Read for Later – "We're fundamentally changing the way we talk with riders to give them better and clearer information"

This week’s headline quotes Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Jon Weinstein as the MTA makes a series of changes, including a switch from gender-specific terms like "ladies and gentlemen" to more inclusive language like "passengers," “riders,” and "everyone" in automated announcements (Mashable "New York's subway systems are switching to gender inclusive announcements").

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 Verge “Boston Dynamics’ latest robot dog is slightly less terrifying” and “No big deal, Boston Dynamics’ Atlas can perform backflips now”
Robot maker Boston Dynamics released two videos teasing a more advanced version of its SpotMini robot, designed as a life-like, animal-inspired robot that can move and respond to forces in the real world, and its Atlas robot, a more human form robot able to jump, flip, and stabilize itself on a platform. For SpotMini, see also Engadget, Gizmodo, Mashable, NextBigFuture, Quartz, and TechCrunch; for ATLAS, see also The Daily Dot, Engadget, GeekWire, Gizmodo, Mashable, and TechCrunch

Mashable "New York's subway systems are switching to gender inclusive announcements"
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority will do away with automated announcements that include gender-specific terms like "ladies and gentlemen" and instead use more inclusive language like "passengers," “riders,” and "everyone." See also CityLab

Education Dive "Report outlines ways to improve learning opportunities for students in rural areas"
Leveling the Playing Field for Rural Students,” a new report from the School Superintendent Association (AASA) and the Rural School and Community Trust, calls on federal policymakers to protect E-Rate modernization and increase efforts to integrate technology into teaching and learning.

The New York Times “First digital pill approved to worries about biomedical ‘big brother’”
For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a digital pill, a medication embedded with a sensor that can tell doctors whether, and when, patients take their medicine – while the digital pill has the potential to improve public health by addressing patients’ nonadherence or noncompliance with medication, the reporting feature of the digital pill, including consent given by the patient to have doctors and others receive electronic data showing the date and time pills are ingested, raises questions about privacy and whether patients might feel pressure to take medication in a form their doctors can monitor. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, and The Verge.  

Cities and Government

ReCode “Governments in 30 countries manipulated media online to silence critics, sow unrest or influence elections”
A new report from Freedom House found that governments in 30 countries, including regimes in Turkey, Venezuela and the Philippines, are “mass producing their own content to distort the digital landscape in their favor” – all of this in addition to rising government restrictions on their citizens’ internet use. See also Engadget.

The New York Times “Floating cities, no longer science fiction, begin to take shape”
Independent, self-sustaining cities floating in international waters, called “seasteading,” has attracted the attention of companies, academics, architects, and even a government working together on a prototype by 2020 – with sea levels rising because of climate change and increased political polarization, seasteading could be an option for diverse communities to organize and govern as they see fit.  

Demographics and Communities

Quartz "Millennials are set to be the most unequal generation yet"
A new report from Credit Suisse suggests that millennials in several advanced economies are likely to face the worst income inequality of any generation in recent memory, a result of more student debt, divergent job prospects between high demand fields like tech and finance and declining service and manufacturing options, and more concentrated family wealth inheritance.

The Daily Dot “Companies are supporting LGBTQ employees more than ever”
The Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) found that the number of companies in the U.S. that support their LGBTQ employees is now at a record high, with 609 of the 947 major companies and law firms assessed for the index earning a perfect score of 100 – businesses’ levels of inclusion were evaluated across six key areas: sexual orientation in U.S. nondiscrimination policy; gender identity in U.S. nondiscrimination policy; domestic partner benefits; transgender-inclusive benefits; organizational LGBTQ competency; and public commitment to the LGBTQ community.


EdSurge "As corporate world moves toward curated ‘microlearning,’ higher ed must adapt"
As workplace learning and development (L&D) pursues an agile learning environment made possible by instantly accessible sources such as MOOCs, online course libraries like, and video platforms like YouTube, implications for colleges and universities could include a lower demand for continuing-education and executive education offerings; greater focus on competencies, unbundled curricula, and “microlearning”; and integration into the larger community of learning experts like coding bootcamps and MOOC providers.

The New York Times "Fewer foreign students are coming to U.S., survey shows"
The Institute of International Education’s survey of nearly 500 campuses finds that the number of newly arriving international students declined an average of 7% in fall 2017, with 45% of campuses reporting drops in new international enrollment – the uncertain social and political climate in the United States and increased competition from countries like Canada, Britain and Australia likely contributed to the decline. See also Education Dive

The Internet

TechCrunch “Facebook, Google and others join The Trust Project, an effort to increase transparency around online news”
The Trust Project, an effort to help online users distinguish between reliable journalism and promotional content or misinformation, has launched thier “Trust Indicators” feature on Facebook, offering easy-to-access, transparent information about a news organization’s ethics and practices – in addition to Facebook, Google, Bing and Twitter have all committed to displaying these indicators, though not all implementations are yet live. See also The Drum, Engadget, and Nieman Lab

The Verge “Twitter says it will judge verified users’ offline behavior”
Twitter announced changes to its verification badges, noting that “reasons for removal may reflect behaviors on and off Twitter” – the expanded terms mean that Twitter will take action based on violations of rules on Twitter or on users’ offline behavior that is inconsistent with its rules and policies. See also CNET, The Daily Dot, Mashable and again, ReCode, and Slate

Play and Toys

TechCrunch "Germany bans smartwatches for kids over spying concerns"
Germany’s Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) issued a blanket ban on smartwatches aimed at children, fearing an “eavesdropping” function that could listen unnoticed to the child’s environment and serve as an unauthorized transmitting system. See also Mashable

The Guardian “Strangers can talk to your child through 'connected' toys, investigation finds”
Tests carried out by product review site Which? with the German consumer group Stiftung Warentest and other security research experts found flaws in Bluetooth and wifi-enabled toys that could enable a stranger to talk to a child – four out of the seven tested toys had unsecured Bluetooth connections that could be exploited to communicate with the children playing with them.

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

CNET "Robot restaurants put a new spin on fast casual"
Robot restaurants, which combine artificial intelligence, personal screens, and robotics to let customers go without human interaction when ordering and retrieving their food, could transform users’ convenience expectations. 

Bloomberg “Amazon’s cashierless store is almost ready for prime time”
Amazon appears to be accelerating towards it cashierless store, Amazon Go, improving the “just walk out” technology and hiring construction managers and marketers to build and promote the stores to consumers. See also Engadget

Mashable “The commute of the future could be really sweaty”
Deutsche Bahn, a German rail system, recently revealed its concept “Idea Train” of the future, anticipating a future where trains will compete with self-driving cars and offer amenities like workout stations, a children's lounge, and relaxation compartments to make public transit appeal to riders beyond just the conveneince of not having to drive. 

Streaming Media

Business Wire “Amazon to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s globally renowned fantasy novels, The Lord of the Rings, for television with a multi season production commitment”
Amazon’s subscription streaming service Amazon Prime will make a bold play for viewers with a television adaptation of Tolkien’s fantasy world exploring new storylines preceding The Fellowship of the Ring. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, The Daily Dot, Engadget, GeekWire, Mashable, and TechCrunch

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Engadget "Pixar’s VR debut takes you inside the entrancing world of ‘Coco’"
To help promote its new film, Coco, Pixar has partnered with Oculus on its first-ever VR experience Coco VR, designed as a "social adventure" where users embody skeletal characters and roam freely in the Land of the Dead.