Somedays I have very mixed feelings about where the "GeoWeb" is going:
Example 1: Intelligent Traffic Systems
Roughly translated: A million cars idling for 10 minutes will consume some 140,000 litres of gasoline. At the same time we have serious global problems with climate change and local problems with air pollution. Why should this be the case? The problem can be seen as one in which there is a lack of communication between the vehicles and the road.
I interpret this to mean that the traffic systems should regulate the highways such that this condition does not take place, or takes place much less frequently. One of the functions of Intelligent Traffic Systems would be to minimize the pollution generated by the use of the highway system. Of course, he does not say how that might entail regulation of an individual’s actions but one can easily imagine the vehicle being told it cannot enter a particular section of the highway, or cannot even be taken out of the drive way. What is key in Wen Jiabao’s remarks is that we can use technology to help us understand the consequences of individual actions, and the relationship between those actions and physical laws (”wisdom of the earth”). We can choose to let a million vehicles idle on the highway, but in doing so we cannot avoid the consequences for air pollution, and for damage to our health and to the planet. What an intelligent traffic system might do then, at the very least, is to make the linkage between actions and consequences visible to all of us, even if it does not yet constrain those actions.
I'm all for a "planetary nervous system", but the thought that it would sooner or later be hooked up to a state-operated planetary immune system that constrains our actions is a bit chilling, no? I'm probably to the left of many, if not most, of my readers, but I'm not ready to be of the body. I suspect it's going to be constant struggle to keep the "Wisdom of the Earth" from being rigged against civil liberties.