reflections update

April reflections and update

Following the method of last Month, I again asked the AI-intern (ChatGPT-4) to reflect on the different weekly thoughts at Target is New, through the lense of the Cities of Things Manifesto. I continued the conversation a bit with my own feelings about last Month, as an important moment with two long-expected AI-enhanced devices finding their way to customers and reviewers. Humane and Rabbit make different choices in the way they interact with the environment and with the user. The technology and execution are both rather flaky and more of an alpha version, but it gives some views into a future for wearable technology as an extension of our current phone practice.

Here is the conversation, I end with some ‘human’ reflections 🙂


Neighbourhood Navigators and future citizenship

Today -19 April 2024- four teams of students from the master program Industrial Design Engineering faculty of Delft University of Technology will present their first ideas and explorations of the relation of so-called neighborhood navigators for future citizenship as part of the Smart and Social Fest in Rotterdam.

The teams are part of the course Interactive Technology Design and chose Future Citizenship as the overarching theme for this year.

Interactive Technology Design is a project-based course within the Master (MSc) Design for Interaction programme at the Delft University of Technology. At the end of the course students deliver “experiential prototypes” in a public exhibition. The prototypes communicate students’ designs, and enable exhibition visitors to immersively experience the designed products and services.

The four teams will present their first prototypes halfway through the program during Smart & Social Fest in VONK, the innovation center of the City of Rotterdam.

The Smart & Social Fest features Exploring Future Citizenship, an exhibition showcasing the ongoing creative endeavors of over 100 Industrial Design Engineering students from the TU Delft. This work-in-progress exhibition offers a glimpse into the creative explorations of students that merge AI technology with innovative ideas aiming to redefine urban citizenship.

The exhibition stands as a testament to the creative process — raw, unfiltered, and in flux. It invites scrutiny and critical dialogue, encourages poking and prodding at the boundaries between the digital and the physical. Each prototype and idea is an interrogation of what it means to belong to a city that is rapidly recalibrating to the rhythm of algorithms and data streams.

From the expo description.

We would like to explore whether the Wijkbot can be a proxy citizen in a neighbourhood, and if so, what that means for neighbourhood life. Will a community of civic robots interact on ‘another level’ representing human neighbourhood fabric? Those are some of the questions we had about commissioning the assignment.

In this assignment, the students are challenged to design “Neighbourhood Navigators”, autonomous robots intended to enhance community life by performing daily tasks and fostering social relationships among residents. Imagine robots operating from a neighbourhood hub, undertaking various responsibilities, from grocery shopping to assisting the elderly, thereby becoming integral participants in neighbourhood events and connectors within the community.

The assignment encourages you to think beyond conventional technology design, prompting you to envision a future where technology enhances neighbourhood citizenship, fosters community engagement, and promotes a sustainable and resilient urban environment. Through this project, you will contribute to reimagining how technology can be harnessed to create more inclusive, interconnected, and harmonious urban communities in the near future. In your design explorations you can make use of the “hoodbot” prototyping kit.

Taken from the assignment

We keep you updated on the results!

reflections update

March reflections and updates

Every week, I post a newsletter via Target_is_New signaling notions from the news and elaborate on one topic triggered by a news item or event I visited. As my frame of view is the City of Things beliefs, it makes a lot of sense to create a monthly post here looking back and combining these thoughts. And it would be nice if I could use the generative tooling.

field lab Cities of Things Lab010 update

Closing event project Cities of Things LAB010

At the beginning of 2022, we officially kicked off the project Cities of Things LAB010, shaped together with Creating010 of Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences and with main partners Afrikaander Wijkcooperatie and Studio voor de Stad (represented by Zeewaardig). To close the two-year project, we will be part of the 10-year celebration of Afrikaander Wijkcooperatie on 10 January at Gemaal op Zuid in Rotterdam. Read more here.

The project’s goal was to create a toolkit for co-designing the future presence of city things in neighbourhoods so that this is driven by the local communities and not by the so-called big tech companies. We have a page dedicated to the fieldlab, find more on the start backgrounds of the project.

This project strives for positive and productive ways of living and working together with citizens with ‘city things’, by designing them together with them, developing competences to organize their lives with ‘smart things’ and thus involving citizens in the design of their own neighborhood in the context of the developing ‘smart city’.

Descriptions Cities of Things LAB010
Project overview

Early in the project, we developed a basic robot prototype platform based on the combination of a Hoverboard connected to a remote control that powered a platform that makes it possible to experiment with different functions and let you play out interactions of the urban robot with other things and especially people. In a hackathon in April 2022, we tested the platform as a basis for new ideas and civic prototyping, which turned out to work very well. Since then, the kit has been functioning as a platform for both technical explorations (adding sensors and autonomous behaviour) and design exercises for different functions.

The main track was the co-design with a group of local residents of Afrikaanderwijk, coordinated via Afrikaander Wijkcooperatie. In total, 10 so-called thinktank sessions were organised, and the group developed the concept of the Inzamelbot based on the platform. The Inzamelbot is connected to the Grondstoffenstation (Resources Station), which deals with the recycling of resources in the local market. It will play a role in collecting valuable resources from the market.

A second function the Thinktank foresee is collecting and spreading neighbourhood stories. As a conversation starter, a carrier of these stories or other forms. This is something that needs to be detailed.

In total, more than 20 instalments of city things have been made in different projects, both by students in workshops and the think tank. An overview can be found on the dedicated website The platform is the perfect mix of a defined artefact and an open platform. There is still more to explore in developing the software, and we will fine-tune the workshop. New plans for educational programs are in the making.

At the “Miniconferentie” during the celebrations from 14:00-16:00, we will share our results, and a small exposition will tell more about the project.

Join us at Gemaal op Zuid!


Wijkbot at festival CityClimate meets CreativeCoding

On 5 October, we will be at the conference and festival in Hamburg CityClimate meets CreativeCoding to host a workshop with the Wijkbot.

“Autonomous urban robots are starting to appear in European cities, with delivery-, scanning-, cleaning-, advertising-, security-, or waiter- robots being just some examples. The current development of most such robots is driven by commercial interests, with limited consideration for their impact on cities, communities, and ecosystems. In the Cities of Things Lab 010 (, we take a different approach by treating urban robots as future co-citizens and advocating for their integration into democratic society and local civic communities.

We’ve created a low-cost kit ( for co-prototyping neighbourhood robots with input from citizens. The resulting prototypes show how robots can become part of and contribute to local communities. We will prototype climate-focused neighbourhood bots for Hamburg’s streets in the workshop. We will explore the opportunities and risks posed by robotics developments in our cities, communities and ecosystems and investigate how such robots can become enablers of bottom-up systemic change.”

Find the complete program here.

field lab Cities of Things Lab010 update

Meet Wijkbot 20 August

As part of the sneak preview of the Grondstoffenstation Afrikaanderwijk we will show two versions of Wijkbot, and specifically the iteration developed in the Cities of Things LAB010 project with the residents of the Afrikaanderwijk. That iteration is named Inzamelbot, as it is part of recirculating resources towards the Grondstoffenstation. Next to materials like paper, plastic, food leftovers, wood, and cans, we also invite residents and other visitors to leave their ideas for Wijkbot.


multilateral augmented intelligence

New AI-endeavours build communities of self-improving multilateral augmented intelligence, as flocks of multi-core AIs improve themselves in continuous self-reflection.

(This post was sent as a newsletter on 31th July via Cities of Things Substack)

Having AI as co-performers with humans has been the topic more than once, referring to the concept defined back in 2018. In the latest developments of the AI uprise, we see the power of conversational AI in chatGPT and all the followers. It is often perceived as the interface with the AI, the new way of addressing the powers in combination with the magic of tokenised predictive language created through the large language models (LLMs). On top of that, starting from this new implementation of conversations with the machine intelligence, the start of real interactions with the AI emerges and with that, a potential learning loop between the human and the AI. 

field lab Cities of Things Lab010 update

Wijkbot at Kingsday

This post is written in Dutch. Below is an English translation added.

Afgelopen Koningsdag hebben we een nieuw experiment gedaan met de Wijkbot, de prototype-kit van een stadsrobot waarmee we in de Afrikaanderwijk aan de slag zijn. Na afloop van het bezoek van de koning organiseerde de wijk een festival in het park. Met de wijkbot was een zogenaamde Verzamelbot gemaakt die hielp het festivalterrein schoon te houden. Het ontwerp en maken van deze Verzamelbot was gedaan door de bewoners van de denktank Cities of Things Lab 010.

field lab Cities of Things Lab010 update

Wijkbot at Smart & Social Fest

Friday 21 April, we will discuss the progress of the Wijkbot project in a workshop at Smart & Social Fest, organised by the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Next to the discussion workshop, it is possible to use the Wijkbot kit to create an urban robot!

On Smart & Social Fest:

  • Walk with Wijkbot
  • Build your own neighbourhood robot

Are we closer to building an Oracle Machine?

With Cities of Things, we look at intelligent (behaviour of) things in our future cities. Robotics combined with an intelligence agency. Last week I attended a lecture by James Bridle, who wrote a book last year on other intelligence last year (Ways of Being), that I liked a lot. They showed how there is more than human intelligence and how these can inspire us. Bridle also made a link to how computing is designed still around the Turing machine. There is another concept that Turing once hinted at in a footnote (1) in his first paper on the automated machine, and later a bit more in the 50s in another paper, but never was able to flesh out. In short, the difference in computing concepts is the way it computes intelligence. The Turing machine uses as much of the existing information and generates the intelligence internally in the system. The Oracle machine is using the art of making theses and the learnings from responses to build intelligence, a machine that is looking outside itself to build knowledge. The lecture by Bridle will be online sometime soon I expect, but he explained the concept in earlier lectures like this one.

Last week Noam Chomsky wrote an opinion piece in The York Times on why ChatGPT offers a false promise (2). I see links here, and interesting enough, the thesis of Chomsky is built upon the notion that current machine intelligence is based on a limited form of computing. At the same time, you could make a case that the form of accessing this machine intelligence via the chat-routine is testing the promise of the oracle machine. On the verge of the introduction of GPT-4 it is useful to think about what we can learn from the application of GPT-3 in the world through these new interfaces, and what we need for the next iteration.

What is missing in the current models is an ability to learn, and to reference a general mental model of the world. If we are using the current tooling right, we make sure that these models (morality) are provided by the human in the loop. We need to be sure there is a human in the loop in using the tooling. And to be sure, having a human in the loop is not the same as a human using machine intelligence to provide answers to questions formulated by humans. It is definitely true that asking the right questions is key, and that is why prompt engineering is such a highly valued expertise in the near future. The example in the article of Chomsky is a speaking example.

The design of these tooling should facilitate, or even more maybe steer, the right flow of theses and claims. The human actor should always create a moral framework before the machine is asked to ‘oracle’ based on general knowledge, and the final judgement is also to the human. In the most sophisticated versions of this tooling, the AI can help to formulate the best claims. I wrote earlier on the concept of co-performance which provides some insightful poses. A useful metaphor is also the centaur, the half-human, half-machine; that is what we are developing more quickly than we might have expected. The most important challenge is to balance the right tasks for the machine and the human.

The image and reference that Bridle uses from the Cybernetic Factory by Stafford Beer (1959) is a possible implementation design. The goal was to create a better way of automating factory processes by using all kinds of outside knowledge and building a complete ecosystem. Bridle connect it to learning from other intelligence like how slime moulds can solve the traveller problem much more efficiently than our current computers can do.

Cybernetic Factory of Stafford Beer (via Research Gate)

What was not discussed is the relation of the current interaction model within tools like ChatGPT and the possibility of building a kind of Oracle Machine. It feels almost too simple to connect these; what if we can use the power of the dialogues with intelligence in a real learning environment, and what if the outcome is a new form of ecosystem computing? The biggest learning from the upheaval around the use of ChatGPT for all is that we should take into account what the value of the knowledge is. If we can build in the right human guardrails in the oracle machine we might be able to loosen up the limitations of current implementations.


(1) “We shall not go any further into the nature of this oracle apart from saying that it cannot be a machine” Alan Turing, Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals (1939)

(2) The oped of Chomsky has triggered a debate, Gary Marcus is reflecting on this debate here.

(This post was published earlier via the Cities of Things newsletter)