island, New York’s often-forgotten borough, where 800,000 souls live and many struggled against the effect of climate change in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. We will ride the famed Ferry to get there. We will also see Harlem, the site of our Plenary, on Thursday. There will be events at Microsoft, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office and the law office of Hogan Lovells.
There will be receptions, and of course the dinner on Manhattan’s stately and chic Upper West Side.
We will hear what the Digital Government Society’s academics specializing in cities have to say at the college of Staten Island.
We promise you, we will not have one session inside an overly air-conditioned, stale-smelling hotel. We believe the Internet of Cities is about cities and the people that make them. So, we will be on the streets and in places most conferences never think about going. We are a living conference, rolling with ideas from every corner of the world.
And we are home. That is where ICF will honor its New Lights this week.