Technology as Invisible Force

While the smartphone might feel like an extension of our hands for many, the reality is it creates disruption in our lives.  


We are constantly aware of our interactions with technology and smart devices. While the smartphone might feel like an extension of our hands for many, the reality is that it is a device that doesn’t necessarily fall into the background: it creates disruption in our lives.  

The push towards AI-powered voice assistants reflects Silicon Valley’s desire to make our technology “invisible” and have it blend into the background of our daily lives. 

Similar points have been raised in relation to smart, human-centric urbanism. The idea follows that being able to “see” technology creates interaction, which in turn creates distraction. Reporting on the trend, Quartz highlighted how the city of Detroit is using “invisible” technology to help fight crime.[1]“Last fall, Detroit’s city officials partnered with a telecom provider to expand the area’s Project Green Light program, which allows businesses to install cameras that police can use to monitor crimes (and solve them) in real time. The program’s expansion led to a 50% drop in violent crime at convenience stores and gas stations. Thanks to the technology—which was by no means a distraction to Detroit’s residents—the city is safer, and business is better.”

Quartz went on to offer prescriptions for how cities should emulate this model. “Keep your city’s technology autonomous and discrete, and take advantage of the Internet of Things and AI to help you do it,” the publication recommended. “Once the idea of “invisible” tech is embraced, leaders must communicate it back to appropriate government and civic bodies; then, collaboration among the parties can begin, and a smart city can be born.” 

Not only does this principle apply to smart cities but it is core to the notion of human-centric urbanism as well. If technology is able to operate in the background and improve the functions of cities, then urbanists and residents alike are freed up to focus on ways of making the city more inclusive and human-centric. Such an application of invisible tech, if done correctly, could have a transformative effect.


[1] Rajdev, Naveen. “Smart Cities are great. Human-centric cities are (again) the future.” Quartz, 27/9/2017,