The Eco-Villages of the first age multiplied, upgraded, and created several structured global networks . The city lockdowns of recent years seem to have given them new life, and new meaning even among the younger generations.
However, living together while respecting society and the environment, in an occasionally tech-free ideal civilization, is really enough? Perhaps not anymore. Or at least, not for everyone. Certainly not for certain economic interests.
Over the past few years, an innovative type of settlement has started to quietly appear at the horizon. From the original Eco-Villages it only takes the name and the core concept of a harmonious, cooperative and sustainable union between man and nature. It adds, however, a crucial third element: technology. Specifically, the highest and most advanced digital technology. This element alone distorts the overall picture of Eco-Villages, but the differences are much more striking the deeper we analyze the features of the so-called “Eco-Villages 2.0.“
First of all, they did not originate as a consciousness-raising bottom-up movement like their internationally resounding predecessors. On the contrary, they are the outcome of the will of certain special economic interests. A top-down approach relying on a collaboration between academia and computer science and engineering professionals, fitting into the famous process of Digital Transformation, alias the digitization of existence.
By now, one can wonder how such a paradigm shift was conceivable and how it is possible to combine a hyper-technologization of life with natural harmony.
Very simple. These new cities (they are less close to the essence of “Villages”) propose to use Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) to coordinate crops production, husbandry, waste recycling and all complex urban operations through a perfect circular economy and a new kind of permaculture, called sentient permaculture .
The brilliant idea that Dr. James Ehlrich clearly illustrated to a group of stakeholders and investors is the discovery of the Internet of Plants, also known as the Wood Wide Web . As he explains, trees are able to communicate with each other from one side to the other of the forest they belong to. They can even send nutrients or aid to the trees in need through a fungal-mycellular network, which connects them through myriad endings.
The idea is to reproduce this mechanism not only locally, but also amongst Eco-Villages of various parts of the world thanks to the Internet and AI. The goal is to create human communities that are not only more humanly cohesive, generating and consuming zero-kilometer crops and resources, prosperous and self-sufficient (like Eco-Villages 1.0), but also technologically complex, decentralized from a central State and interconnected with each other.
They are a generative and re-generative community, which is why they are also called, perhaps more appropriately, Regenerative Villages (“Re-Gen Villages”). They are not only sustaining themselves, but self-regenerating through AI calculations.
While one can only appreciate and, perhaps, admire such a work of ingenuity, one cannot avoid seeing the dramatic importance given to technology. As usual, technology is empowered and give the role of exempting humanity from all those burdensome and tiring activities that oppress it. Freedom from the burdens of nature to fulfill oneself (in the digital world).
The farm-culture relationship, embedded in Permaculture, is thus abandoned in favor of efficiency. The “interdependence” – the symbiotic union between man and nature – is filtered by technology, which is given control of everything, for a new “independence.”
Despite the great wonders that Regenerative Villages promise us, this dream struggles to be implemented. In fact, no Regen Village yet exist anywhere in the world.
The first Eco-Villages had spread enthusiastically all over the world, also because they could be replicated by anyone with good will – obviously depending on one’s availability. This new version, instead, cannot follow the same destiny due to its high costs in terms of funds and resources. In short: they are not “affordable for everyone.”
It is no coincidence that we can find applications of the powerful technology at the base of Regen Villages in China, Korea and the wealthy cities of Singapore and Dubai, which are often cited as virtuous examples of the concept  .