The return to Utopia


The cold autumn rain was wetting the pavement of the railway station’s platforms. The train stopped with a hiss. An elderly lady stepped down on the yellow bricks of the quay. Then came Mr. Gulliver. He looked around, trying to assess the situation. The city had changed alot and somehow, seemed familiar, even from the door of the train wagon.


One year earlier

Mr. Gulliver, the famous reporter, took his last voyage through the streets of Utopia. The city proved itself to be full of marvels:

  • an efficient public transport system working with Swiss clock precision
  • a green city, where the gardens and parks covered 70% of the city
  • a personal experience where Mr. Gulliver felt like a king, with a full immersion  / interaction with the urban furniture

The tramway stopped at the railway station. Electronic displays kept Mr. Gulliver informed about the best route to take within the station. A couple of minutes later, he was sipping a cup of coffee, in his train compartiment. As the train started to move, Mr. Gulliver fell asleep.


Present day

One foot on the platform, then the other. Mr. Gulliver was again in Utopia. The recently installed pavement was a giant screen, guiding the  traveller. The usual overhead displays completed the landscape. The arrival of artificial intelligence and that of its first herald, the machine learning had changed the station completely.

By simply walking the platform, Gulliver made the former change, according to his preferences. A red arrow pointed to where he was going. A black rectangle contained text about the departure time of the next tramway. Of course, there were ads, but they targeted his preferences: a giant sandwich with onion bread, Brazilian coffee, and so on.


He knew all this was happening thanks to the silent interaction between Utopia and his mobile phone. The city was no longer a bunch of streets, houses and buses. Far from that, Utopia had now a heart and a soul, both artificial  and efficient.


He was not alone. Other passengers were interacting in a similar way with Utopia. A city with a soul. He liked that. The most recent discoveries in artificial intelligence were enhancing Utopia’s capabilities to those of a cyborg. No, he thought, not a cyborg, but a smart city.


The tramway

Guided by the red arrow, Gulliver went thriugh the station, going up and down the escalators, towards the tram stop. The black rectangle was now indicating that he had to walk either faster or wait for the next tram.  An athlete to his heart, Gulliver chose the first option and he made it! One minute later, he sat comfortably in the tram. He did’t even need to validate his ticket. His cellphone took care of it.


The climate change was present everywhere and Utopia was no exception. A bright sun replaced the rain. Too bright for him. The windows of the tram darkened a bit, making the view supportable. Gulliver remembered having seen such smart glass at an exhibition.


Tickets please

After five minutes, the tramway stopped at a red light. A round object, similar to a vacuum cleaner, moved through the wagon. It blinked silently, scanning people’s tickets. Once, it stopped at a passenger who didn’t pay for the fare.  That person was being informed that he was expected to get off the tram at the next stop, in order to pay the fine at a ticket vending machind. The whole ticket  control process took as less  than a minute. It was like magic. No, Mr. Gulliver remembered, it was Utopia, a city pushing its smartness to the limits.


Such were his thoughts when he arrived at his stop. The visit of the city was promising …


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