CNT’s ”Reinventing Chicago” event last Thursday brought together compelling visionaries on urban issues and technology with an eager crowd in a fun, engaging space. Speakers, CNT president and co-founder Scott Bernstein, urban planner and architect Andrés Duany, and Chief Technology Officer for Chicago John Tolva, gave an hour-long talk and conversation about how technology can address some problems of urban sustainability.
John Tolva kicked off the conversation by outlining what he’s set out to accomplish since taking the reins as CTO, namely his focus on what he’s termed the “digital public way”— the common sight of networked devices fixed in place on the street. He argued that these devices make the city run more smoothly and lives easier, and that continuing to overlay the internet across the city will result in greater efficiency.
Andrés Duany argued for “anachronistic planning” or not trying to fix what isn’t broken. Using his own life as an example, he explained how he uses his cell phone built in 2012 inside his home built in the 1920s because both do their jobs better than other things produced at different times. Andrés made an interesting analogy, wherein the city is the first computer and the best matrix of decentralized computing, in contrast to the suburbs which are centralized with fixed routes.
CNT President Scott Bernstein’s presentation summed up CNT’s contributions to sustainable technology over the years. Scott explained how CNT had researched and proven the potential of free internet to low- and middle-income neighborhoods over ten years ago, which is just now being explored by the city. He gave an overview of the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index and Abogo, two tools for more accurately assessing the cost of living in a neighborhood by taking into account the “hidden” costs of transportation.
The conversation proved lively, with each of the participants posing questions and asking for clarifications and opinions from the others. Among the points raised were Andrés’ observation that, regardless of the ubiquity of technology, the urban space will still always be relevant, as social and revolutionary spirit is not easily transferred over the internet. John Tolva made an interesting contention that the internet reinforces city living as it promotes more instant gratification than the suburbs allow. Both of these ideas illustrate how technology supports city living, which CNT has shown is more efficient than living in more dispersed places.
We also solicited ideas from attendees for the Urban Sustainability Hackathon, which followed Thursday’s event. Some of the ideas that attendees came up with included a method of tracking the number of pedestrians using CCTV cameras, a license plate reporting database for reckless and dangerous driving, and a gentrification tracker for research.
CNT thanks our sponsors and supporters for helping us make this event a success, our speakers for providing their visions about urban sustainability and technology, and those who came to the event to show their support for CNT and a more sustainable future.