The rise of AI urbanism in post-smart cities: A critical commentary on urban artificial intelligence

Publication Name

Urban Studies


Artificial intelligence (AI) is emerging as an impactful feature of the life, planning and governance of 21st-century cities. Once confined to the realm of science fiction and small-scale technological experiments, AI is now all around us, in the shape of urban artificial intelligences including autonomous cars, robots, city brains and urban software agents. The aim of this article is to critically examine the nature of urbanism in the emergent age of AI. More specifically, we shed light on how urban AI is impacting the development of cities, and argue that an urbanism influenced by AI, which we term AI urbanism, differs in theory and practice from smart urbanism. In the future, the rise of a post-smart urbanism driven by AI has the potential to form autonomous cities that transcend, theoretically and empirically, traditional smart cities. The article compares common practices and understandings of smart urbanism with emerging forms of urban living, urban governance and urban planning influenced by AI. It critically discusses the limitations and potential pitfalls of AI urbanism and offers conceptual tools and a vocabulary to understand the urbanity of AI and its impact on present and future cities.

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