Read for Later - “Americans don’t realize how fast the country is moving toward becoming a better version of itself”

This week’s headline quotes James Fallows’ feature article in The Atlantic, reporting on years touring communities throughout the United States and finding that, through civic governance, immigration, schools, libraries, downtowns, and conservation, America may be pursuing more positive futures than we sometimes realize (The Atlantic “The reinvention of America”).

A reminder of the 2018 Future of Libraries Fellowship. The fellowship offers a stipend of $10,000 to advance new ideas and perspectives for the future of libraries through the creation of a public product that will help library professionals envision the future. We look forward to many exciting project proposals - the deadline is May 15th.  

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

The Verge “Pepper the Robot is working at the Smithsonian for free”
SoftBank’s Pepper the humanoid robot will begin interacting with visitors at six Smithsonian locations, providing museum information, playing games, and entertaining guests – the 25 robots were donated by SoftBank and are focused on attracting people to “under-attended galleries,” which the company believes can help boost visitors’ engagement with artwork and give docents an interactive tool for educating tour groups.

The Atlantic “The reinvention of America”
A fascinating look at communities across the country (Mississippi, Kansas, South Dakota, inland California, and Rust Belt Pennsylvania) that shows what is happening in America and its implications for the future – among the ways America is moving forward locally and regionally: civic governance, immigration, talent dispersal, schools, libraries, manufacturing, downtowns, and conservation. [Authors James Fallows and Deb Fallows expand on their findings in the forthcoming book, Our Towns].

NPR “High-paying trade jobs sit empty, while high school grads line up for university”
A new report from the Washington State Auditor finds that good jobs in the skilled trades are going unfilled because students are being almost universally steered to bachelor's degrees and recommends that career guidance, including choices that require less than four years in college, start as early as the seventh grade – while a shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor's degree is softening, even as the price of higher education goes up.

Wired “Augmented reality is transforming museums”
At New York’s Museum of Modern Art, a group of artists has turned the Jackson Pollock gallery into an augmented reality playground, leveraging the MoMAR Gallery app to display guerilla artists’ works, remixing or replacing the Pollock paintings with virtual pieces – while MoMA has not commented on the app, other artists have reached out to the app’s developers to enact virtual takeovers of major museums in their own cities.

ArsTechnica “Amazon made an Echo Dot for kids, and it costs $30 more than the original”
Amazon’s new Echo Dot Kids Edition comes with new "Amazon FreeTime" content that gives kids new ways to interact with Alexa and parents more control over those interactions, including "Education Q&A," allowing kids to ask Alexa science, math, spelling, and definition questions; "Alexa Speaks 'Kid,'" which gives Alexa kid-appropriate answers to nebulous statements that kids may say, such as "Alexa, I'm bored"; and options for parents to limit the times during which kids can speak to Alexa (like no talking to it after bedtime), restrict the skills kids can use, filter out songs with explicit lyrics, and more – even with the added parental controls, privacy concerns will likely increase given the focus on younger users. See also Engadget, GeekWire, Gizmodo, Mashable, MIT Technology Review, ReCode, TechCrunch, and The Verge.  

Cities and Government

NextCity “Chattanooga offers former city buildings for affordable housing”
The city of Chattanooga will convert two underdeveloped buildings into affordable housing and office space as part of its pledge to foster inclusivity in its “innovation district” downtown neighborhood.


BBC “Finland's basic income trial falls flat”
The Finnish government has decided not to expand its basic income trial – the two-year pilot provided 2,000 unemployed Finns with a flat monthly payment of €560 ($685) in the hope that it would boost mobility in the labor market as people would still have an income between jobs. See also Fast Company, The Guardian, and The New York Times.


The Atlantic “The perks of a play-in-the-mud educational philosophy”
Another look at the movement toward nature preschools, outdoor pre-K, and forest kindergartens that infuse early childhood education with a greater focus on nature, encouraging children to explore and learn outdoors.

Variety “High school esports competitions to begin in U.S. this year”
PlayVS, a startup building online and offline infrastructure for high school esports, announced that it is partnering with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which organizes education-based athletic activities around the country, and the NFHS Network, which streams high school sports online, on a Varsity esports program with high schools in at least 15 states – competitions will focus on multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, fighting games, and sports games. See also TechCrunch

The Internet

ReCode “Facebook is trying to explain how it defines nudity, violence and hate speech”
Facebook published its community standards, the exact set of rules that Facebook employees and contractors use to decide what is and isn’t allowed on the site – the company hopes to provide a better understanding of why content is taken down so that there is less confusion and disagreement over the decisions the company makes. See also CNET, Engadget, TechCrunch, and The Verge.

TechCrunch “YouTube releases its first report about how it handles flagged videos and policy violations”
YouTube released its first quarterly Community Guidelines Enforcement Report and launched a Reporting Dashboard that lets users see the status of videos they’ve flagged for review – the report follows up on a promise YouTube made to give users more transparency in how it handles the removal of content and reveals that YouTube removed 8.2 million videos during the last quarter of 2017, with 6.7 million videos automatically flagged by its anti-abuse algorithms. See also The Drum, Fast Company, and ReCode

The Verge “Microsoft follows Google and ditches its pistol emoji for Windows”
Google and Facebook both committed to replacing the pistol emoji with water guns and Microsoft, the only major platform left with a realistic handgun emoji, agreed to redesign their gun emoji in a future update – along with Apple, WhatsApp, Samsung, and Twitter, major technology companies are using emojis to take a stand in the debate over gun violence in the US. See also Engadget and again, Fast Company, Mashable and again, TechCrunch, and The Verge

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

Mashable “Amazon can now deliver packages to the trunk of your car”
Amazon will expand its Amazon Key delivery service to personal vehicles with Amazon Key In-Car, allowing couriers to deliver packages into participating vehicles (2015 or newer General Motors or Volvo vehicles equipped with cloud-connected technologies) in 37 cities. See also Advertising Age, Bloomberg, CNET, and TechCrunch

TechCrunch “Your annual Amazon Prime membership fees are about to increase”
The price of Amazon’s Amazon Prime annual memberships will increase from $99 a year to $119, in line with an earlier announcement this year that had the monthly version of the program increasing from $10.99 to $12.99 – the increase could help cover Amazon’s increased spending on content for the Prime streaming platforms. See also ArsTechnica, CNET and again, Engadget, Fast Company, GeekWire, Gizmodo, Mashable, ReCode, The Verge, and The Wall Street Journal

Streaming Content

Bloomberg “Spotify targets 1.5 billion YouTube users with new free service”
Spotify introduced a new mobile version of its free music service that expands access to more music through on demand music that appears on playlists, instead of just accessing shuffled content – the move hopes to capitalize on a “freemium” approach that starts customers off with a no-cost product and then gets them to pay for add-ons. See also Engadget, Gizmodo, and The Verge.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

CNET “Apple's working on a powerful, wireless headset for both AR, VR”
Apple is reportedly working on a headset capable of running both AR and VR technology, with an 8K display for each eye that would be untethered from a computer or smartphone – the project, codenamed T288, is still in its early stages. See also Gizmodo and TechCrunch

Voice Control

Wired “Turning an Echo into a spy device only took some clever coding”
Researchers at the security firm Checkmarx were able to use an Alexa voice assistant as a spying device by programming a device “skill” to listen in on conversations after the “Alexa” wake word was used – Amazon has since corrected what Checkmarx exposed. See also Fast Company and Gizmodo.


The Verge “Snap’s second-generation Spectacles are more grown up — and more expensive”
Snap announced a next generation of its Spectacles wearable camera glasses, with a slimmed down frame, improved transfer speed, water resistance, and a microphone to improve video recording. See also GeekWire, Gizmodo, Mashable, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Wired