How will automation change the way labor, energy, and religion are spatialized in the city? What new forms of collaboration become possible? Who owns the infrastructure and how are assets and responsibilities negotiated?

Time Jump to Havana, Autonomous Allies!

Automation without neoliberalism

By Andrea Marquez

Dear Traveler,

I am writing to you from the future, long after the US embargo disappeared. When a wave of intelligent technology landed on Havana’s doorstep, we cooked capitalism to its core. While you were busy forfeiting your liberties to corporate governance, we remained free from their grasp. How do you enjoy living in your own little worlds now? Robots from individualist countries like the US were reprogrammed in Cuba to preserve a unique way of life and extended individual freedoms in unexpected ways. Intelligent robots gave the people democratic control. While other nations shifted towards automated labor, widening the gap between human and machine, Cuba engaged the unfamiliar by slipping automation into the intensely human supply chains we already had.

The technological transition was our moment to finally have a chance at socio-political redemption…to end the era of scarcity and mass migration that followed the Cold War. Even 2020 was still a time when a lot of Cubans remained indifferent about the future and discouraged to think about change. The black market was the only way to distribute forbidden media, one house and one terabyte at a time. The underground SNet shut down as more Wi-Fi plazas became available. And you Americans were so proud of yourselves for “inventing” the sharing economy and car-sharing networks, when we had been living like that for half a century already. We skipped all that bullshit you built: endless seas of parking lots, pasta bowls of highways, and all the other obsolete indulgences that your individualist society just “had to have.” Don’t let the vintage cars fool you, Havana has always been your future.

Adjunto encontrarás un Guide Book para navegar 2035.

Buena suerte,

P.S. I still can’t believe it nearly took you a human lifetime to remove the Embargo. Were you so afraid we’d make you look bad?

Digital Testament

Can the church be a source of collectice agency to fight against the dangers of the digital economy?

By Asya Shine

In God we Trust.....or so we once did.

What is trust? Trust is the glue to society. It’s the renewable resource of people, and its something we collectively are losing, fast.

Institutions have long governed our society, shaping our morals and values. But studies show our ability to trust intuitions is deteriorating

Why you ask? It’s simple. It’s gotten much harder to discern what is and isn’t true—what are the boundaries between fact, opinion, and misinformation? And technology is only blurring those lines.

Today cities are looking to make sense of the future with technology and their institutions. Developments in artificial intelligence are introducing new moments of confusion and tension for cities and their residents.

Let’s look at Project Green Light, for example. The Detroit‐based policing initiative, partners with institutions and businesses to place surveillance cameras on their premises.

The initiative promises increased public safety for Detroiters and are projected to add hundreds of additional partnerships over the next decade.

What does that mean for the future of public privacy? This diagram illustrates what streets of Detroit currently look like...and their potential in 2030.

But what does diminishing public privacy feel like? On one hand it feels like [insert utopia]. On the other hand, it can feel like [insert dystopia]

The dangers of artificial intelligence lie in algorithms, and how they are trained. Often racially biased and discriminatory towards black bodies, the intersection of public safety, institutional trust, and capitalism can lead to new versions of discrimination.

In response to the growing civil‐rights concerns around facial recognition software, this thesis speculates the repositioning of a long‐standing institution in Black America: the church.

If we look at the Great Migration, the church was black America’s unquestioned guide. At a time where church was the only place of refuge for black Americans, trust was the generative energy that sustained the institution as the mecca of black mobilization.

Today, we are asked to trust a lot more entities: schools, government, financial and medical institutions. The rise of mass media and technology only muddles our ability to discern who is credible and who is not.

And churches have only complicated people’s ability to trust them. Their moral failings and performative nature have led many to find ties to a church to be an unnecessary part of their religious experience.

So what will be church’s saving grace?

Storage City

Can hoarding energy become a source of community agency?

By Abirami Nachammai Manivannan

Anticipating that the climate challenges of the world only increase with time, some neighborhoods near the waterfront will abdicate their shoreline due to accelerated sea-level rise. Having already experienced episodic flood events, these neighborhoods could take concrete steps to imagine new, more civic futures beginning with building frameworks for addressing the need for stable energy infrastructure.

Energy storage is the missing ingredient in the recipe for stable renewable electricity; as we embed these storage infrastructures into the heart of the neighborhoods, we also need to speculate ways in which the batteries and containers can transform from being alienating objects that just hoard energy to objects that foster small scale economic appropriation and create emergent cultural affordances.

Storage City shows that the logic of hoarding—the first capitalistic tactic—can be repurposed to amplify community agency for social and urban transformation.

While capitalist economies are based on ‘excess’ production and consumption, Storage City proposes a system where communities have just ‘enough’ to sustain themselves. Capitalism is a global network, and the energy systems of capitalism are large scale, regional or national, and thus subject to large scale power dynamics that risk leaving behind the marginalized or ‘small’ players like a neighborhood of immigrants, precariats, and(or) ethnic cultures. Storage City provides mechanisms of independence within the city, not by the abandonment of capitalism altogether, but by sowing the seeds of self-sufficiency to create space, mental and physical, to rethink capitalist systems of energy, economy, and culture.

These radical changes begin at a grassroots level in the form of these de-institutions that show the power of empowered community response when our city, world, and its institutions fail us.

These pockets of catalytic storage take a stand against the entities from which it has been separated while still functioning as a standalone piece of architecture. Instead of working towards a complete city that is possible only when urbanization and capitalism attain their peaks, Storage City focuses on incompleteness: a state of being where rethinking existing constructs and infrastructures of the city enables new possibilities for the city, its people, and the world.