The Urban Ethics of an AI-powered Planetary Urbanization


  • Jeffrey Chan Singapore University of Technology and Design


By 2100, the world may be entirely urbanized with every person living in cities. This imminent reality of planetary urbanization is likely to entail drastic environmental, economic, and social changes, all of which in turn are likely to impact the nature of human relations and their interactions in cities. Urban ethics is, therefore, concerned with the question of what ought to be the proper relations between people flourishing in the city? This question is presently compounded by the rise of the ‘smarter smart cities’, where urban technologies are enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) that can sense, track, learn, predict, and attempt to control human behaviors. The rapid confluence of these three developments, namely, planetary urbanization, urban ethics, and the AI-powered smart city, reveals an under-explored scenario pregnant with new social promises yet laced with many moral hazards. In this article, the following scenario, which is bounded by the following three vectors, will be examined: (i) How does the urban shape the ethical, and in what ways? (ii) What is the AI-powered smart city, and how does it impact the present notion of planetary urbanization? (iii) How does the AI-powered smart city change ethical agencies and in which specific ways? Together, the answers to these questions begin to further prime discussions in urban bioethics in the milieu of AI-powered cities.

Keywords: planetary urbanization, urban ethics, artificial intelligence, smart city, ethical algorithms.