Read for Later - “It’s not just to make them feel better in the short-term, but to better equip them for later in life”

This week’s headline quotes Dr. Jessica Deighton, an associate professor in child mental health and well-being at University College London, who is leading a British government trial program that will have students practice mindfulness as part of a study to improve youth mental health (The New York Times “Schools in England introduce a new subject: Mindfulness”).

You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures.

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Five Highlights

The Washington Post “The rising Western skyline”
A look at four Western cities – Denver, Seattle, Long Beach, and Sacramento – that are seeking to accommodate increasing populations with housing and office projects that grow up instead of out, building some of the tallest buildings in the American West and changing the character of these communities.

BBC “Finland basic income trial left people 'happier but jobless’”
Results from a basic income pilot in Finland – where from January 2017 until December 2018, 2,000 unemployed Finns got a monthly flat payment of around $630 – found that while employment levels did not improve, participants said they felt happier and less stressed. The aim was to see if a guaranteed safety net would help people find jobs and support them if they had to take insecure gig economy work.

The New York Times “Schools in England introduce a new subject: Mindfulness”
In up to 370 English schools, students will start to practice mindfulness as part of a study to improve youth mental health, learning relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and other methods to “help them regulate their emotions."

Wired “'Fortnite' held a Marshmello concert—and it's the future of the metaverse”
EDM (electronic dance music) DJ Marshmello performed a concert inside Fortnite, the wildly popular online video game – by one (unsubstantiated) estimate, 10 million concurrent users attended the show in the game's "Showtime" mode, offering a glimpse of the potential popularity and utility of avatars in mass-scale events that still manage to feel personal.

The Verge “Spotify gets serious about podcasts with two acquisitions”
Spotify has acquired Gimlet Media, a start-up podcast network, and Anchor, a provider of tools to build, publish, and monetize podcasts, boosting its podcast credentials as the company looks to grow its share of the podcast market. See also TechCrunch “Why Spotify is betting big on podcasting” and Poynter “Spotify’s purchase of Gimlet could change podcasting’s future”

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

CNN “The world's biggest spice company is using AI to find new flavors”
McCormick – the maker of Old Bay and other seasonings, spices, and condiments – will work with IBM Research to build an AI system trained on decades worth of data about spices and flavors to come up with new flavor combinations.

Cities and Communities

The Washington Post “Facing opposition, Amazon reconsiders N.Y. headquarters site, two officials say”
Amazon is reportedly reconsidering its plan to bring 25,000 jobs to a new campus in New York City, according to two people familiar with the company's thinking, following a wave of political and community opposition. See also ReCode “Amazon’s opponents think the company is bluffing about killing its HQ2 plan in NYC”

Economics and the Workforce

The New York Times “Tech is splitting the U.S. work force in two”
Automation is changing the nature of work, flushing workers without a college degree out of productive industries, like manufacturing and high-tech services, and into tasks with meager wages and no prospect for advancement, splitting the American labor force into two worlds and causing economists to reassess their belief that technological progress lifts all boats.

Facial Recognition

Wired “Amazon joins Microsoft's call for rules on facial recognition”
In a blog post, Michael Punke, vice president of global public policy at Amazon’s cloud division, asked Congress to put rules around the use of facial recognition technology, saying the company “supports the creation of a national legislative framework covering facial recognition through video and photographic monitoring on public or commercial premises” – the appeal echoes a call by Microsoft in December, amid growing scrutiny on the use and accuracy of facial recognition by researchers, lawmakers, and civil liberties groups.

The Internet

CNET “New emojis include gender inclusive couple, people with disabilities, garlic and more”
The Unicode Consortium, the organization that approves and standardizes emojis, approved 230 new emojis, including couples of different genders and skin tones holding hands, gender inclusive couples for users who do not subscribe to any particular gender, and emojis to represent more people with disabilities. In case you haven’t already read, see also Wired “The delicate art of creating new emoji”


TechCrunch “Uber’s JUMP bikes are seeing high utilization rates”
In the past year, more than 63,000 people took 625,000 rides on JUMP bikes in San Francisco, helping to decrease the number of Uber rides.

Curbed “A coast-to-coast bike trail is coming to the U.S.”
The Rails-to-Trails Conversancy (RTC), the nation’s largest trails organization, announced their vision for the Great American Rail-Trail, a mega bike trail that would connect nearly 4,000 miles of rail-trail and other multi-use trails to form a path across the country from Washington, D.C. to Washington State.

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

The Inquirer “Raspberry Pi opens its first bricks-and-mortar retail store”
Raspberry Pi has opened its first bricks-and-mortar retail store in Cambridge, featuring the entire range of Raspberry Pi products.

Vox “Ikea will soon offer furniture rentals because the end of ownership is near”
Ikea, the world’s largest furniture seller, will soon experiment with furniture rentals with a program first deployed in Sweden as early as February, with desks and chairs available to rent.

Voice Control

The Verge “You can now listen to an interactive Choose Your Own Adventure audiobook with Alexa”
Audible will pilot interactive stories by joining Amazon’s Alexa skills with Chooseco’s Choose Your Own Adventure series, developing a narrated audiobook story with decision points where users are asked what they would like to do and the story proceeds to the next point.