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Are we entering a new era of tech-driven city building?

Emily Badger of the New York Times published an interesting piece yesterday talking about the tech industry’s current obsession with trying to fix cities. And there are certainly many problems to fix.

Staying true to tech and engineering parlance, there’s lots of talk of optimization. How do you technologically optimize a city, for things such as affordable housing?

There’s no doubt that many of you will sympathize with this statement: 

To planners and architects, all of this sounds like the naïveté of newcomers who are mistaking political problems for engineering puzzles.”

But naïveté is not always a bad thing and with all of the money sloshing around in this industry, there’s also no doubt that this is likely a new era of city building.

The article ends by quoting JD Ross, the 27-year old co-founder of Opendoor – a startup that we have discussed many times before on this blog and is now valued at over $1 billion.

It is him saying that he wants to figure out how to put $100 million into this space as soon as he can figure out the right target to optimize for. “It’s better than buying a Bugatti.”

Of course Sidewalk Toronto – which is mentioned a few times throughout the article – is already a perfect example of tech infiltration.

But I think Dan Doctoroff gets it right when he posits that the real naïveté will come from disrespecting urbanist traditions.

Photo by David Alacaraz on Unsplash

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