The MTA and the Partnership for New York City announced the Transit Tech Lab, an unpaid accelerator for "entrepreneurs who are developing products that could be useful to the MTA’s modernization plans." A few thoughts about this:
I strongly believe that NYC should work to maintain its position as *the* global center for people wanting to work on urban infrastructure. That said, the MTA needs to figure out how to recruit, retain, and nurture top talent itself, and the Transit Tech Lab (like the MTA Genius Challenge before it) seems to punt on this issue.
The MTA is broken largely due to the fact that neither the city nor the state have the incentive to take it as seriously as it deserves, and it's not at all clear to me that the technological (rather than political) fixes that accelerators tend to produce will be effective in that context. This is particularly acute in the second challenge, "How can we make buses faster and more efficient?" The obvious answer is that buses are slow because there are too many cars in the way, and while mounting cameras to buses will help measure that, solving the problem will ultimately involve either reducing the number of private vehicles on the road, or seriously stepping up bus lane enforcement, or creating a legit Curitiba-style bus rapid transit system.
I know that by now many of you will have already read the piece about Amazon's "secret AI recruitment tool" that gave demerits to women, but I just need to point out that "the company managed to salvage some of what it learned from its failed AI experiment. It now uses a 'much-watered down version' of the recruiting engine to help with some rudimentary chores, including culling duplicate candidate profiles from databases." If this is the future of AI - that we build something, and it ends up replicating some terrible aspect of human nature, and then we repurpose it to do nothing more than identify duplicate data - then can't we go back to calling it a regular old computer program again?
A long, unassuming, and rather inspiring interview with the founders of Method, the cleaning products company. I *love* the idea of a couple of kids in SF in the 90s starting a soap company, and Method's status as a B Corp doesn't hurt either. See also, however, the NYTimes' 2013 interview with (co-founder) Eric Ryan in which he says he "was just so thankful we never had to go down that path" of being acquired by "a major strategic" like, say, SC Johnson. When that interview was written, Method had just been sold to Ecover... which was then was subsequently bought by SC Johnson in 2017.