Drivers of change

We are used to discussing futures by using 'drivers for change' as the template, and the basic drivers are known which determine much of what will happen. This is fine as far as it goes, but tends to tell us little about the depth or severity of a change process and its possible timeline. For this reason faultlines, battlegrounds and paradoxes were discussed first.

The core drivers include: demographics, and especially an ageing population in the West, with inward migration balancing out expected skills and job shortages; globalization, which will move forward unabated; global terms of trade, which will shift inexorably to favour the East; technology transfer periods, which will reduce dramatically; and climate change, which will hasten the end of the oil economy and speed up the search for energy alternatives.

New issues will rise to the fore and shape urban decision-making. These include:

• The health and urban design agenda, which will push debate on city-making more towards the New Urbanism agenda. Public health and urban design will come together. Health-promoting urban design will emerge as a central planning issue over the next decades, underpinned by arguments for containing the car, increasing pedestrian-friendly environments, controlling out-of-town shopping, creating local facilities within walking distance, making cities more compact and investing in public transport.

• Safety, surveillance and a public realm. Safety and responses to terror will determine how cities are built and managed. The 'watchful eye' of surveillance will be with us wherever we go in cities. People will choose to live in voluntary physical ghettoes and gated communities will proliferate which parallel the mental ghettoes they create to block out a seemingly uncon-tainable world. This is why the fake experience is easier for many to cope with than reality. The question is, What types of gated enclaves are created from the urban design point of view? Crime and fear of crime, which regularly come at the top of people's concerns, affect the way the built environment is constructed. Troublesome trade-offs will need to be negotiated, such as those between convenience, cost and profitability; privacy, freedom and creating sustainable environments; and legal and ethical norms. Design tactics will become more sophisticated in anticipating and blocking criminal activity.

Variations of gated enclaves have always existed, kitted out with a diversity of surveillance devices. How will arguments for public realm investment be made in a context where no one feels public space has anything to offer? Will urbanity completely disappear in the newer gated communities which tend to be severed from the local community, with everything sealed within a fortress?

• Time and the spectacular. People increasingly perceive themselves to be 'time poor' and yet dream of being time and experience rich. The commercial sector will respond and increasingly seek to make all experiences, especially leisure activities, more intense and spectacular in an attempt to give them greater impact and meaning. This will affect design, especially for shopping, culture and education facilities. The same is true for public authorities, who will increasing feel they need to play the game of 'urban iconics', throwing up ever more spectacular buildings to catch attention. Additionally, new, more invasive 'spectacularizing' technologies will emerge as knowledge from brain research cascades down into commercial applications, giving rise to neuromarketing whereby the individual at a conscious level does not realize they are being sold something. One effect may be the increasingly animated advertising hoardings that both lull soporifically and excite. The pressure to maximize every moment, and increased globalization, will encourage the development of truly 24-hour cities. Compressing time may increase the speed of events to a point where people cannot, or will not, make the necessary psychological adaptation. This is likely to generate a counter-reaction towards slowing things down again. The Slow Cities movement is an example of such an ethos-driven development.

Crucially, pre-existing decisions and dominant ideas and mindsets are the forgotten drivers. What shapes present decisions more than the decisions that have preceded them and the intellectual architecture of those that make them? But precedent and ideology are rarely, if ever, mentioned in terms of the future. Pre-existing decisions, such as those which have resulted in the houses, shopping malls, roads and industrial sheds already built, are significant determinants of the future look and feel of the city, narrowing the range of alternative choices, for good and for bad. The future, longer-term plans of cities, such as the expansion of airports, land-use decisions and tourism developments, also tell us now what cities will be. The shape, style and form of the future city is in essence embedded in the laws, regulation, codes and guidelines of the present. A simple way to assess whether such decisions were right is to ask some simple questions: Does this building or structure say 'yes' or 'no'? Does it feel right emotionally? Is it good enough for my city? Once standards are raised in these kinds of ways, it is possible to bring in a language of city-making long lost. Beauty can be demanded from a shed, a mall or an industrial estate, let alone a residential apartment block.

How dominant ideas and mindsets affect what we do is forgotten. The central idea of our civilization is the notion of business logic and efficiency and economic rationality. It has significant merits, but does not tap the complexities of human behaviour. Its ideas provide the warp on which the patterns of our behaviour are encouraged to be woven. It affects the language we use and the discourse of public affairs. It entraps us, however much we talk of 'thinking outside the box'. So there are often surprises when people do not behave 'logically'. Cold economic logic is coupled with the rise of managerialism, with its colourless, grey, neutralized language of process that has little flavour or energy. Not surprisingly, civic engagement and connection is in decline. The managerial logic spills over into other domains that traditionally worked on different principles, such as ethics, morality, justice, voluntary work and the idea of the public. Yet discussion of such concepts is now shaped by the language of 'efficiency'. Because 'efficiency', when narrowly defined, seems to work by definition, it is a given. But it favours means over ends and process over broader ambitions. When efficiency is itself the end, it strips out other life values, creating as many problems as it solves by promoting short-term thinking.

Some will say, 'So what?' The logic of efficiency affects how issues like public transport, waste management or service provision are addressed since it conditions deeper, wider mindsets. It becomes difficult to ask questions like, 'What is transport for?' because the efficiency criterion makes it difficult to calculate 'soft' benefits.

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