There were six hours during the night of April 10, 2014, when the entire population of Washington State had no 911 service. People who called for help got a busy signal. One Seattle woman dialed 911 at least 37 times while a stranger was trying to break into her house. When he finally crawled into her living room through a window, she picked up a kitchen knife. The man fled.
Last week I found myself in the banquet room of a far-suburban conference and retreat center, giving a talk to an audience that was mostly comprised of software engineers and the sales and marketing people charged with merchandising their work to the world. I was there to present to them an approach to thinking about the so-called smart city – the notion that every object, surface and relation of the contemporary urban environment should be subjected to algorithmic optimization, in the name of efficiency, sustainability and convenience. And it was not going at all well.