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Google Sibling Abandons Ambitious City of the Future in TorontoIn scrapping the project, the company cited the economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but critics say it was a loser from the start and a failure in “surveillance capitalism.”What had been the future site of the Google Sidewalk Labs development in Toronto.Ian Willms for The New York TimesMay 7, 2020Updated 1:23 p.m. ET OTTAWA — Citing the economic turmoil created by the coronavirus pandemic, a corporate sibling of Google said on Thursday that it had abandoned ambitious plans to create a sensor-laden, data driven city of tomorrow within Toronto.“It has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed together with Waterfront Toronto to build a truly inclusive, sustainable community,” Dan Doctoroff, the chief executive of the corporate sibling, Sidewalk Labs, wrote in a blog post.Sidewalk, and Mr. Doctoroff in particular, had vigorously pushed back against opposition to the plan since it was first unveiled nearly three years ago. But the struggle became a public-relations debacle for Alphabet Inc., the technology conglomerate that is the parent company of Sidewalk and Google.What Sidewalk had presented as a community of unsurpassed environmental standards and a new approach to urban design was swiftly characterized as a dystopian surveillance city by many people in the technology world.Urban activists also said the project would turn over critical decision making about the city that rightly belonged to citizens and politicians to Google’s algorithms.The company also seemed to undermine its cause at times. Asked to present a proposal for a 12-acre demonstration project on former port property in Toronto, it produced a detailed concept for an adjacent 800 acres mostly owned by the federal government, the largest undeveloped tract in downtown Toronto.Unlock more free articles.Create an account or log inIn the company’s vision for Toronto, high-rises made from engineered wood would have filled what are now weed lots and underused warehouses along streets. Its bike paths would melt snow.Sign up to receive an email when we publish a new story about the coronavirus outbreak.Pedestrians would be sheltered from rain, snow and blazing heat by giant, automated awnings. Sensors would track residents’ every movement to optimize everything from traffic signals to underground armies of robots delivering parcels and discarding trash.But there were immediately concerns about the ownership of the data harvested by the developer and the privacy concerns it created, which Sidewalk was never able to fully quell despite repeated concessions.Sidewalk also backed away from a proposal to receive a cut of future property taxes from the neighborhood in exchange for building a rail transit line.Ultimately the federal, provincial and municipal government-owned agency that controls the land ordered Sidewalk to devise a plan focused only on the initial 12 acres. The company acknowledged that the reduced scale would force it to abandon many of its ambitions.On Thursday, many critics of the plan suggested that opposition to the project and its diminished viability, not the pandemic, lay behind the decision by Sidewalk to quit shortly before the Waterfront Toronto agency made its final decision.“This is a major victory for the responsible citizens who fought to protect Canada’s democracy, civil and digital rights, as well as the economic development opportunity,” said Jim Balsillie, the former co-chief executive of BlackBerry and one of the prominent critics of the plan.“Sidewalk Toronto will go down in history as one of the more disturbing planned experiments in surveillance capitalism,” he said.
The Coronavirus Outbreak
Frequently Asked Questions and Advice
Updated April 11, 2020
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
When will this end?
This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.
How can I help?
The Times Neediest Cases Fund has started a special campaign to help those who have been affected, which accepts donations here. Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities. More than 30,000 coronavirus-related GoFundMe fund-raisers have started in the past few weeks. (The sheer number of fund-raisers means more of them are likely to fail to meet their goal, though.)
Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
How do I get tested?
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
How does coronavirus spread?
It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.
Is there a vaccine yet?
No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.
What makes this outbreak so different?
Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.
What if somebody in my family gets sick?
If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.
Should I stock up on groceries?
Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
Can I go to the park?
Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.
Should I pull my money from the markets?
That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.
What should I do with my 401(k)?
Watching your balance go up and down can be scary. You may be wondering if you should decrease your contributions — don’t! If your employer matches any part of your contributions, make sure you’re at least saving as much as you can to get that “free money.”