I've recently published a book called 'Twenty Minutes in Manhattan' which is a sort of summary of my thoughts about the city over the years, it's a book that takes the form of A description of a walk I've taken every day for about twenty five years, from my apartment to my architectural studio and in those few blocks I think it covers a lot of territory. Well I've written a lot of books, I'm very much focused on New York and I began to think about this book many years ago because I walk from my apartment to my studio and it's a contemplative time. You know there's something reflective about the repetitive quality of walking, and of course doing this year after year a great opportunity to observe changes in the city, different kinds of encounter in the street, so I began to write about the walk. So it became and armature for writing a book that's not only about the walk but about New York City and cities in general.
My apartment for the last I think twenty five years is in Greenwich Village, legendarily quasi-Bohemian district in New York City. I live quite near Washington square which is the central landmark and social space of the village, also the centre of the NYU campus and at the time I began taking this long walk I had a studio in Tribeca which is maybe thirty blocks further downtown, another groovy gentrified neighbourhood although not quite so gentrified then as it is now and as I say I had been taking this walk for something close to twenty five years, the book was delayed by a couple of incidence; first was 9/11 of course, which disrupted ones thinking about everything, one had to pause and I did a couple of books about that, was very engaged in the debates about rebuilding, and then seven years ago we were gentrified out of our studio in Tribeca which was converted into condos so I moved a little bit uptown. We are now in a neighbourhood that's seeking its identity, it's trying to call itself Hudson Square but it is the neighbourhood immediately to the west of Soho. Its half again as close to the apartment so that very much modified the rhythm of the walk and the territories through which I pass and there's of course when you take a walk, there's a kind of a decision tree about routes so in the interest of variety I often take different streets this is also influenced by sites that I want to pass, places of construction, we have a very unevenly planted city so in the summer time if you are looking to walk continuously along shaded streets a certain amount of environmental logic, in chasing after shade and shadow, is required. As I say like many New York I am a great sidewalk superintendent, so I'm drawn to construction sited, there are certain cheery news dealers that I like to wave to; Henry the dry cleaner is always the kind of happy moment in the course of the walk. There are certain places where coffee and snacks are available that sometimes prove irresistible but anybody who walks regularly knows that one is tugged by influences both positive and negative and so it eventually turned into a book. For those who are involved in long term creative processes you know that there is always one child that is difficult and there is no real reason for it, it took me a long time to produce this book I probably produced at least half a dozen others during the period, as well as other kinds of projects but finally it got done, now it is what it is. The book is a dilation about urbanism and architecture and cities and the relationships there of, so the chapters are organised in terms of the phases as it were of the walk. So, the first chapter, which is in fact the longest, is about going down stairs.
So this gives me an opportunity to talk about the way in which small physical details of architecture somehow aggregate to make urban and social circumstances, so we talk about the stairs we talk about the nature of lobbies and vestibules, we talk about the difference between New York City apartments of the nineteenth century and Viennese and Parisian ones, a history of the tenement legislation I live in a building that is a so called old law tenement and you know there's a whole embedded history of the way in which social ameliorationramifies in architectural space and the tenement laws and the zoning laws and the laws regulating health and hygiene in buildings is something that the stairs give me an occasion to reflect on, but also some speculation about comfortable tread to riser ratios, the way in which neighbourliness is produced within a small community like an apartment building and for the rest you'll have to read the book. The walk takes me down the block across Washington square through a couple of different streets in the village, along the main street if Soho and finally into Tribeca, so gentrification is clearly one of the big issues, as you may know Soho is a in many ways the 'locus classicus' for out of control gentrification, so over the years, and I lived in Soho before I lived in the village long before I had the current walk.
Over the years I have been able to watch the trajectory from the decline of the industrial economy to the rediscovery of the spaces by artists, to the arrival of the galleries to their displacement by the boutiques and to the disappearance of the artists, since the lawyers and arbitraries moved in as well as various forms of resistance and fight back that took place over the years. I think I tried to make the point that gentrification is a mixed bag to the degree that it eliminated choices and disturbs variety it's a bad thing, to the degree that beautiful parts of the city are recuperated for new uses its good thing, maybe under another name. The book definitely has a mews who is Jane Jacobs 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities' has been formative for lots of us in the way we think about urbanism and New York in Particular and she was also a denizen of more or less the same neighbourhood, my initial studio was on Hudson Street at 145 and Jane legendarily lived further uptown at 555 Hudson Street.
Which is more or less on the same latitude as my apartment; so the book is also an occasion to reflect on her legacy, and the nature of her analysis, and the kind of struggles that she engaged in, many of which are coming back and repeating themselves in different form in the village of today. The problems of gentrification recur in city after city and they are economic problems, fundamentally, so inorder to deal with gentrification one needs not modifications in the architectural environment but modifications in the social, legal and economic environments, so one of the points of discussion in the book is the history of the rent regulations in New York City. We have a couple of tiers of regulation here all of which originated in the second world war in order to protect standing tenants and to control prices and this infrastructure of regulation is still a very vital part of New York. Its certainly one of the reasons that the village retains what character of diversity it maintains today is that the rent regulations are still enforced in a large number of buildings. I talk about my apartment building which I think has a dozen apartments and virtually all of them were under some form of rent regulation when we moved in twenty five years ago, now most of them are not and I've been able to see the way in which the character of the building has changed and the way in which the history of the community is very much embedded in the possibility for those human artifacts of ourhistory to remain embedded in place.So we have one woman in the building who is abit older than I am who was actually born in the building probably sometime in the 1930s. A wonderful person who works for a progressive feminist political organisation, you know gives her time against almost no salary, is a model citizen in every way and one of the things I discuss is that it seems to me very apt that because she is so serving the public good that she be recipient of the privilege of this regulated rent and indeed if the market simply takes over.
As we have seen in the last twenty years in the great real estate bubble diversity is the victim, you know Manhattan is, there is a little pause at the moments during this period of economic difficulty but we are certainly running on a breakneck course to becoming in essence the largest gated community on the planet. It is a place that once hospitable to immigrants and strives is now increasingly hostel to people who need marginal circumstances in order to be able to live, so I am very much in favour of intervention in themarket by the public sector in order to accomplish certain social goals, as it is historically done, we tend, republican types tend to react strongly against these subsidies but part of the historic pattern of the development of the American city of course is that giant subsidies that were given to the suburbs, these subsidies came in the form of cheap FHA financing especially for veterans, in the construction of the interstate highways, in the accelerated taxed depreciation for commercial properties and in fact the disproportionate investment in infrastructure that characterises the suburbs. Very much more expensive to run a sewer line at low density than at high density, so we have chosen a preferred pattern of settlement and subsidised it up the wazoo, so I am arguing in the book that now that we are green, now that we are thinking about sustainability, now that we value cities in ways that we might not have forty years ago this is an appropriate direction for federal subsidy. I was a little disturbed about the Obama stimulus package, although I guess I'm as Keynesian as the next [unknown] urbanist, because it was directed at what he was calling shovel ready projects and what that effectively has done, and I think the spending to date although inadequate illustrates this, is to concentrate on the repair of old systems, so highways and roadways are very much privileged mass transit not, this I think is unfortunate and again I will argue that I think the direction of public moneys to the creation of environments that are both sociable and sustainable should be a very high priority and I argue it indifferent ways in the book. When you call yourself an architect I don't think you renounce the title of citizen so architects with their special knowledge I think have an expert role in terms of the behaviour of an enlightened citizen, of course architects should also advocate for different kinds of formal arrangements within cities and one of the things I discuss is the fact that a couple of instances, that in the nineteenth century when there was this very broad movement for housing reform which resulted in the tenement laws, there were a number of competitions looking for architectural models for successor buildings to the tenement's to the Jerry built lightless unsanitary dwellings in which millions were living at that point and I think architects played a very useful role in demonstrating what a more sanitary, more sociableenvironment might be. Another nice instance of the way in which architects fleshed out in effect social legislation is the 1916 zoning law in New York City, this was something that was essentially caused by the construction of a single building and was the Equitable building in lower Manhattan on Pine Street, and this was an office tower and it rose six hundred feet I think, straight from the sidewalk and cast an enormous shadow to the area to the north and people were shocked by this and the New York City bulk zoning law, like a classic initial instance of this zoning legislation was developed in reaction to this and it was a law that was very much about defending the public realm which is to say streets and sidewalks from the depredations of these over scaled buildings which cast public space into darkness so the result was this piece of legislation that was all about setbacks and solar exposure essentially but it was an intellectual construct and nobody really knew what kind of building this would result in until the great Hugh Ferriss you know the finest draftsmen in the twenty first century did a series of studies about ways in which this bulk regulation could be translated into architectural form, beautiful images and important because they showed that law could achieve variegated consequences that it was not about a uniformity,it was about a series of differences that could be investigated by architects, expressed in a variety of ways so I mean that was a tremendous contribution. I do think that architects and planners have a role in terms of raising expectations, in terms of making propaganda for better alternatives, in terms of refusing commissions and collaborations with evil projects as well as their role as being in the forefront of the production of knowledge that citizens needed in order to respond intelligently to of right if crisis. There is an endless debate about the modernist city vs the organic city, the idea that planning is by definition oppressive top down one dimensional and that the kind of city celebrated by Jane Jacobs can only emerge organically in the historic circumstances and as the result of a million individual decisions made by empowered citizens living in tractablecommunity, I think this is a little bit black and white and certainly something of concern to me and anybody else who thinks about the future of the planet is the fact that we're are urbanising at the rate of about a million people a week and there is no way in which this can be successfully achieved organically, which is to say the characteristic projects of the twentieth and twenty first century urbanism or the characteristic forms, which are mega cities, slums and sprawl, these are unsustainable forms of urban practice. So I am somebody who very much believes that we need new cities, we probably need one a week, whether these are like the pearl and the oyster achieved by the grain of sand that irritating some existing circumstance.
Or whether they are planned from scratch, we nevertheless need them, the only antidote to the endless growth of existing cities, is new cities. So I am sort of on both sides of this issues, I am very much in favour of planning, I think we need to think about new cities, I think we need to conserve old cities and one of the useful aspects of J Jacobs work is that she gives a whole series of criteria which are not simply applicable to historical circumstances but which can become criteria from thinking about the way we design new cities the way we intervene in spaces that are quite unlike Greenwich village. So obviously its problematic, modernism did not come up with successful urban strategies by an large and part of the problem was that modernist planning ideology was focused on the idea that architecture was going to be complicit in this great project of creating the universal human subject, that it was a reductive matter and that what meant was that we would all be equal in the sense that being the same, well I think we have all woken up and smelled the bacon about totalitarian nature of fighting for this kind of uniformity, we now value difference much more and the big question is, in an era in which we need to do massive urban construction and in which culture is being simultaneously globalised what will be the sources of difference both morphologically and what would be the sources of difference in the way that cities are structured to accommodate what is not a uniform public but a set of multiple publics, I think getting back to the question of the role of architects and planners, that puts a premium on the creativity because if culture is not going to provide us the keys to difference then maybe art will have to begin to take the lead, so I think that it is very important for architects and designers and planners to be the instigators of difference in urban form, to leave questions open about the design of cities, this has always been theproblem of utopia, is that its proposing a conclusion already reached. You know part of the genius of cities and democracies of course is that questions are always open. The great urbanist Henri Lefebvre you know influential certainly in my generation and lots of other urbanists was very insistent about a right to the city which can be understood I think in two ways; the obvious and less important way is that a city should be accessible, you know that people should be able to roam the city in freedom, have access to its pleasures and its different quarters.
But the most important part of this idea of the right to the city is the idea that people have a right to recreate the city in terms of their own dreams and fantasies and the city must yield to the fact that there are widespread disagreements about what's best, that there are as I say these very various publics and compatibly of individual tastes and needs and the good city is one that accommodates both agreement and compacts, as well as disputation and arguments. So, the process of creating the city is an endless one, I mean cities don't reach an omega point, they keep differentiating. One of the obvious ramifications of gentrification on the good side is that in Soho those buildings which had been used as sweatshops became used for studio's and small scale research establishments and residences and the city assumed a new but very relevant kind of variety and this is something that we have to struggle for as architects designers as well as citizens. We do need to defend ourselves against the ravages of top down planning. Sometimes it works when the people or the agencies at the top share our views. Democracies is obviously helpful in ensuring that we get responsible public officials and responsive planning agents but it needs to be embedded deep within the body of practice and legislation that we have rights to shape our own environments. New York City is always a useful case study, here the process is essentiallyand this our plutocratic administration where the reinforces this that much initiative is in private hands and citizens are able to express their rights in reactions by protesting by trying to stop things from happening, this happened at ground zero this is in the process of happening in the giant Atlantic yards development in Brooklyn when they finally get around to reviving the huge project on the west side rail yards, when the economy pics up the same thing will happen would be a little more useful if we as citizens could intervene earlier in the process, obviously if the governing idea is that private capital should be unencumbered in the expression of its rights, this is very problematic. On the other hand if private capital must work in accord and in conversation with the public interest then more interestingpossibilities are opened up, there was a charter revision in the New York City a number of years ago, the New York City charter being the governing document in the way in the which governance happens, which created a series of community planning boards, the idea was that each of these districts would be given power to plan its own future and there was also an instrument created, the so called 197A plan, which allowed community districts, community planning boards, to create plans for their own future development. A number of these plans were made, many of them excellent, many of them filled with exactly the kind of intentions one would hope, the problem is that these have absolutely no legal force so they are effectively recommendations that communities are able to make to the city planning department or to the municipality or to the city council, but they then depend on the good will of this in higher positions of authority to be implemented. So one of the things we are working on in the non-profit side of my studio is a counter proposal for an area that is under heavy redevelopment pressure. This is an area calledManhattanville and Columbia university is undertaking a hugeexpansion. The nature of their expansion and I certainly am all in favour of universities being at the core of our culture and economy but the nature of the plan that they are undertaking contravenes in many ways culminations of the 197A plans that was developed by that local community and in one of the more ludicrous moments in the history of governmental waffling, the city council simultaneously approved the Columbia plan and the 197A plan which are diametrically opposed to each another.
So the kind of ludicrous impotence of this planning process which was set in place to empower people is evidenced time and time again as the interests of development win out over the interests of community cohesion, lower scale activities, sustainability and so on and so forth, so obviously one way to assure that this top down planning doesn't happen is to introduce some bottom up planning into the process as well. I don't think one should exclude the other, I'm all in favour of vision and in my, I'm a 60s person and in my student days when we were wearing mow jackets and waving the little red book we thought that what we should do as architects was simply to channel the inevitable wisdom of the people who were all wise and knew exactly what they wanted. I have come to have another view, I think that people should rule but I think people should be given the same opportunity that the rich have in interacting with architects and planners which is to be clients, to express their demands and have professionals then translate them into form and then come back to them to carry on the conversation until a kind of mutually agreeable standard or plan is reached. I think as I said before that architects and planners have a huge responsibility in terms of raising expectations, in terms of showing possibility's that people who are perhaps not trained might not come up with, I think there is a value in our education, there is a value in the fact that we are passionate for the environment and I think sharing this rather than imposing it is the way to go but it still means that the people, which is to sayeverybody has to be equally authorised to enjoy this right to the city, this right to the possibility of realising their own dreams and fantasies which might change from week to week within the sphere of theirdaily lives. The issue of preservation is a very important one in New York City for gamut of reasons. First, we are now recognising ourselves after several hundred years as a historic city and this kind of crude Schumpeter creative destruction idea of what the genius of New York is the kind of propaganda you hear fromRem Koolhaas and his gun of Ilk is something that we need to move beyond, I am somebody who believes that cities in their particularity generate morphology that reach a kind of perfection, so the stepped back skyscrapers from the 1920s or the brownstone rows of Brooklyn or the way in which the cliffs of apartment buildings line beautiful perimeters like Central Park or Riverside drive, these are effectively perfect places, and I think once these kinds of compacts, these kinds of climaxes if you will, are reached, then it is important that we be able to preserve them and many people appose historic preservation from the kind of capitalist side because it is a taking it is interference with property rights I am prepared to dismiss this quickly because those aren't my politics.
On the other hand, preservation is often the effective stalking horse or cover for the gentrification which is to say it fixes and environment physically preventing not simply architectural transformation but social transformation, preservation is often deployed as a force for preserving socialprivilege and not simply architectural privilege. On the other hand, given what I've said about the reactive nature of citizen participation in planning, preservation is one of the tools that is available, the preservation laws. So, this is one of the ways in which there is an agreed upon methodology or route to stop development from taking place, we argue for preservation. The irony at the core of preservation of course is it's like the neutron bomb it's the buildings are saved but the people be damned. So what I was saying earlier about my feeling that the rent regulations are very important I think they can be easily analgised to architectural preservation so if you think that buildings have in effect the right to remain after they reach a certain age or tenure after they reach a certain kind of formal character I think people have the same rights, or should have and the rent laws are very much like the preservation laws in that somebody in theory suffers economically, you know the landlord, the developer, in order to preserve the rights of a structure or a person that we value more than a developers rights to make a killing. Cities are very complicatedorganisms and they are changing all the time in many different ways. You know as I walk my route every day I have had the opportunity to observe all sorts of different changes some of them positive some of them negative, you know in the early days of Soho when dereliction was being replaced by diversity and liveliness this was a great change. I increasingly observe as areas that had primarily been given over to the kinds of manufacturers that we no longer sustain in this city , that when these areas go over to more residential areas childrenbegin to appear and this is healthy sign in the city, I am not sure that children and there are children. There are children in McLaren baby prams with Filipino nannies, I am not sure whether this is a bad class of kid, better to have street kids running freely on the walls of the Richard Myer buildings. Still the efflorescence of family culture and dogs and all the scenes of domesticity that now pervade formally manufacturing or eight hour a day kind of places, I generally feel pretty positive about this. I am also somebody who reallybelieves that one of the cities, one of the things cities should do is to provide the best possible infrastructure at every level for citizens, so I am so cheered whenever I see a steal curb replaced by a granite one, it makes my day. We now have a pretty progressive transportation commission here in New York City so something that we have been able to see in the last few years Is a proliferation of bike lanes, you know streets are the largest area of publicly shared property in most cities and one of the first projects of the twenty first century is to get beyond the automotive monoculture that so fouls the viability and liveability of cities so its great to see h bike lanes appear its great to see small parks spruce up, all this I think is very positive and very positive in a general way for all the citizens of the cities.
One of things that's happening in New York and I went to a meeting the other day of the local carnation is that under thegeneral suspicion of government that's been so vigorously promoted by everybody since Regan who is the arch fiend in this piece in many ways. Government has been retreated from many of its constructive rolls and the place of governmenthas been in many instances filled by private organisations, some of them voluntary some of them not and one of the most common in New York City is the so called business improvement district and what this is a system by which the businesses in a neighbourhood get together and tax themselves and perform municipal improvements that might otherwise have been the responsibility of the city, well good to see the improvements right nobody can gain say tree planting or street furniture or something like that the problem is I think with these places Is that they institutionalise the retreat of governmentfrom its proper role and that they are very differentially engaged,. Business improvement districts take place principle in environments in which businesses are vigorous, so you see much better improvements around Grand Central station and Soho than you might in some place in Harlem here the businesses are not in some place to tie an association that is going to undertake these improvements so to the degree that they contribute to an inegalitarian development in the city, I think these institutions are pernicious and the worst of them effectively have private police forces, try to keep the homeless out of site, beat people up, the more benign do keep the streets clean and as I say plant the trees, but it's another front in this battle about the way in which the publics responsibility and the publics power over its collective spaces is an object of contestation and struggle. New York is a citythat is changing you know we are changing both on the bases of the cycles of consciousness and the economic cycles. The mayor and his folks are predicting that we are going to grow by about a million in about the next fifteen years, I mean I don't know whether this is a policy to be encouraged, we are now at about eight point two, and they are planning for a population of nine million in change withing the five boroughs, not within the region which is tens of millions. So we need to plan for that but the most hopeful developmentto me in terms both of the politics of public agreement as well as the instrumentalities for planning and design is the growing awareness of the environmental crisis and the mayor and his taskforce have produced a plan for New York City 2030 which is although couched in a lot of generalisations is very invested in a greener more sustainable city. There are a number of public officials, I mentioned the transportation commissioner who are very invested in this idea that the city must become more sustained. I am deeply engaged in this myself and Terreform the non for profit that I run I am looking to the left side of my office for the non-profit I am looking to my right as is the technically for profit.
The big project that Terreform is doing we have been underway for a couple of years, we have probably got another year to run, is an alternative, master plan, you should forgive the expression, for New York City, that is based on a kind of radical predicate. Which is that it is possible for New York City to become completely self sufficient within its political boundaries such that the ecologicalfootprint of new York becomes completely coterminous with its political footprint, self-sufficient city, now obviously this is impossible in lots of ways, maybe inadvisable in other ways, you know this Is a more theoretical conversation, but what we are trying to do is to see how possible it is and to assess the technologies available, to look at the way in which the pattern of the city would have to be remade and to compile a kind of inventory of tools and strategies that could be applied to cities that are moving in the direction of greater self-reliance but don't harbour the fantasy that they will become one hundred percent so let us say that we are fifty percent, let us say that we are investigating areas including energy , water, food supply, manufacture, building, waste management and treating and treatment and a raft of other possibilities just to see what kind of a city that would make. I think there are arguments beyond pushing the envelope of sustainabilitywhich is the core of the project including arguments from democracy, you know the empowerment of cities economically I think also empowers them politically and I dare say that in a world increasingly dominated by borderless multinationals and relatively weakened states that are the handmaidens of their agenda, cities emerge more and more I think as the bull work of private autonomy and democratic social relations. So, the strengthening of individual cities and the growing of their capacity for self-regulation, self-governance and self-supply I think is a very important front in the larger struggle for democratic practices and for the idea of locality which is under such radical attack. The direction of urban development is unclear, there is astonishing pressure on the cities of the world I mean I mentioned the figure of a million a week, a million people a week increase in the urban population, what I didn't mention is that half of them are going to slums, so we have three point something billion people living in cities now, and for the first time in the history of the planet more people live in cities than not an half of the people who live in cities are living in slums. So to borrow the phrase of Mike Davis 'the worst nightmare is that were create a planet of slums'; that cities are endless, they have no boundaries, that they are intractably ungovernable, that they are the source of deadly pollutants that are annihilating the planet, that they are the scenes of animus and riot and you know, I think the dystopian vision, you could go to any of half a dozen movies on a given day and get that clearly, but I am not a dystopian and one of the reasons I am in this practice is that I am a Utopien with an e, and I prefer this spelling. Which I think comes from Patrick Geddes but the idea that our project is to make the planet better, not to invent abstract unrealisable ultimately fascistic forms of urbanism that oppress hygienically as appose to oppress in the old unsanitary way but to dream, to conjure up many possibilities for responsible urbanism that is at one with the happy future for the planet. so I very much reject dystopian thinking and one of the things that I do is I teach urban design to graduate students and over the years I often begin the studio by asking the students to come in with some vision of the city of the future preferably their own and years ago reliably you would get a lot of blade runner and I think there are a lot of reasons for that. One was a is the kind of pessimism about the city but the second was that Bladerunner and the whole school of dystopian science fiction had essentially co-opted the best images, horrifying as they were, they were mesmerizing and our side, the Utopiens the greeneries the friends of democracy and sustainability were very much mired in images that were to trivial in a certain way or were too local, too small , too unambitious, so one of the things that we are doing here is making propaganda for happy futures, for shared futures, for democratic futures, for sustainable futures and I think this is the most important project that architects can engage in. There is a lot of discussion nowadays about the impact of certain types of technologies in particular the virtual technologies on the form and the future of cities and I think this is a Janus figure, it cuts both ways , I was asked a couple of weeks ago by a magazine, they sent a bunch of people disposable cameras, I think they had about thirty exposures each and said ' think of some project to do with all the photos in this camera in this camera and then send it back to us'. So what I did for my projectwas to photograph every surveillance camera in the single block between this office and Starbucks and there were more than thirty, I mean I shot the whole roll and wasn't quite done, so these technologies, which are growing more and more conspicuous in New York, London is already way ahead of us, Shenzhen has an incredible obtrusive regime of surveillance and spying on citizens. I think these technologies are dangerous I don't really wish to have my location fixed by who knows who at every moment in the day. On the other hand, there are kinds of sensor technologies that will yield real time information about the behaviour of cities in response to climate, about fish populations, I know somebody who is working onsensors that record the passage of the striped bass up and down the east river. There are all sorts of sensoria that I think would in real time gather very useful data about the city for example we know that and we have discovered the urban heat island and one of the negative effects of urban growth through satellite imaging and although I don't want that geosynchronous satellite with its incredibly sensitive lenses observing me when I cross the street. I don't mind having the knowledge that its ten degrees cooler in west Chester than it is in Manhattan and I think that if properly equipped with that data we can begin to deal with these kinds of legitimate problems, but technology is not autonomous you know technology is what we make of it, we control it, it doesn't control us and lots of greenies have been talking for years about appropriate technology. So, I am no luddite I think we need as much technology as is useful, if we can predict the earthquake by planting sensors into the ground and designing buildings to resist, great, I'm happy with the weather forecast, I'm happy that the stresses and strains in buildings might be autonomously measured so we can give a warning when things get out of hand. I cheerily as the law requires install the smoke doctor in my apartment so there are lots of observational technologies that advance health, safety, design, democracy. On the other hand, there are plenty that are deployed in such a way that they are extremely hostile to our rights, so those we have to fight against the others we have to work with.
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