Tech-Humanism

Two years at 18F; Airbnb's impact on NYC rent prices; and more.


  • Must read: Cyd Harrell reflects on two years at 18F.

  • Kim Lyons writes for Technical.ly that a fragmented civic tech scene can be a good thing.

  • Los Angeles is angling to lead the country in innovative government data projects, Zack Quaintance reports for Government Technology.

  • What’s missing from the relatively new conversation in Silicon Valley about building humane technology is a consideration of power, Moira Weigel and Ben Tarnoff argue in The Guardian. “Tech humanists deserve credit for drawing attention to one of those problems – the manipulative design decisions made by Silicon Valley,” they write. “But these decisions are only symptoms of a larger issue: the fact that the digital infrastructures that increasingly shape our personal, social and civic lives are owned and controlled by a few billionaires. Because it ignores the question of power, the tech-humanist diagnosis is incomplete – and could even help the industry evade meaningful reform. Taken up by leaders such as Zuckerberg, tech humanism is likely to result in only superficial changes. These changes may soothe some of the popular anger directed towards the tech industry, but they will not address the origin of that anger. If anything, they will make Silicon Valley even more powerful.”

  • What sharing economy? A new report from the New York City Comptroller found that 9.2 percent of citywide rent increases between 2009 and 2016 can be attributed to Airbnb short-term rentals, and the figure is even higher in the most popular neighborhoods: Chelsea, Chinatown and the Lower East Side, and Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

  • This is not civic tech: ICYMI, in late April a broken fax machine on Rikers Island prevented some detainees from being released after their bail had been posted, Reuven Blau reported for The Daily News. I repeat, *a broken fax machine.*

  • Writing in The New York Times, Christopher M. Kirchhoff, who led a Pentagon group that integrates new technology from Silicon Valley into military missions, responds to the petition by Google employees protesting their company’s participation in a Defense Department project called Project Maven.

  • Bill Gates is apparently giving money to the World Bank to help take India’s (problematic and scandal-plagued) biometric identification system, Aadhaar, to other countries. In a tweet by the Aadhaar office, he is quoted as saying “Aadhaar in itself doesn’t pose any privacy issue because it is just a bio ID verification scheme.” Oh! Well in that case we’ll stop worrying that all it costs to start adding or editing entries is $30 bucks for some bootleg software.

  • Job board: The New York Attorney General’s office is looking for a privacy and data security research engineer. Learn more here [PDF].