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Gary Johnson, Molly Turner & Ren Yee
Gary Johnson, Molly Turner & Ren Yee

Panel Discussion

Co-sponsored by the Urban Tech Hub

Hosted by Cornell Tech's Anthony Townsend

The Platform Insurgency: Does Urban Tech Have an Ethics Problem?


Much of urban tech exploits today’s most ethically-charged technologies and business practices—such as indiscriminate location tracking, facial recognition, and gig work to fundamentally reprogram how urban systems function. As these failures become clearer, and broader awareness of systemic injustice in society grows, how can the emerging field of urban tech clarify choices between right and wrong? DLI's Helen Nissenbaum joins Gary Johnson, Molly Turner and Ren Yee (see biographies below) to discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead. For more info on the newly launched Urban Tech Hub, visit: https://urbantech.network/


Gary Johnson is an experienced project director, strategist, and operations leader with a passion for leveraging technology to improve public life. He has more than 10 years of experience creating new partnerships between the public and private sectors and leading teams to be innovative in solving complex challenges. In 2017, Gary led the launch of NYCx; the City’s first-ever program for breakthrough and emerging technology. To-date, NYCx has engaged over 300+ startups who have collectively raised $80 million in capital post-NYCx Challenge. Gary is committed to measurable improving inclusion and equity in tech and entrepreneurship. He is a champion of underrepresented entrepreneurs and is an accomplished ecosystem builder. Gary currently leads the City’s Inclusive Entrepreneurship initiative, which engages underrepresented founders in tech and connects them key City resources and strategic partnerships to support their growth throughout the startup lifecycle. His approach is creative, intersectional, and holistic, combining the expertise he’s gained as a community organizer with policy and technology program development.

Molly Turner is a leading expert on technology startups and cities. Through her teaching at Haas and her work in the field, she has shaped the contemporary conversation about technology’s impacts on urban life and governance. At Haas, Turner teaches the popular class Tech and the City: How to Get Urban Innovation Right to graduate MBAs. She is also the co-host and co-producer of the podcast Technopolis from Atlantic Media and CityLab. Turner is deeply engaged in contemporary tech and urban policy issues through her advisory role with urban tech startups, and board membership of urban policy think tank SPUR. Turner was an early employee of Airbnb, where she established the company’s public policy team in 2011 and directed its groundbreaking regulatory collaboration with cities. As the Global Head of Civic Partnerships, Turner directed Airbnb’s partnerships with governments around the world, including its international disaster response program, neighborhood tourism development program, and 2015 launch in Cuba. Before Airbnb, Turner worked for the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, the UNESCO World Heritage Cities Program, and an urban planning consulting firm. Turner holds a Master in Urban Planning from Harvard University and a BA from Dartmouth College.

Ren Yee plays dual roles at UNStudio and UNSense. As head of UNSense Consultancy, he leads one of the key drivers of the arch tech company that focusses on strategy, concept and design of implementable data-driven human centric solutions in the urban environment. In this role, he carries out an internationally oriented portfolio of public-private projects. Together with his roles at UNStudio as Head of Innovation Strategy and Forecasting, and leader of the Futures Team, he is a sought-after lecturer and speaker at design and architectural events and conferences. UNFutures is an in-house research unit tasked with the exploration of how we live, work, learn and move today and in the future, forecasting the effects of these shifts on the built environment. As a new type of agency, UNFutures works closely with sister company UNSense to foster close collaborations with academics, technologists and design leaders in order to prototype ways in which emerging technologies or approaches can solve problems in the city.

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