HSE Relaunches Webinar Series ‘Megacities of the Future 2:0. New Challenges’
HSE University is pleased to announce the relaunch of its popular webinar series, Megacities of the future 2:0. New Challenges. The series focuses on issues of modern urban development and is team taught by HSE University professors and lecturers from different faculties. The webinars consider urban developmental issues through the lenses of a range of fields, including Arts and Design, Computer Science, Electronics, Mathematics and Communication Systems, Economics and Management, Urban Studies, and Russian Studies.
Urban planning involves foresight and developing methods to deal with the future. Such methods have enjoyed success for more than 60 years in more than 100 countries, including Russia, Brazil, China, South Korea, Japan, Germany, the UK, and France. Urban planning not only unites different stakeholders in reaching a shared goal of creating a better future, but provides an academic and practical platform for diverse participation as well. HSE News Service discussed megacities and the tool of foresight with Alexander Chulok, Director of the HSE ISSEK Centre for Science and Technology Foresight. Alexander Chulok is an expert in participative foresight, a proactive science tool for the future development of megacities.
Director of the HSE ISSEK Centre for Science and Technology Foresight
— What is foresight, and how is it used in urban planning?
— Foresight is a process of systemic analysis and creating the future. Classical foresight includes different instruments – more than eighty. I suggest that in the process of urban planning, the most efficient instruments are connected with different types of modelling, including data science. Insofar as we are seeing progress in the development of smart transport, e-health, education, and cultural systems for urban planning, a modelling instrument such as big data analysis is especially crucial for the urban future, and it leads to interesting results in a multidisciplinary age. The second group of methods could be connected with participatory methods, including surveys, expert panels, and citizen panels, which are efficient for urban planning. The third group of methods is connected with creativity, which involves wild cards, weak signals, and futurology methods, insofar as it is rapidly changing.
— Foresight science involves predicting trends and scenarios. What are the main trends in Moscow’s development as a megacity?
— Moscow is striving to take the lead in the global race for efficient megacity conception. Last year, an initiative for the creation of an innovation cluster was launched and signed by the president. The planned cluster includes several sub clusters, or perspective areas for development, such as ICT, medicine, transport, education, and creativity industry. I think if Moscow is able to move forward in these areas, it could be a comfortable megacity for all of us with a friendly and inspiring ecosystem for business, science, education, and more, taking a leading position in global rankings. Another big topic that should not be neglected when it comes to megacity development is climate change and the responsible use of natural resources. It is very important to make sure that our ecological situation improves and becomes more comfortable and safe for citizens.
— How many cities in Russia are predicted to become megacities? What makes a city a megacity?
— We can see how different Russian cities are emerging as potential megacities. This is not just about Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Novosibirsk, but cities like Voronezh, Tumen, Rostov-on-Don, and other cities as well. These cities are developing rapidly, enhancing their educational and scientific potential, and improving conditions for business development. In the new industrial revolution, blended skills including creativity, vision, and leadership on the one side, and the ability to work remotely using information technologies on the other, creates many opportunities for Russian megacities in such global competition.
There is no doubt that as Russian cities transition into being cities of the future, it is crucial to find out what makes Russian cities unique, and how they are connected to the lives, professions, and social capital of their inhabitants. Victoria Antonova, Deputy Dean for International Cooperation and Internationalization in the Faculty of Social Sciences, is an expert in this field.
Deputy Dean for International Cooperation and Internationalization for Faculty of Social Sciences
— Are there any social barriers specific to Russia that hinder the development of cities of the future here?
— At present, to my mind it is not correct to make statements like this. Also, habits such as buying goods not online but in brick and mortar stores represent not a social barrier but behavior patterns that are changing rather quickly, especially if online options become more attractive for people in terms of usability and efficiency. At the current moment, I would say there is no evidence that anything will hinder future city development.
There is another danger, however. Cities of the future could facilitate the social exclusion of people from low-income brackets, including individuals who don’t have the means to adapt and keep pace with the rapid social, technological, cultural changes, and who, perhaps, would rather keep the same lifestyles they had 20-30 years ago. Those who are not able or want to ‘change with the times’ could become excluded or left behind.
At the same time, there probably is one important social barrier which could strongly limit the development of cities of the future – that is the low level of energy consciousness in Russian megacities. Renewable energy has to be perceived as the best solution to the problem of the increasing energy consumption with the add-on benefit of being environmentally friendly. However, even the 3R concept which refers to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle has not been well-accepted by Russian megacities so far.
— It is well known that the development of megacities comes with digitalization, and that this, in turn, leads to decreased manual jobs. How is the problem of unemployment going to be solved in Russian cities of the future?
— I would say that it is an exaggeration to say something like this. That megacity development and digitalization lead to increased unemployment is kind of a myth. To some extent, yes, but at the same time, new freelance markets are emerging, and what is even more important – a new understanding of freedom in the workplace is developing. The problem оf unemployment is at the same time the problem of undeveloped institutions. That is why in order to battle unemployment, the Russian megacities, as any other metropolises in the world, have to pay attention to the development of institutions which support democratic self-management, fairer access to resources, transparency, and environmental sustainability.
— How will Moscow’s transition into a megacity change Russian culture at the turn of the century?
— Russian culture can’t change overnight, and Moscow’s transition into a megacity won’t make a significant and instant impact on Russian culture per se. Since culture is a rather complicated phenomenon, it is hard to say what kind of challenges and changes Muscovite culture will undergo. However, it is quite expected that Moscow inhabitants will adopt a more open manner of communication, rely more on IT and digital services in everyday life, find themselves belonging to a bigger number of communities and groups with regards to their multiple identities, need to adopt to a more diverse society, and be more inclusive.
Other important issues that will be discussed in the webinar series include urban space layout, developing ‘smart cities’, and questions such as what projects can be entrusted to robots, how data science can be used to shape the future, and more.
Visit the series website for more information.