The broader plan also includes vaccine incentives like $100 debit cards. “The goal here is to convince everyone that this is the time,” said de Blasio.
How it will work: To see a Broadway show, eat indoors at a restaurant, or use a gym, you’ll need to show proof that you’ve received at least one dose of a covid vaccine. (It won’t be needed for essentials, like grocery shopping.) Acceptable proof will include the state’s Excelsior Pass (which has faced a range of glitches and fairness concerns), as well as a new app released by the city, NYC Covid Safe. A paper card issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also work. The requirement applies to both customers and employees of those places.
Some details are still spotty. For example, it’s unclear how the plan will work for kids under 12, who aren’t yet eligible for vaccination. (De Blasio said more information would be released in mid-August.) It’s also unclear how venue operators and workers will deal with the burden of verifying everyone. The NYC Hospitality Alliance said in a statement that the new requirement would be “a very difficult step and controversial for some.” For other businesses, it’ll be a welcome way to enforce policies that used to be voluntary.
The app for that: The NYC Covid Safe app offers fewer features than the state app and doesn’t connect directly to vaccine records. Instead it simply stores an image of a vaccine record. That makes it an easier tool for people whose vaccine record is stored outside the state, since US vaccine databases aren’t nationally centralized. But Albert Fox Cahn, who studies vaccine passports as executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, points to some drawbacks. Because the city’s app is basically just storing a photo, it will accept pretty much anything as vaccine proof, making it remarkably easy to falsify credentials. “It’s baffling to me that they would go to all this effort to basically reinvent the camera,” says Cahn.
S. Mitra Kalita, who founded the covid resource Epicenter-NYC, says that although the policies may be necessary to combat the delta variant, new tech shouldn’t detract from the bigger goal of helping more people to get vaccinated. “We are still encountering folks who don’t know vaccines are free,” she says. “An app is one thing. We need many [other] things right now.”
The bigger picture: The US has faced a rocky road when it comes to vaccine apps and mandates. Many states have outright banned proof requirements. But there’s a sharp divide—San Francisco now has an alliance of hundreds of bars that are requiring some such proof. More and more employers have begun to require vaccines in recent days, including companies as disparate as Disney, Google, and Tyson.
Other countries, such as France and Italy, have faced backlash to recent mandates. The UK has been debating such a move. Israel canceled and then relaunched its “green pass.” (The Ada Lovelace Institute has a good list.)
The Download: Introducing our TR35 list, and the death of the smart city
Spoiler alert: our annual Innovators Under 35 list isn’t actually about what a small group of smart young people have been up to (although that’s certainly part of it.) It’s really about where the world of technology is headed next.
As you read about the problems this year’s winners have set out to solve, you’ll also glimpse the near future of AI, biotech, materials, computing, and the fight against climate change.
To connect the dots, we asked five experts—all judges or former winners—to write short essays about where they see the most promise, and the biggest potential roadblocks, in their respective fields. We hope the list inspires you and gives you a sense of what to expect in the years ahead.
Read the full list here.
The Urbanism issue
The modern city is a surveillance device. It can track your movements via your license plate, your cell phone, and your face. But go to any city or suburb in the United States and there’s a different type of monitoring happening, one powered by networks of privately owned doorbell cameras, wildlife cameras, and even garden-variety security cameras.
The latest print issue of MIT Technology Review examines why, independently of local governments, we have built our neighborhoods into panopticons: everyone watching everything, all the time. Here is a selection of some of the new stories in the edition, guaranteed to make you wonder whether smart cities really are so smart after all:
– How groups of online neighborhood watchmen are taking the law into their own hands.
– Why Toronto wants you to forget everything you know about smart cities.
– Bike theft is a huge problem. Specialized parking pods could be the answer.
– Public transport wants to kill off cash—but it won’t be as disruptive as you think.
Toronto wants to kill the smart city forever
Most Quayside watchers have a hard time believing that covid was the real reason for ending the project. Sidewalk Labs never really painted a compelling picture of the place it hoped to build.
The new Waterfront Toronto project has clearly learned from the past. Renderings of the new plans for Quayside—call it Quayside 2.0—released earlier this year show trees and greenery sprouting from every possible balcony and outcropping, with nary an autonomous vehicle or drone in site. The project’s highly accomplished design team—led by Alison Brooks, a Canadian architect based in London; the renowned Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye; Matthew Hickey, a Mohawk architect from the Six Nations First Nation; and the Danish firm Henning Larsen—all speak of this new corner of Canada’s largest city not as a techno-utopia but as a bucolic retreat.
In every way, Quayside 2.0 promotes the notion that an urban neighborhood can be a hybrid of the natural and the manmade. The project boldly suggests that we now want our cities to be green, both metaphorically and literally—the renderings are so loaded with trees that they suggest foliage is a new form of architectural ornament. In the promotional video for the project, Adjaye, known for his design of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History, cites the “importance of human life, plant life, and the natural world.” The pendulum has swung back toward Howard’s garden city: Quayside 2022 is a conspicuous disavowal not only of the 2017 proposal but of the smart city concept itself.
To some extent, this retreat to nature reflects the changing times, as society has gone from a place of techno-optimism (think: Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone) to a place of skepticism, scarred by data collection scandals, misinformation, online harassment, and outright techno-fraud. Sure, the tech industry has made life more productive over the past two decades, but has it made it better? Sidewalk never had an answer to this.
“To me it’s a wonderful ending because we didn’t end up with a big mistake,” says Jennifer Keesmaat, former chief planner for Toronto, who advised the Ministry of Infrastructure on how to set this next iteration up for success. She’s enthusiastic about the rethought plan for the area: “If you look at what we’re doing now on that site, it’s classic city building with a 21st-century twist, which means it’s a carbon-neutral community. It’s a totally electrified community. It’s a community that prioritizes affordable housing, because we have an affordable-housing crisis in our city. It’s a community that has a strong emphasis on green space and urban agriculture and urban farming. Are those things that are derived from Sidewalk’s proposal? Not really.”
Rewriting what we thought was possible in biotech
What ML and AI in biotech broadly need to engage with are the holes that are unique to the study of health. Success stories like neural nets that learned to identify dogs in images were built with the help of high-quality image labeling that people were in a good position to provide. Even attempts to generate or translate human language are easily verified and audited by experts who speak a particular language.
Instead, much of biology, health, and medicine is very much in the stage of fundamental discovery. How do neurodegenerative diseases work? What environmental factors really matter? What role does nutrition play in overall human health? We don’t know yet. In health and biotech, machine learning is taking on a different, more challenging, task—one that will require less engineering and more science.
Marzyeh Ghassemi is an assistant professor at MIT and a faculty member at the Vector Institute (and a 35 Innovators honoree in 2018).