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Quote of the Day: Cities' 'Cyborg Future'

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, October 13 2011

I have been accused in this first couple months of promoting democracy by spreadsheet. The [Chicago open] data portal has been called a junk drawer. I think we need to think hard about -- the cynic says, get rid of instinct and gut feel in decision making and pair that with data. The more optimistic way to say it is there's a street-level knowledge, a sort of narrative feel, that needs not to be totally displaced by a cyborg future of doing it by data. I don't have answers for that. I think both of those things need to be in that. Ultimately, you fill a pothole with filler, not with data.

— Chicago Chief Technology Officer John Tolva, less than a year into his time as CTO under still-mostly-new Mayor Rahm Emanuel, arguing both sides of the growing role of hard data in city decision-making. Data-driven decision making as we now understand it in cities began decades ago with what would become New York City's CompStat program, and in Baltimore in 2000. Tolva was speaking Thursday at the Code for America Summit in San Francisco.