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Smart cities, where technology is used to solve every problem, are hailed as futuristic urban utopias. We are promised that apps, algorithms, and artificial intelligence will relieve congestion, restore democracy, prevent crime, and improve public services. In this talk, I warn against seeing the city through the lens of technology; taking an exclusively technical view of urban life will lead to cities that appear smart but under the surface are rife with injustice and inequality. I propose instead that cities strive to be “smart enough”: to embrace technology as a powerful tool when used in conjunction with other forms of social change — but not to value technology as an end in itself.
Ben Green is a postdoctoral scholar in the Michigan Society of Fellows and an assistant professor in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics, with a secondary field in Science, Technology, and Society, from Harvard University. Ben studies the ethics of government algorithms, with a focus on algorithmic fairness, human-algorithm interactions, and AI regulation. His book, The Smart Enough City: Putting Technology in Its Place to Reclaim Our Urban Future, was published in 2019 by MIT Press. Ben is also an Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard and a Fellow at the Center for Democracy & Technology.
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