Mapping What Matters Underneath Cities

Mapping What Matters Underneath Cities

All too often, city residents ignore what happens underneath their feet, realizing after an unexpected explosion or other incident, the sheer amount of design, construction and maintenance talent supporting energy and infrastructure layers that are the foundation of our above-ground lifestyles, businesses and environments.

The engineering and navigation of sub-surface operations, rights-of-way and easements is an archeology of municipal records, archiving the civilization of urban spaces.  All too often, such records are scattered, in public and private collections, subject to being lost, mishandled, unauthenticated or simply forgotten.

When the emergency happens, multiple agencies of federal, state and local government, utilities, commercial and residential property owners, insurers and others get involved to re-generate collective memory of what broke, what is worth fixing to status quo ante, and what would be best replaced with newer, more resilient infrastructure and technology.  Reconstruction is delayed because of the information that is missing or needs to be revalidated.  Insurance settlements and new premium rates reflect the information delays and asymmetries.

Transparency tools, such as building information models geospatially organized like a three-ring binder to align with a shared accurate street base map can start the process of planning for more sustainable and resilient systems. In turn, the models permit stress-tests and aging scenarios that improve collaborative reconstruction of sub-surface systems, and even identify vacant vault space or recyclable heat and water that can be used by smart buildings to reduce energy costs and environmental impacts.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a Distinguished Scholar at Stanford mediaX and a former CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979). Bruce has been licensed to practice law in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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Technology takes over the Law
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Technology takes over the Law

Our commercial world is becoming a cascade of EULAs:  End Use License Agreements, shrink-wrapping us and our rights and remedies into confirming to however the product or service offeror sees fit to treat consumers.  Not just software, but banking online, employment applications, job search sites, and even places where dinner reservations are made impose a daily diet of EULAs, beyond human reading capacity.

These agreements are so frequently a facet of our lives – a kindred spirit – that few of us read or have the time to read them.  So we “click-through” EULAs, unaware and seemingly uncaring of the risks, value-barter, and consequences of trusting merchants with consumer identity, credit card number, social security or their digital detritus from hours of browsing, dripping cookies through the cyberspace of disconnected lives connected for commercial and surveillance purposes through the Internet.

In a wired economy ruled by contract law speeding transactions faster and faster, the legal gymnastics of navigating what one’s rights are is attracting startups to build applications that can “read” what EULA or other document is being presented (e.g., EULAlyzer), interpret its variance from a “normal” contract or other document, and generate alternative verbiage as a negotiated compromise (e.g., Docracy).

Likewise, high legal fees for litigation drawn out over multiple years are being whittled down by various automated research and discovery services (e.g., Lex Machina for patents or Blackstone Discovery for litigation discovery), and mediation services to accelerate compromise or resolution of disputes in commercial, family and other litigation settings.

For lawyers, technology has moved beyond Microsoft Office’s Word  for creating documents, Excel for spreadsheets and Adobe PDF for storing documents.  Technology has now come to dominate the function of lawyering, and the tasksNYC Checker Cab that clients formerly paid only lawyers and paralegals to perform.

The technology-phobic lawyer, clinging to her barely “smart” Blackberry inside a New York City taxicab, may want to retool and reconsider the landscape created by technologies conquering the law.

The bedside manner of the national and state bar associations may not yet fully understand the profound changes coming to the practice of law.  To keep up with current trends, for starters, to glimpse into the future, check out Stanford University’s CodeX:  Center for Legal Informatics, where legal tech startup founders graze and launch from regularly.

Bruce Cahan

Bruce Cahan is CEO and co-founder of Urban Logic, a nonprofit that harnesses finance and technology to change how systems think, act and feel. He is an Ashoka Fellow, an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a Distinguished Scholar at Stanford mediaX and a former CodeX Fellow at Stanford's Center for Legal Informatics. Bruce was trained as an international finance lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges in NYC (10 years) and as merchant banker at Asian Oceanic in Hong Kong (2 years). Bruce graduated The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S. Economics 1976) and Temple Law School (J.D. 1979). Bruce has been licensed to practice law in California (2006), New York (1980) and Pennsylvania (1980).

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