Read for Later - "There is something to be said sometimes for small scale pilots where we can learn the trade-offs"

This week’s headline quotes Charles Stewart, professor of political science at MIT, on West Virginia’s proposal for a blockchain-based mobile phone voting pilot project for deployed service members – to be clear, Stewart, along with several other election integrity and computer security experts, doesn't consider mobile voting ready for "prime time” (CNN “West Virginia to introduce mobile phone voting for midterm elections”).

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

City Lab “How millennials can save the Postal Service”
A new report from the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General finds that, even as their use of the traditional mail declines, receiving mail makes millennials feel special – the report’s ideation section explores opportunities like self-service kiosks, advanced knowledge and control (a system that notifies people of the mail they will receive), personalization and loyalty programs, and better tracking systems. 

CNN “West Virginia to introduce mobile phone voting for midterm elections”
West Virginia will partner with Voatz to let deployed service members cast federal election ballots using a smartphone app, recording votes using blockchain technology - election integrity and computer security experts expressed concern over the prospect of voting by phone. See also Mashable and The MIT Technology Review.

The New York Times “‘Too little too late’: Bankruptcy booms among older Americans”
A new study based on data from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project finds more than a two-fold increase in the rate at which older Americans (age 65 and over) file for bankruptcy and an almost five-fold increase in the percentage of older persons in the U.S. bankruptcy system – the study suggests that these changes are driven by a three-decade shift of financial risk from government and employers to individuals, who are bearing an ever-greater responsibility for their own financial well-being as the social safety net shrinks.

New Geography “Partners in transit: Agencies team up with Lyft, Uber”
The new Partners in Transit study looks at more than two dozen partnerships between public transit agencies and transportation network companies (predominately Lyft and Uber) to fill gaps in lightly-used routes, offer “first- and last-mile” solutions, and augment service to those with mobility challenges.

CNBC “After almost a decade and billions in outside investment, Magic Leap's first product is finally on sale for $2,295. Here's what it's like.”
The technology superimposes computer-generated images over the real world in a user’s field of vision – Magic Leap has released its Magic Leap One Creator's Edition to select individuals that the company hopes will build more apps and games for the device. See also CNET and again, The Verge, and Wired.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

The New York Times “‘The beginning of a wave’: A.I. tiptoes into the workplace”
“Robotic process automation” fits into the broad definition of artificial intelligence because it uses ingredients of A.I. technology, like computer vision, to do simple workplace functions like accounting, billing, payments, and customer service.

Books and Reading

The Inquirer “BBC starts experimenting with speed reading news on smartwatches”
The BBC is experimenting with speed reading for mobile phones and smartwatches, using a technique where users stare at a fixed point and the words flash up one by one.

Communities and Demographics

The South China Morning Post “Number of people sleeping in Hong Kong McDonald’s branches skyrockets, as residents battle high rents and substandard housing”
A survey organized by Junior Chamber International’s Tai Ping Shan branch in Hong Kong and conducted in June by volunteers, found that 334 people had slept in one of the city's McDonald’s outlets nightly over at least the past three months, a six-fold increase over the past five years.

The Verge “Variety dedicates its latest issue to trans representation in Hollywood”
The issue features an open letter endorsed by 48 signatories that brings attention to the grim statistics about trans life in America and calling for increased diversity in casting and roles.


The Christian Science Monitor “Zoos and museums for all? A push to make summer culture more accessible”
A look at how some museums and cultural organizations have begun to form partnerships with local governments to better connect low-income students with enriching summer learning activities.

The Environment

Motherboard “Planet at risk of heading towards apocalyptic, irreversible ‘hothouse earth’ state”
A new study, “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes a “Hothouse Earth” scenario where the global average temperatures is 4 to 5 degrees Celsius higher (with regions like the Arctic averaging 10 degrees C higher) than today, with sea levels 10-60 meters higher as much of the world’s ice melts and large parts of the Earth uninhabitable – the scientists outline three main areas of action: cutting carbon emissions and decarbonizing energy systems; halting deforestation and conversion of natural areas into agricultural production; and continuing to develop technologies to pull carbon from the atmosphere and safely store it for thousands of years. See also The Economist and The Guardian.

The Internet

The New York Times “Alex Jones and Infowars content is removed from Apple, Facebook and YouTube” and “Gatekeepers or censors? How tech manages online speech”
Apple, Google, Facebook, and Spotify restricted the reach of Alex Jones and Infowars, his right-wing site that has been a leading peddler of false information online, thrusting themselves into a fraught debate over the role of big technology companies in regulating what can be said online. See also The Christian Science Monitor, CNET, Engadget, Motherboard, Nieman Lab, NPR, ReCode, The Verge, and Wired.

Journalism and News

Nieman Lab “An analysis of 16,000 stories, across 100 U.S. communities, finds very little actual local news”
Researchers from Duke University’s News Measures Research Project analyzed more than 16,000 news stories across 100 communities, finding that only about 17% of the news stories provided to a community are truly local (about or having taken place within the municipality); 43% of the news stories provided to a community by local media outlets are original (produced by the local media outlet); and 56% of the news stories provided to a community by local media outlets address a critical information need.

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

ReCode “How much WeWork is too much WeWork?”
WeWork announced a new, less-branded and less-staffed offering called HQ by WeWork, targeted at medium-sized businesses (11 to 250 employees) that want WeWork’s flexible lease terms without its preset culture.

Transportation and Mobility

The Verge “Lime expands its discount program for low-income bike and scooter riders”
Bike and scooter startup Lime announced an expansion of its Lime Access discount program for low-income customers – users do not need a smartphone or credit card, instead texting a Lime services number to unlock a given bike or scooter and using PayNearMe to get their Lime credit using cash, rather than a credit card.

City Lab “New York City moves to cap Uber”
In a much-anticipated vote, the New York City Council moved to impose a slate of new regulations on “high-volume for-hire” ride-hailing services (Uber and Lyft), capping the number of vehicles, establishing a minimum wage for drivers, and imposing a new license requirement with more robust data-sharing requirements. See also The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, NextCity, ReCode, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Wired.