December 2017

If you are using AI in your city, and you probably should be, are you sure it doesn’t have a bias you don’t know about? It may be time to call the Algorithm Police.

The New York City Council has introduced a bill to create a task force to address instances where algorithms – or “automated decision systems used by agencies” – may have harmed people unfairly. From Techcrunch, here are some of the questions the task would seek to answer:

“How can people know whether or not they or their circumstances are being assessed algorithmically, and how should they be informed as to that process? Does a given system disproportionately impact certain groups, such as the elderly, immigrants, the disabled, minorities, etc?
If so, what should be done on behalf of an a ected group?
How does a given system function, both in terms of its technical details and in how the city
applies it?
How should these systems and their training data be documented and archived?”

Check out the details of the bill here.

Even before the FCC’s net neutrality repeal, conversations abounded about what options cities had to preserve it.

The Regional Plan Association made recommendations as part of New York-New Jersey-Connecticut Fourth Regional Plan that “state and local government start taking a leadership role in both planning for and investing in internet infrastructure across the three states.

For those wanting to preserve net neutrality, there are nearly two hundred communities that today have public internet services to look to as examples – even if the FCC intends to block regions from passing their own net neutrality rules. We will see whether cities get challenged as the last bastion of net neutrality.

It wouldn’t be the rst time smaller regions fought back. Earlier in the year, 31 counties rejected Colorado Senate Bill 152 – a law prohibiting city-run broadband.

In any event, the issue is a long way from settled.

 

In a bid to create stronger networks between entrepreneurs and city agencies, San Antonio has announced a new civic engagement program, CivTechSA. The program aims to draw together talent from throughout the tech ecosystem – from junior high to entrepreneurs to skilled tech workers – to put their minds together to address real city challenges that agencies provide to them. The desired results: creative tech solutions for the city, deeper relationships within the tech community, and the serendipity that comes from putting smart people in a room together to work on challenging problems.

 

MIT has announced the China Future City Lab. Developed with business and government partners, the lab will create living labs in Chinese cities, will include an accelerator (called the MIT-Tsinghua Future City Innovation Connector) for startups, and will support research of urban life in China. The accelerator will be run in partnership with DesignX, the entrepreneurship accelerator for MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning.

 

Ten miles of new subway track are coming to Long Island, NY, and it won’t be the riders footing the bill at the turnstile – at least not exclusively. At a meeting earlier this month, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said that all future projects will account for ‘value capture’ – the nancing of public infrastructure by recovering some of the value it creates for private landowners that bene t from increased public access.

It’s not a new idea. An EY report from 2011 goes into the ways Warsaw’s public transportation service could “acquire additional dedicated resources by considering the contributions of the land value capture methodology,” using a group of funding methods (land value taxation, negotiated exactions, tax increment nancing, special assessments, development impact fees, etc.) to fund infrastructure that results in both net private sector pro t and increased public sector returns.

Want to read more? Check out the American Public Transportation Association’s 2015 policy paper on value capture for public transportation, last year’s value capture bill in Chicago to fund the city’s transportation authority’s projects, or Hong Kong’s use of the financing for its transportation infrastructure.

 

While Bitcoin’s price has been capturing the world’s imagination, its’ energy costs also deserve attention. The process to “mine” Bitcoin requires extreme computing power – and extreme amounts of energy.

According to a new report from the International Energy Agency, the energy being used to mine Bitcoin is now greater than the energy consumption of some countries. (!!!) If there was a Bitcoin Nation, its energy requirements would be greater than those of Denmark and Belarus. And it’s rising fast.

Bitcoin’s energy costs are now important to think about as cities, states and countries, consider their energy futures.