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Cover story .... Living Well ..... Title Pages ..... Real Estate .... 37 42 50 52 g n i k r Spa n o i t a v o n n i Palo Alto’s National Day of Civic Hacking blends high-tech flash with game-changing ideas Veronica Weber by Gennady Sheyner F users to rewind and fast forward the broadcast from their car radios (Adori inventor Nathan Iyer, who is trying to KickStart this project to life, said he was inspired by his son’s insistence to hear a Maroon 5 song again — a request that cannot be met with standard radio technology). Though Palo Alto was one of 96 cities staging hackathons, Reichental said the city’s event was “10 times bigger than the next biggest hackathon in the countryâ€? and was singled out in a White House briefing. From the city’s perspective, the ideas that came out of the event were even more valuable than the toys and gadgets. From City Manager James Keene linking America’s present-day democratic tensions to the 1804 duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr to top technologists working with the city’s Chief People Officer Kathy Shen to build apps promoting a healthy community, the event offered plenty of cerebral food for the civic-minded thinker. Here are a few choice morsels: REDRAWING THE SQUARE: For James Keene, the CEO of a city proud of its inclusive, democratic and at times mind-numbingly thorough “process,â€? the tension between getting things done and respecting public participation is a fact of everyday life. At his TEDstyle talk Saturday, Keene spoke at length about the “paradoxical tensionâ€? in America’s political tradition, which he traced back to the duel on the Hudson between Vice President Aaron Burr, a devout, small-government Jeffersonian, and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, a pragmatic, stronggovernment federalist. The two represented, in Keene’s view, the two sides of America’s political system — Jefferson’s commitment to freedom and liberty and his belief in the wisdom of the crowds, and Hamilton’s enterprising spirit and commitment to a strong government and a robust economy. Keene presented three models of governance, each of which carries significant implications for the public. There’s the triangle, a hierarchical shape in which the bureaucracy is on top and the us- Veronica Weber At top, 7-year-old Seyoun Vishakan excitedly watches as his chosen robot competes to push another robot out of the ring in the TechShop booth during the National Day of Civic Hacking June 1. Above, Scott Parenteau, takes his motorized steel “Walking Podâ€? for a stroll in downtown Palo Alto. At left, Ori Gertstel (right) and Itsik Hazan (left) interact with The Hive, an apparatus that uses a computer program to pump air into tubes filled with a pingpong balls to show Palo Alto city data by year, including water usage, electricity, gas and e-books. Veronica Weber rom lasers and marshmallow shooters to tech workshops and TED-style talks, Palo Alto’s colorful and eclectic celebration of hacking had something for just about every one of the roughly 5,000 visitors who spread out around Lytton Plaza during Saturday’s National Day of Civic Hacking. But for organizers, some of the event’s most intriguing and potentially game-changing bits occurred away from the spotlight, in conference rooms, break-out sessions and design workshops. Jonathan Reichental, Palo Alto’s chief information officer and the event’s official maestro, said he was “ecstaticâ€? about the turnout at the event and the excitement it generated in the community, particularly among the hundreds of youngsters who spent the sweltering afternoon playing with robots or exploring a 3-D printer, a laseretching machine or the myriad inventions on display — from a giant walking pod that Scott Parenteau put together for shelter at Burning Man to a small plastic box called Adori, which allows ers are “clientsâ€? of the lawmakers (think Hamilton). There’s the circle, which has no hierarchy and in which users are “neighborsâ€? (think Jefferson). But it’s the square, Keene said, that “we don’t pay enough attention to.â€? That’s where the public plays the role of “citizensâ€? who help the lawmakers create the future the community wants. He pointed to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the launch pad for Egypt’s revolution, and — a less dramatic but more pertinent example — to Lytton Plaza itself, site of what organizers labeled CityCamp Palo Alto. He encouraged visitors to use “hackingâ€? as a way to “disrupt thingsâ€? and “improve the software of self-government in our society.â€? “Today is more than a hackathon,â€? Keene declared. “CityCamp itself is an exercise in self-government.â€? A BLEAK NEW WORLD: “Revolutions are great to read about, but sometimes they kind of suck when you go through them,â€? futurist Paul Saffo told a group during a fireside-chat-style discus- sion at Lytton Plaza. Saffo’s talk was titled “The Bay Area’s future as a city-state.â€? Cities, he said, define their power by the hinterlands they control, with the Bay Area’s “natural environmentâ€? running up and down Sacramento River. But as questions from the audience came in, the talk quickly turned to inequality and unemployment — trends that the technological revolution isn’t necessarily helping. In the past, technological innovation created at least as many jobs as it took away and the challenge was retraining the work force for the new positions. In the modern world of robots and automation, that’s no longer the case. “That changed some time during the dot-com revolution,â€? Saffo said. “For the first time, we were no longer making more jobs than we’re destroying.â€? He gave the example of Facebook, which in 2011 generated $3.7 million in revenues with a workforce of 2,500, productivity that he called “breathtaking.â€? And the employees of Twitter, (continued on page 39) ĂœĂœĂœÂ°*>Â?ÂœÂ?ĂŒÂœ"˜Â?ˆ˜i°VÂœÂ“ĂŠUĂŠ*>Â?ÂœĂŠÂ?ĂŒÂœĂŠ7iiÂŽÂ?ÞÊUĂŠĂ•Â˜iÊÇ]ÊÓä£ÎÊU Page 37

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