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The Issue:

As automation continues to become more commonplace in our society, we must confront the very high likelihood that life as we know it today will be very different in the year 2050. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to revolutionize how we all live, work and play. Experts predict that the highest-earning professions in the year 2050 will depend on automation, digital technology and machines that have not yet been invented. From driverless cars to robo-taxis, hyperloops and jetpacks, computational design and connected appliances, many believe that automation is the key to a better future. As we prepare to invent the tools of the future today, we need to think creatively about how we want those tools to best serve our needs. At the same time, we must consider how much we leverage technology in balance with keeping humans actively working. With jobs being very important to people’s livelihood, it will be critical to ensure that technology does not completely eliminate the need for a human workforce. Assuming that a careful balance is struck between AI and human workers in 2050, we challenge you to consider how AI and automation can improve our lives and communities.


The Game Design Prompt:

How can AI and automation create more efficient, safe, equitable and sustainable communities in the year 2050? Think about how technology can improve mobility, health outcomes, safety, education, buildings, public spaces and access to resources in your own community. Identify an issue in your community that you feel can be solved by automation, and using the Automated Communities 2050 theme, create a game that helps people understand and resolve this issue by incorporating automated solutions. Think outside of the box and consider the technology of today in ways that you maybe haven’t before. Use your imagination to rethink how cars work, how buildings operate, or what your job will be in 2050.


  • According to the Timeline of Automation, automated vehicles have been in the works for nearly a century with prototypes emerging as early as 1925.
  • Concerns about technology “taking over” is not a new concept. Albert Einstein blamed machines for the joblessness of the 1930s.
  • President Dwight Eisenhower dismissed popular fears of automation in 1955, calling them irrelevant, saying the same fears had “plagued people for 150 years and always proved groundless.”
  • In the 1980’s, with the rise of computing technology, fears re-emerged as the media promoted provocative statements like, “Technological innovation is widely billed as a miracle cure for the United States’ economic doldrums. Its aftereffects, however, may be far from benign. The introduction of revolutionary new technologies such as robots–versatile computer-controlled mechanical arms–raise two painful possibilities: sizeable losses of jobs and a deteriorated quality of working life.”
  • With the advent of self-driving cars and consumer facing AI, the fear of automation is once again at a fever pitch in the 2010s.
  • A 2016 White House report on Artificial Intelligence, Automation and the Economy states that “For all students, coursework in STEM, and specifically in areas such as computer science, will likely be especially relevant to work and citizenship in an increasingly AI-driven world. To respond to these shifts, the United States must make real investments in high-quality education, at all levels of education.



According the a 2015 McKinsey study, it is anticipated that as the automation of physical and knowledge work advances, many jobs will be redefined rather than eliminated. Currently, it is anticipated that nearly half of all activities that humans are paid to perform can be converted to automated processed with existing technology. Instead of seeing work as a zero-sum game with machines taking an ever greater share, we might see growing possibilities for employment. We could reframe the threat of automation as an opportunity for augmentation.

The Future of Work in Cities

What Will Future Jobs Look Like?

As AI continues to develop, more and more jobs will no longer need to be done by humans. Today, there are a series of new workforce automation pilot projects that we should pay close attention to as they develop:


Mobility 2030: Beyond Transportation

What’s Next for the Future of Urban Transport?

Mobility In The City of the Future

A self-driving vehicle is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without much human input. Autonomous cars combine a variety of techniques to perceive their surroundings, including radar, laser light, GPS, odometry, and computer vision.

Smart Cities – Infrastructure and Transport of the Future

A hyperloop consists of pods carrying passengers that travel through tubes or tunnels from which most of the air has been removed to reduce friction. This should allow the pods to travel at up to 750 miles per hour. Rather than using wheels like a train or car, the pods are designed to float on air skis, using the same basic idea as an air hockey table.

The Hyperloop Experience

Hyperloop Explained

A jet pack, rocket belt or rocket pack is a device, usually worn on the back, which uses jets of gas (or in some cases liquid) to propel the wearer through the air.  


The World’s First Jetpacks Are Here



Public health is what we do together as a society to ensure the conditions in which everyone can be healthy. Public health has been evolving over time. From the late 19th century through much of the 20th century, an era we call Public Health 1.0, public health practice was modernized through the advances in vaccines, antibiotics, epidemiology, and lab sciences, as well as a system of sanitation and standards in food and water safety.

Automated Pharmacies

Community safety is about helping communities to be and feel safe. It is important that you feel safe where you live, work or spend your leisure time.


MATERIALS: Pencils/paper or tablet/notebook to record notes


Opening discussion: What do you think are the coolest technological advances are today?

Part I

  • Explore: Ask students what they would like to do for a living when they grow up.
  • Use Data: What are the trends that indicate what industries will need workers? What education is required?
  • Challenge: Ask students to list three ways they would use AI and automation to change the way their future job will be done.
  • Plan: What are the inputs required for this to work?
  • Impact: What is the impact of your response? Observe all of the stakeholders and discuss.

Part II

  • Explore: Ask students to describe where they would like to live when they grow up?
  • Use Data: What does research tell us about migration patterns?
  • Challenge: Ask student to discuss how they would use technology to make positive changes in their current communities or in the type of place where they want to live.
  • Plan: What are the inputs required for this to work?
  • Impact: What is the impact of your response? Observe all of the stakeholders and discuss.


Q1 Let’s talk about design thinking.

Q2 Who is typically consulted when designing technological innovations?

Q3 Do you think the people that this would effect would embrace your change? Why or why not?

MATERIALS: Pencils/paper or tablet/notebook to record notes and 3D Supplies


Part 1

  1. Group students by table or teams of 3-5. Introduce theme concepts: Health Outcomes, Economic Empowerment, Safety and Neighborhood Improvement
  2. Research: Assign students the tasks to research at least one of the key concepts and the current status of that topic in their city.
  3. Report: Students report their findings regarding key concepts.

Part 2

  1. Instruct students to work in groups to collaborate on ideas for the next 15 minutes. Ask students to think about using automation and technology to solve a problem related to one of the concepts above.
  2. Have groups briefly report on their concepts and ideas.

Part 3

  1. Assist the groups in co-creating a 3D model of the present state and the future state. The present state can be a diagram. The future state will be a model.
  2. The student teams will present their design to the larger class.


Q1 What is mobility and why is it important to your community?

Q2 Are there any public safety and/or public health challenges in your community?

Q3 Do you believe there is equity/equality in your community?

Q4 What is the state of economic opportunities in our cities?

Q5 How does making a model help you observe different perspectives?