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Jim Morris's Thought of the Week (or month, or year, ...)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cisco’s Connected Urban Development Conference

John Chambers made a commitment to the Clinton Global Initiatives Foundation to do something about the environment and the Connected Urban Development is it. My initial suspicion that it was Cisco-serving was dispelled. From Chambers on down, all the Cisco people at the conference were focused on higher goals, were businesslike, and sincere.

Because 50% of the world’s population and 80% of the CO2 comes from cities the program is focused there. Half of the CO2 generally comes from transport and half from building. San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Seoul are the initial members; Lisbon, Madrid, Hamburg, and Birmingham, England have just joined. Cisco appears to be the gatekeeper and financial backer. Each city has its own program to become more sustainable. I would love to see Pittsburgh join someday.

For me, the great insights were about how computers (called ICT by Europeans) can be the basis for sustainability. Partly, this is Cisco pushing its industry; there were compelling cases made, especially by Carlota Perez, a renowned Venezuelan researcher (http://www.carlotaperez.org/). She reviewed five technology revolutions (Industrial, Steam, Steel, Automobile, and Information) and emphasized how they changed life paradigms. Echoing others, she claimed that the way forward on mastering climate change must be through improving the quality of life today. Her theory suggests that we are at the mid-point of the information revolution and it is time for the financial sector to behave themselves and play a supporting role.

The coolest technology presentation was by William Mitchell, Director of MIT’s Design Laboratories. He described the City Car (http://cities.media.mit.edu/projects/citycar.html), a truly revolutionary system of robotic urban taxis.

I focused on the transportation sessions. The most compelling performance was from Todd Litman from Victoria, BC who claimed that the most important technology in transportation was the roller board suitcase! Ridiculing supersonic planes and their ilk, he argued that roller boards allow people to walk more places with more stuff. I personally think the cell phone can also become a significant factor in transportation if only by killing off drivers who use it.

Other notable people there included:

  • Robin Chase, founder of ZipCar, who has new ideas about ride sharing (www.goloco.org) and wireless infrastructure
  • Craig of Craigslist.
  • Gary Bridge, Cisco VP, who appears to be the driver of this effort.

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posted by Jim Morris @ 9:31 AM 

2 Comments:
Blogger Peter Corless said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Peter Corless said...

John Chambers is a good guy.

I've known him for a long while. We painted Costaño School in East Palo Alto long before it's modern renovation. Back in 1993, that's how I met him. We were painting the school - Betsy, John and myself.

Over a Tom Sawyeresque litany of brushstrokes, I said something to Betsy about my ongoing work with the Federal government and the special processes they require. She had taken over Canada from me, and I was informing her about DPAS-rated orders, DD250s and GSA schedules.

That's when John started to giggle. I wasn't sure why he was giggling. So I emphasized again how the Feds have a lot of extra paperwork other people are spared from filling out. Not quite sure why he was smiling so broadly, I asked, "Ever done business with the Federal government?"

And with that kid-like grin, in his unmistakable West Virginian accent -- almost-but-not-quite like the Pittsburgh accent -- he said, "Why yes I have."

We shared a smile, and there was an understanding between the two of us. That's when I remembered my manners, begged an apology we hadn't introduced ourselves yet, took time to exhange names and shook his hand.

He's sneaky like that. Doing good deeds. Giggling about things he overhears. Only then introducing himself.

:)

-Peter Corless.
petercorless@mac.com
650-906-3134

10:29 AM  

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