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Rachel Armstrong

The University of Greenwich

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THE CITY 2.0 – EVOLVED (NOT MADE) BY ECOLOGICAL HUMANS

This Live Conversation with TED Fellow Rachel Armstrong will open on February 8th, 2012 at 1pm EST, 6pm UK time.
Join the conversation as Rachel discusses her view on ecological humans and city 2.0.

We are not machines but Ecological Humans. We depend on our networks for survival, like an oak tree in the forest, being made up of highly interacting and interdependent systems. For example, eating is not simply consuming ‘fuel’ to feed our body-machine but is a mutual relationship shared between our gut bacteria, our food and our bodies (which, in turn, are highly interconnected assemblages of specialised tissues). The way that we see ourselves influences the way that we operate through the world in all aspects of our lives - from health, to business and even space exploration!

Ecological Humans, imagine the City 2.0 as being grown from the bottom-up by its communities. It is underpinned by highly interacting and interdependent networks, which use dynamic fabrics that behave in life-like ways. These buildings can be described as Living Architecture that are capable of responding to the changes in our dynamic cities as only real ecologies can.

Questions:

Will The City 2.0 be qualitatively different to modern cities? Or pragmatically, can the transition only be made as a series of incremental changes? What can we do to facilitate this transition?

What does being an Ecological Human mean to me? Can it help me find new or more effective ways of working?

Can we rely on biology to provide all the answers when it comes to sustainable building solutions? Is life a technology - and should we exploit it in the pursuit of more sustainable ways of building?

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Closing Statement from Rachel Armstrong

Thank you so much everyone for joining me today and taking time to comment and share your thoughts. What an amazing set of discussion threads have begun! I am excited about how the TED Prize winner City 2.0, will turn out - which is the event that inspired the context for this discussion. Perhaps, beyond the immediate context of near-future cities - the idea of being an Ecological Human may help us imagine ourselves and the world around us differently. Maybe we can use this way of imagining the world so that we can find truly sustainable solutions for the places we live in. We could possibly also use this approach to help others understand what being 'ecological' might mean. Perhaps this way of looking at the world may have applications in other areas of our lives such as, in the workplace. So, again - a really warm 'thank you' everyone for taking time out to share your thoughts with me and offer your perspectives. If you would like to find out more about Living Architecture you may like to buy my TED Book http://www.ted.com/pages/tedbooks, which is available from Amazon.com, Apple's iBookstore, and is also on the Nook platform.

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    Feb 8 2012: The definition of a living technology is one that possess some but not all of the properties of living systems - in other words, it appears life-like but is not truly alive. These qualities can be found in living things like bacteria and algae which you've probably heard a lot about in sustainability forums but you may be less aware of the kinds of materials and chemistries that can be programmed to perform life-like jobs - like harvest sunlight and turn it into a biofuel, or paints that can 'eat' pollution, or artificial reefs that could be grown by cities on the inter coastal zone as a way of sustainably reclaiming them. Again, I go into more detail about some of these technologies and possible uses in my book http://www.ted.com/pages/tedbooks but I think it would be remiss not to raise the question of the ethics of designing with life-like systems. We are used to gardening and animal husbandry which we have found ways of dealing with culturally and I think that living technology provides an opportunity to think of ourselves as Ecological Humans and ask further questions about what this means for us and our role within our society and newfound partnership with nature and its systems - that is, of course, if you'd like to explore what this idea of being an Ecological Human might mean. I'd really recommend Jane Bennett's book on 'Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things' and Steve Fuller's provocative 'Humanity 2.0" - I've found these texts useful and stimulating.

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