Dash Marshall






Bits and Atoms

Greg Lindsay

We helped Urban-X, an incubator in NYC, explore the implications of urban robots.

With a group of public policy experts, architects, designers, and members of both the Mayor of New York and the Governor of New York’s offices, we hosted a half-day workshop to ask the question, what happens when it’s not just people moving in autonomous vehicles, but stuff and services too?

Workshop participants doing workshop things Workshop participants doing workshop things

Dash Marshall created a bespoke workshop involving multiple rounds of invention and sketching. Building off our prior research into autonomous vehicles, participants began with a pool of diverse user stories that asked them to consider the needs of people with different levels of mobility, different motivations, and different levels of access. By the end of the workshop, more than a dozen ideas were on the walls. Participants selected five to develop further, exploring the changes that occur when moving from human-centered designs to urban-scale systems.

Workshop materials A selection of the ideas that emerged. We created special materials for the workshop that helped people articulate ideas quickly.

Co-organizer Greg Lindsay described the day like this:

If there’s one lesson to draw from the exercise, it’s that the central premise of autonomy — that it will be used to move people from point A to point B, usually in cars — is fundamentally wrong. Throughout multiple rounds of brainstorming and discussion, participants kept coming back to the idea of autonomy being applied to resources and institutions as a stopgap to help deal with failing pubic services. Instead of autonomous cars, we talked about autonomous hospitals or medical clinics deployed to communities whose residents used it to treat themselves. We discussed how shadow transportation networks might arise in response to pervasive surveillance and persecution, and how those networks might steer people toward communities and resources. And we talked about everything except the technology.

After the workshop Dash Marshall co-founder Bryan Boyer participated in a public forum hosted by Laura Bliss of CityLab. Workshop participants presented five concepts to the audience, who were asked to consider themselves mayor for the day and listen to the proposals from that perspective. The night concluded with a group exercise designed by Dash Marshall where everyone was invited to ‘invest’ into one or multiple concepts using special coins handed out at the beginning of the night.

Speaker at the evening event

A pile of coins Urban-X lasercut special ‘coins’ for our evening investment exercise.

People voting

Photos courtesy of Urban-X