Our Homo Urbanus civilisation is organised around vast cities which will soon house 70% of the world’s population. In these cities, six billion people will have to share the planet’s limited resources. At the same time, the intangible realm of the virtual sphere continues to merge with the physical realm. « The tyranny of distance has been overcome, » exclaimed Morse when the first telegraph line was installed in 1844. Now, with the internet, we are only a click away from anyone. In a world where everything is becoming scarcer, this giant social space offers a never-ending supply of connections.
The digital revolution has given rise all around the world to smart cities and living labs, like technological urban melting pots where recipes for living together in the future are developed. These sometimes Pharaoh-like projects seem to echo the ideal cities envisaged by Thomas More, Charles Fourier or Jean-Baptiste-André Godin. However, far from simply being visions of society, they actually align with the ideas of necessity and realism which characterise our era.
The concept of Utopia goes beyond purely being about progress; it is a « continually reinvented future of freedom ». And that is precisely where a new “mirage” appears. The digitalisation of the world and its « gamification » offer us the attractive promise of soon having access to intangible spaces where we can live out all sorts of dreams, as in the sci-fi film « Total Recall ». But these heterotopias, like a sort of theatre where our collective imaginations unfurl, may shrivel up the productive dissatisfaction with Utopia, breaking the beneficial momentum towards its unattainable horizon. An alienating economy, based on the exploitation of « Utopia as a consumer product », may triumph over the eternal desire for humanity’s freedom.
But another path is possible. Smart cities and the virtual sphere constitute two test melting pots for life in the future. Smart cities exemplify extended and interactive external spaces oriented towards each individual. The virtual sphere constitutes a limitless expansion of internal space, linked to knowledge of the planet and the multitude of humans. Where the two meet, a hybrid area appears – still untouched – emerging from the mists of the current century. A world where the inventor and dreamer, architect and poet, one thing and its opposite can, together, build a project founded on relationships, multiplicity, transvergence and mobility. An amazingly fertile space will open up, forming a dynamic link between humans and infinity.