This week’s headline quotes Omar Blaik, former vice president of facilities and real estate services at the University of Pennsylvania, on the rise of colleges and universities leading the revitalization of local communities through the development of business districts, retail spaces, restaurants, housing, and more (The New York Times “Universities look to strengthen the places they call home”).
A scheduling note - I will be taking a break over the next two weeks due to scheduled travel. Expect a return post the week of December 17.
You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures.
What have you read lately to help you think about the future? Drop me a line to let me know what articles and reports you're reading that others might find of interest.
Quartz “Mike Bloomberg is donating $1.8 billion to make Johns Hopkins ‘forever need-blind’”
The financial-data baron and former New York City mayor announced in a New York Times op-ed that he has donated $1.8 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins, to be used to support student financial aid, including loans already taken by current Hopkins students – Bloomberg acknowledges that his gift will only affect one school, but hopes that improving college advising “so that more students from more diverse backgrounds apply to select colleges,” persuading schools to increase their financial aid, and steering more alumni giving to financial aid will help expand the benefits of higher education to more students. See also The Atlantic “The limits of a billion-dollar donation to Johns Hopkins”.
The New York Times “Universities look to strengthen the places they call home”
Many colleges and universities are taking a leading role in revitalizing local communities, working with local governments to build economic development zones, stores, restaurants, housing, and more – the development not only can enhance the often fraught town-and-gown relationship but also make their institutions more attractive to students and faculty.
The Washington Post “Major Trump administration climate report says damage is ‘intensifying across the country’”
The U.S. federal government released a long-awaited report outlining the worsening effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, and the danger of more such catastrophes – the report’s authors, who represent numerous federal agencies, say they are more certain than ever that climate change poses a severe threat to Americans' health and finances, as well as to the country’s infrastructure and natural resources.
Quartz “This town is running an experiment that could help bring internet to millions of people”
A look at how one community is exploring TV whitespaces, radio frequencies allocated to the broadcast industry by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to deliver internet to people in rural areas.
Digiday “The North Face takes a stab at a ‘retail lab’”
The newest North Face store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is designed to be “curated, personalized and fluid, meaning it won’t look the same way from one month to the next,” with in-store merchandise that is localized to reflect customer interests, furniture and hardware that can be rolled away in order to easily turn the store into an event space, and no cash register as customers check-out with employees’ mobile point of sale systems wherever they are.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
MIT Technology Review “A US attempt to keep AI out of China’s hands could actually help China”
A new proposal from the U.S. Commerce Department could broaden the list of sensitive technologies requiring a special license to leave the country to include a host of foundational tools and techniques in artificial intelligence, like neural networks and deep learning, natural-language processing, computer vision, and expert systems – any enacted restrictions could lead companies like Apple and Google, which rely on China for a large share of their profits, to scale back their AI development to avoid the lengthy export control process.
VentureBeat “Google’s Duplex is rolling out to Pixel owners — here’s how it works”
Duplex, Google’s artificially intelligent chat agent that can arrange appointments over the phone, has expanded from a “set of trusted tester users” to a “small group” of Google Pixel phone owners who can now use Duplex to secure restaurant reservations in select cities.
Cities and Government
Bloomberg “Beijing to judge every resident based on behavior by end of 2020”
China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing announcing a plan to pool data from several departments to reward and punish its 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020. See also Brookings “China’s Orwellian social credit score isn’t real”.
Communities and Demographics
The Economist “Why suicide is falling around the world, and how to bring it down more”
The suicide rate in the U.S. is up 18% since 2000, with the largest increases among white, middle-aged, less educated men in economically depressed areas – but at a global level, suicide is down by 29% since 2000, as young women, middle-aged men, and the elderly see declines due to increased urbanization and expanding freedoms.
Fast Company “After rapid growth, Zuckerberg-backed school program faces scrutiny over effectiveness, data privacy”
Earlier this month, nearly 100 students from Brooklyn’s Secondary School for Journalism walked out of school to protest the use of Summit Learning, a personalized education system backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – students complained that the program, designed in part to deliver individualized lessons to students at their own pace, kept them busy at computers rather than working with teachers and classmates.
ArsTechnica “Ajit Pai wants to raise rural broadband speeds from 10Mbps to 25Mbps”
The Federal Communications Commission is considering raising the rural broadband standard from 10Mbps to 25Mbps as part of the FCC's Connect America Fund (CAF), which distributes more than $1.5 billion a year to AT&T, CenturyLink, and other carriers to bring broadband to sparsely populated areas – the new 25Mbps standard will apply to future projects but won't necessarily apply to broadband projects that are already receiving funding.
Journalism and News
The Guardian “Google News may shut over EU plans to charge tax for links”
Richard Gingras, Google’s vice-president of news, has refused to rule out shutting down Google News in European Union countries, as the search engine faces a battle over plans to charge a “link tax” for using news stories – the last time a government attempted to charge Google for links, in 2014 in Spain, the company responded by shutting down Google News in the country.
CNET “Jeff Bezos' Day One fund gives out $97.5 million to first 24 awardees”
Jeff Bezos has awarded the first half of his $2 billion Day One Fund to nonprofit organizations that help homeless families, including the Refugee Women's Alliance in Seattle and Simpson Housing Services in Minneapolis.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
Quartz “In the era of online shopping, the retail store is immersive theater”
Two new shopping destinations in New York City, one by Levi’s and another by Nike, show the possible futures of flagship retail locations that dissolve the boundaries between online and offline shopping and put a heavy emphasis on one-to-one customer connections and customized products.
TechCrunch “Airbnb is using what3words to list stays with Mongolian nomads”
As part of its partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia to use home sharing as a route for sustainable tourism, economic empowerment, and community development in rural and remote areas, Airbnb will work with UK addressing platform what3words, which chunks the world into 57 trillion 3-by-3 meter squares, each of which has been assigned three words to act as its easier-to-share pinpoint.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Engadget “Google envisions smart roller skates for walking endlessly in VR”
Google has applied for a patent on VR shoes that would let users walk through VR experiences without exceeding their space in the real world – the technology would track a user’s feet and use motorized wheels on the footwear to bring a user back to a "return zone" whenever they venture beyond a safe area.
Business Insider “Snapchat's parent company is trying again with a new version of its Spectacles glasses —this time with two cameras, at a price of $350”
Even if the first version of its Spectacles were considered a flop, Snapchat parent company Snap is planning to release another model of its camera sunglasses with two cameras that will be used to "overlay AR lenses and create 3D-like photo effects" on captured footage.