As David Abram has described in Becoming Animal, the well-known Cartesian separation of body and mind conceals a profounder separation between human mind and everything else. This privileging of human mind has always suggested that it is both more competent than other minds (if, indeed, other creatures and entities can be said to have minds at all) and that it is capable of rising above the surrounding hubbub to see and objectively assess what's going on out there.
It has also tended to suggest - even to those with more enlightened views of climate change and so on - that, even though nature sometimes gets out of hand, it is fundamentally up to us (with our minds) to sort out the mess we've made of things out there.
Of course, in the context of this Scientific American article, it is still human minds using human beings as sensors. But it does reintroduce the notion that humanity can itself be in service of itself and, more important, of the planet as a whole. As we put ourselves back into context, rather than rising up 'above' our context, there seems to be more hope of us as a species finding some sense of proportion.
[For more on all this, look out for Jack Huber's forthcoming book with us: The Future of the Mind.]
The Smartest Cities Will Use People as Their Sensors