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We are in a world cradled by the futuristic potential of technology, and integration of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in an array of sectors is only going to take it a notch higher. Technology gave us a refreshingly unique perspective that interpreted the word ‘smart’ in a broader sense, breaking out of its own boundaries, and focusing on its impact on the human aspects of life. However, is smart technology integration going to enable the future or enslave it?

Commenting on this trend Architect Hafeez Contractor shared a refreshing philosophical counterpoint and antithesis — a candid call for common sense that we all ought to pay attention to.

According to Architect Contractor, smart living is more about living smartly, where technology works at the backend, supporting you in making your life simpler and more convenient, and enabling you to become more human. “Technology must support me to lead my life in a very normal and simple way. I don't want it to be superimposed on me and my life. I would not like to have technology to such an extent that people don't talk to each other, or people don't mingle with each other.”

He lamented that we are becoming slaves to technology, “These days, I see so many young kids talking only to the computer. They don't even have any physical exercise now. The famous Ascent of Man illustration will now need an additional figure of a man hunched over his mobile phone!”

Architect Contractor is, of course, alive to the fact that we need to adapt to societal changes and that it would be foolish to cling to the idealized version of the good old days. “Of course, I am not saying that we should all take a jhola and go to the Himalayas. We are living in today’s world, and we have to be practical. But we can do that more mindfully. We must think of what we need in our homes. A friend of mine was boasting that he could now control the AC in his house in India while sitting in the US. Technologically, it sounds great but how useful is it going to be to how many people? On the other hand, if we use technology to help us make more efficient use of power and water, to reduce our impact on the environment, to fight climate change and reduce our carbon footprint, it makes much more sense to me.”

This naturally brought the discussion around to The Prestige City, Prestige’s game-changing gated-community living concept, which was recently launched as a township in Hyderabad, after successful launches with spectacular properties in Mumbai and Bangalore.

“The Prestige City,” he said, “in many ways, is exactly what smart living should be. We have designed it to encourage human interaction, so people come out of their houses and meet and mingle with each other. It has a lot of greenery and open spaces and sports and cultural arenas. So, if you have come home after work and you want to go out to dinner, or you have to host a function or party, or you want to go see a show, or you want to play some squash or tennis, or you want to swim…you don’t need to drive 10-12 kilometers back to town. You can do all that right there within the community. It is self-contained and sustainable. The technology is all there but it only plays a backend role to facilitate your lifestyle and make things more convenient. To help you live in a completely earth-friendly way but still do whatever you enjoy doing.”

Touching specifically on The Prestige City Hyderabad, he said, “I think it's a fabulous location. On the one side, it has got the Institute of Agricultural Sciences, so that's a very nice, beautiful forest. On one side there is a nice lake and on the other side of that, you again have a forest. Anybody would love to stay in such a locale. We have two clubhouses, one for the luxury villas in Hyderabad and another for the high rises, both facing the lake. We have created a lovely long promenade along the lake, where people can meet and relax or stretch their legs and take a walk in the evening. All roads lead to the promenade which is lined with trees with flowers of different colors. It is like an entirely different world, which to me is a very nice, healthy, and sensible way to live, where people will come together, they will intermingle, they will celebrate and play sports together…I like that.”

Architect Contractor also believes that technology must have a social objective. It must be harnessed not merely to make homes smart but also to enable the provision of low-cost but high-quality smart homes for the 35% of our population that lives in slums without access to running water and proper hygienic toilets. As he put it, “The smartest way of living would be to help us devise a way by which you are going to give these people a proper house.”

As we brought the discussion to a close, Architect Contractor signed off with a word to the wise, as it were, “Today, ocean levels are rising, we don’t see sparrows and other birds any more in our cities, the bees and insects are also disappearing…this is a matter of serious concern. If there are no bees and insects, there won’t be pollination…which means plants and trees will stop growing…and then what will happen to the human race? We cannot eat sandwiches made of 2000-rupee notes. Let us use technology to help us live more responsibly, where we use our natural resources carefully and we don’t waste water and food, where we don’t keep polluting the environment and destroying the earth. That is when we will truly be living smartly!”

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