Read for Later – “Algorithms are not a substitute for human intervention, and when it comes to creating a safe environment for children, you need humans.”

This week’s headline quotes Josh Golin, Executive Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, noting the proliferation of inappropriate videos on YouTube Kids, where algorithms lead the curation of content (The New York Times “On YouTube Kids, startling videos slip past filters”).

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.

As you scan through these articles, consider dropping me a line to let me know what you're reading this week to help prepare for the future. 

Five Highlights

The New York Times “On YouTube Kids, startling videos slip past filters”
The appearance of violent and lewd YouTube Kids videos, often featuring well-known characters but created to disturb parents and children, has revealed the potential for abuse on digital media platforms that rely on computer algorithms, rather than humans, to curate and monitor content. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Mashable, TechCrunch, and The Verge.

Bloomberg “America’s ‘retail apocalypse’ is really just beginning”
Concern for retail’s future has focused on competition from online retailers and younger generations’ interest in experiences over things, but the debt load of many of the nation’s top retailers could raise concerns for displaced low-income workers, shrinking local tax bases, and investor losses on stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Bloomberg “WeWork is launching a grade school for budding entrepreneurs”
Co-working and co-living startup WeWork is making its move into children’s education, launching a private elementary school for “conscious entrepreneurship” inside a New York City WeWork next fall – the pilot program will include seven students and encourage them to develop their passions and act on them early, with real life learning activities that connect classroom subjects to business and workplace skills. See also The Daily Dot, Fast Company, and Mashable.

Nieman Lab “A new feature in The Washington Post’s Opinion section will alert readers to opposite viewpoints (with the help of AI)”
The Washington Post has launched a new online feature, Counterpoint, that “surfaces an Opinions article with a different perspective than what a user is currently reading” – the feature is similar to other publications’ efforts to diversify perspectives, though the Post’s keeps readers on their site and uses AI rather than human curation to expose opposite viewpoints.

CityLab “The economics of the office: Why do we still commute?”
As many companies abandon work-from-home policies to centralize employees in workplaces that promote productive face-to-face interactions and “social presence,” technology providers are now turning to virtual reality to create a virtual office so good it could eliminate the need to commute.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

The New York Times “Building A.I. that can build A.I.”
Technology companies are increasingly focused on breakthroughs that will create A.I. technology that can pbuild subsequent A.I. systems – a Google project called AutoML is a machine-learning algorithm that learns to build other machine-learning algorithms, enabling A.I. techniques to be brought to a wider collection of companies and software developers.

Cities and Government

TechCrunch “Intersection raises $150 million for the global expansion of its free Wi-Fi”
Intersection, the company that worked with Google’s Sidewalk Labs to install hundreds of its obelisk-like Link devices in both London and New York, has raised $150 million in a new round of financing as it looks to installations across cities including Philadelphia, Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, San Francisco, Seattle, and London.

Demographics and Communities

The Verge “A record-breaking number of LGBTQ characters appeared on TV in 2017”
GLAAD’s annual report of LGBTQ representation on television finds that 2017 was the best year ever for LGBTQ characters on television, with 6.4% of characters on broadcast prime-time TV identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer – even with these positive strides, there is still a lack of diversity among LGBTQ characters, as just 23% are LGBTQ people of color. 

Economics and the Workforce

The Atlantic “In good company”
As workplaces become spaces for social awareness and engagement, those employers that create cohesive and inclusive environments respecting a range of values will successfully recruit an increasingly diverse workforce. 

The Washington Post “Homeless explosion on West Coast pushing cities to the brink”
A homeless crisis of unprecedented proportions is affecting the West Coast, brought on by soaring housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates, and an inaccessible cost of living even for people who are actively working. 


The New York Times “How Silicon Valley plans to conquer the classroom”
Another look at how big technology is working to influence education, courting public school decision-makers to bring computers into the classroom and focus instruction on computer science and coding skills to prepare students for a new economy.

Politico “In Trump country, a university confronts its skeptics”
Flagship state universities, struggling to balance public missions against pressures to operate more like elite private universities, have turned toward increased selectivity and higher tuitions, reducing their affordability and risking an alienation of lower-income communities in the states they’re supposed to serve.

News and Journalism

Nieman Lab “A New York Times kids’ section, once an experiment, will run monthly starting this month”
After a popular experimental kids’ section in its Sunday paper in May 2017, The New York Times announced plans for a kids’ section as a permanent part of its Sunday edition, with a monthly insert starting November 19 through the end of 2018 – future sections will include more explanatory stories about current events, a kids-focused advice column designed to help kids navigate awkward social situations, and kid-focused puzzles and activities.

Play and Toys

The Atlantic “Should children form emotional bonds with robots?”
Toys powered by artificial intelligence will become more and more popular, but a new MIT study raises concerns that children will perceive smart toys and robots as smarter than themselves and possibly alter their self-awareness and cognitive development.

Streaming Media

Variety “New ‘Star Wars’ trilogy in works with Rian Johnson, TV series also coming to Disney streaming service”
Disney is planning a live-action Star Wars TV series to air on its entertainment streaming service, expected to launch by the end of 2019 – in addition to the Star Wars series, adaptations of Pixar’s Monsters Inc., the Disney Channel’s High School Musical franchise, and an original series from Marvel will help lure viewers to yet another subscription service. See also CNET, The Daily Dot, and The Verge.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Bloomberg “Apple is ramping up work on AR headset to succeed iPhone”
Apple is reportedly pursuing technology for an augmented-reality headset in 2019 that could ship as a product as early as 2020 – Apple’s device will have its own display and run on a new chip and operating system, distinguishing itself from other AR systems that utilize a smartphone or other mobile device. See also Engadget, Gizmodo, and The Verge.

CNET “Harry Potter is getting the Pokemon Go treatment”
Pokemon Go developer Niantic has announced a partnership with Warner Bros. to bring Harry Potter to an augmented reality phone game where "players will learn spells, explore their real world neighborhoods and cities to discover & fight legendary beasts, and team up with others to take down powerful enemies" – more details about the game will be available in 2018. See also The Daily Dot, Engadget, Mashable, and TechCrunch.