Sheikh Mohammed, Ruler of Dubai, said “Our ambition for this project is to touch the life of every individual in our country: every mother in her home, employee in his work, investor in his project, child in school, or a doctor in his clinic. Our aim is a happier life for all.”
Dubai is not alone in that ambition. Each country strives towards this goal. A.I is reaching into our homes and workplaces and allowing us all to connect using technology more now, than ever. But in this day and age of Smart Phones and all manner of social media, the more we connect virtually, the more anti-social we become as a society. Our daily conversations are on WhatsApp and Messenger and we have lost the essential tool and natural instinct of being able to relate and react to one another face to face. Our avatars are more present than we are.
There are more built up areas connected to Wi-Fi than there are open, green areas refreshingly free of networks. So how happy are we in our overdeveloped, interconnected cities? Extensive research shows that people experience heightened feelings of safety, positivity and energy in buildings with soft lines and some essential greenery. They feel more unsafe, negative and depressed in buildings that are very modern solid structures, devoid of all nature. In fact, dense urban spaces tend to attract a profile of buyer that is creative but introverted and overly critical. Suburbs and rural areas by contrast, tend to attract more friendly, sociable and conscientious buyers who are far happier with their lives by comparison. The common thread that runs through an urban space and a rural space is human relationships. How do we live together, how do we live beside each other and how do we come together?
It is now more important than ever to be Smart about our Happiness. I have been interviewing Happiness Experts from around the globe. These experts include the world’s foremost positive psychologists, psychologists and laughter yogis as well as many other top thought leaders. I have been getting their input about how to make a Smart city a Happy City. The one thing that each of them highlight as being a key factor in our continued mental and emotional health and wellbeing is, human connection.
A.I is key in helping us to diagnose and treat many serious illnesses today. But a robot cannot give you the bedside manner and healing that a person can. In this instance, we can use technology to aid us but we cannot depend on it to carry the full burden of care. By connecting people and making a more interactive inclusive city you will help change the issues of loneliness, depression, burn-out and build a happier, healthier more resilient community.
The same applies to A.I in the workplace. Technology can streamline our systems and make our services faster, but it need not relieve so many people of their jobs. A human presence and human reaction cannot be replicated in any workplace by computers.
It is so important that we embrace the advance of technology but use it in the right way. Not to disconnect from proper interaction but rather to arrange to meet up and respond to one another face to face. A happy city, it appears, is a city that designs an infrastructure that supports elementary concepts of human connection.
I am so grateful for technology connecting me with my children, family and work colleagues, most of whom are spread across the world. Without A.I I couldn’t access my loved ones or do my job effectively. What I am proposing and what my extensive research from popular thought leaders support, is more of a balance between human connection and technology in this quickly advancing world. The goal for Smart Cities is to improve city management and the residents’ quality of life through the physical reconnection of people as well as the efficient use of resources and services. I wish to explore what intricately links us all as a community and how we can create ripples of positivity to build a healthier, happier city together.