Read for Later – “The spaces of our daily lives are very important for our cities and our society.”

This week’s headline quotes Justin Garrett Moore, urban planner and executive director of New York City’s Public Design Commission, talking to Curbed about the importance of true third places in an era when restaurants and retailers are marketing the concepts of community spaces and town squares (Curbed “It’s time to take back third places”).

You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures. The Center's trend cards are also available to help you talk with colleagues and members of the community, map how trends fit together or how they fit into your community, or spark innovation activities.

What have you read lately to help you think about the future? Consider dropping me a line to let me know what articles and reports you're reading that others might find of interest. 

Five Highlights

CityLab “The three rural Americas”
A new study by Jessica Ulrich-Schad (South Dakota State University) and Cynthia Duncan (Carsey School of Public Policy) finds that different social and economic conditions and emerging political trends among residents of rural communities reveal three very different types of rural community across the United States: chronically poor, transitioning, and amenity-rich.

TechCrunch “Here’s Mary Meeker’s essential 2018 Internet Trends report”
Mary Meeker released the 2018 version of her famous Internet Trends report, exploring everything from internet adoption (about 3.6 billion people will be on the internet, thanks in large part to cheaper Android phones and wifi becoming more available), to voice technology (speech recognition is hitting 95% accuracy and the Amazon Echo went from over 10 million to over 30 million sold in total by the end of 2017), to subscription services (Netflix up 25%, The New York Times up 43%, and Spotify up 48% year-over-year in 2017). See also ReCode.  

Pew Research Center “Teens, social media & technology 2018”
A new Pew Research Center survey finds that roughly 95% of U.S. teens, ages 13 to 17, have access to a smartphone, 45% say they are online “almost constantly,” and half (51%) say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram, or Snapchat. See also Advertising Age, Bloomberg, Engadget, Fast Company, Mashable, ReCode, TechCrunch, and The Verge.

Forbes “The subscription box industry is getting more crowded than ever”
U.S. online visits to subscription box sites – like meal-kit company Blue Apron and beauty-box company Birchbox – have risen nearly tenfold over the past four years to 41.7 million visits in April, with major retailers and brands including Amazon, Walmart, Sephora, and P&G all introducing some type of subscription box or acquiring established providers.

Curbed “It’s time to take back third places”
If you are growing concerned with the “third place” rhetoric coming out of retail and restaurants, this is the article for you. Cities and communities need third places – and while venues like Starbucks leaned heavily on the third place philosophy to frame their customer experience, their efforts present an “institutional ambiance at an intimate level” that falls short of the true goals of building strong communities, creating empathy between people, and maintaining a view of oneself as part of something larger.  

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

Digital Trends “In Boston’s newest restaurant, all the chefs are robots”
Boston’s Spyce restaurant offers a half dozen dishes in Latin, Mediterranean, and Asian styles, all priced at just $7.50 and made by robots – customers are met by a human guide who shows them to a touchscreen kiosk where they place their order, which is then sent to the kitchen to be prepared by robots, before a human employee adds garnishes and delivers the dish to the customer.

ArsTechnica “Self-driving technology is going to change a lot more than cars”
The impact of self-driving technology is likely to be much broader than just the convenience of privately-owned self-driving chauffer vehicles – the possibilities for on-demand delivery services, shared transportation, and other design configurations will transform communities.

The New York Times “How a Pentagon contract became an identity crisis for Google” and “Google will not renew Pentagon contract that upset employees”
Google’s relationship with the U.S. Department of Defense and its Maven program, which uses artificial intelligence to interpret video images and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes, has fractured Google’s work force, fueled heated staff meetings and internal exchanges, and prompted some employees to resign – now Google has promised to produce a set of principles to guide its future choices in defense contracting and the use of artificial intelligence and announced its intentions not to renew the contract with the Pentagon when the current deal expires next year. See also ArsTechnica, BBC, CNET, Fast Company and again and again, Gizmodo, Motherboard, The Verge, and Wired.

Cities and Government

Fast Company “What needs fixing in U.S. cities? Ask the mayors”
The National League of Cities' State of the Cities report examines 160 mayors’ state of the city addresses, identifying the top 10 issues for cities – economic development (mentioned in 58% of speeches), infrastructure (mentioned in 56% of speeches), and budgets and management (mentioned in 49% of speeches) topped the list. See also CityLab

Forbes “The cities creating the most white-collar jobs, 2018”
Growth in professional and business services jobs may be making a shift to the Sun Belt, with significant growth in Austin (business services job count expanded 37.1% since 2012), Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (31.3% since 2012), and San Antonio-New Braunfels (up 21.3% since 2012) – workers in professional and business services earn enough to care about income taxes and are prime candidates to buy homes, so key economic factors fueling growth in these places are lower home prices, less regulation and, in most cases, the lack of an income tax.

Economics and the Workforce

Quartz “Vermont will pay you $10,000 to move there and work remotely”
Starting in 2019, a new Vermont law will pay people who move there and work remotely for an out-of-state employer $10,000 over two years to cover relocation expenses, coworking memberships, computers, internet, and other work-related expenses – Vermont is aging faster than the rest of the US population, an economic challenge that has prompted some creative solutions from state officials.

NPR "Famed Vegas casinos could be hobbled as thousands of workers authorize strike"
The Culinary Workers Union, Nevada's largest labor organization, voted to authorize a citywide strike for 50,000 members once their contracts expire on June 1 if their demands are not met – the union is seeking several provisions for members, including job security against the threat of automation technologies like delivery robots and self-check in services that cause jobs to be eliminated. See also Gizmodo, The Guardian, and MIT Technology Review

The Internet

Wired “Facebook is killing trending topics”
Facebook is getting rid of its Trending Topics sidebar feature because it is underused – it has also been a source of controversy since it switched to an automated system in 2016 that repeatedly surfaced conspiracy theories and outright false information fueled by bots. See also Bloomberg, CNET, Engadget, Fast Company, and The Verge

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

CNET “Walmart takes on Amazon with Jetblack, a $50-a-month concierge shopping service”
Walmart's new Jetblack service is a personal shopper service where users simply text a request to have the item purchased and shipped with same- or next-day delivery – the $50 per month service is available by invitation in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, with additional member perks including free gift wrapping, "handwritten gift cards," party favors, expert product recommendations and simple returns. See also Engadget and Retail Dive.

Retail Dive “Walmart kicks off shareholder's meeting with focus on associates”
Walmart announced a series of workforce initiatives including a new scheduling app that will let employees have remote access to their schedule and swap shifts with other associates, new employee training programs delivered in virtual reality, and a newly developed video game designed for in-store training and engagement – the highlight of the announcements is a new educational benefits program that will cover the costs of college (tuition, books, and other fees) for associates pursuing degrees in supply chain management or business at the University of Florida, Brandman University, and Bellevue University. See also Fast Company and The New York Times

Streaming Media

Kidscreen “Sesame launches new streaming app”
Sesame Workshop has joined with OTT software company Vewd and video technology provider Kaltura to launch a new Sesame Street streaming app featuring 48 seasons of the children’s TV series, as well as dedicated sections for Sesame Street characters, that can be used through any Vewd-enabled connected TV devices.

Mashable “Spotify CEO admits the company bungled policy on artists like R. Kelly”
Speaking about the company’s controversial policy on hate speech and hateful conduct, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told ReCode's Code Conference that they "rolled this out wrong" and that they "could've done a much better job" on communicating its new policy. See also Advertising Age, CNET, Engadget, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, and The Verge