This week’s subject line comes from an article in GQ announcing the new male model for makeup brand Covergirl. GQ was alluding to some of the push-back the brand has received, but it’s an interesting turn of phrase for thinking about the future. For some the future seems obvious or even overdue, while for others it’s a proposition that is less than welcome. Finding that connecting signal that helps make the future more apparent and necessary can help all of us work toward what's next.
You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our future work.
And let us know what you're reading this week to help think about later.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
The White House released a 48-page report featuring 24 recommendations for how the government can support an AI-powered future, addressing big problems like disease, climate change, and economic inequality while also planning for its impact on low- and medium-skilled jobs (ReCode “White House report says AI will take jobs, but also help solve global problems”). See also Engadget, Fusion, Geekwire, MIT Technology Review, Motherboard, and Wired.
Robots and artificial intelligence are also part of the conversation in the United Kingdom’s Parliament, where the Science and Technology Committee recently released a report on the technologies’ ethical, legal, and societal implications (BBC News “Humans need new skills for post-AI world, say MPs”).
Artificial intelligence could significantly change the online retail experience, streamlining processes, enhancing search and recommendation, and making shopping more visual (TechCrunch “How artificial intelligence is changing online retail forever”).
Books and Publishing
Independent bookstores are on the rebound and challenging their online competitors by investing in infrastructure, such as in-shop e-book printers and new back-end systems, and leveraging social media to build loyal relationships with customers in their immediate communities and around the country (The New York Times "The neighborhood bookstore’s unlikely ally? The internet").
Google has added a new “fact-check” tag to Google News, allowing readers to quickly identify fact-checks right next to trending stories (TechCrunch “Google starts highlighting fact-checks in News”). See also CNET, The Guardian, Poynter, Slate, and The Verge.
Cities and Government
Since August, the White House has used a Facebook messenger bot to allow citizens to communicate with the President – and now the administration is releasing the bot's source code for anyone to use "with the hope that other governments and developers can build similar services” (Engadget "White House encourages local governments to embrace chatbots").
North Carolina’s Innovation Center (iCenter) is testing chatbots to aid internal IT help desk inquiries, where 80-90% of the tickets submitted are for resetting passwords, hoping that the service could eventually be expanded to accommodate more requests and learn to prioritize complex requests to actual staff (Government Technology "Chatbots debut in North Carolina, allow IT personnel to focus on strategic tasks").
Miami-Dade County’s Department of Transportation and Public Works has begun installing its first set of controllers into traffic signals, allowing them to connect with cars and public transit and creating a backbone for future Internet of Things and other smart city projects (Government Technology "Inside one of the most aggressive intelligent transportation-IoT efforts in the U.S.").
Demonstrating some of what The New York Times’ “A new map for America” presented, this profile of the booming corridor between San Antonio and Austin shows what can happen when economic assets, educational anchors, and a lower cost of living come together to drive job and population growth (Forbes "America's next great metropolis is taking shape in Texas").
Makeup brand Covergirl will promote a 17-year-old boy as the face for its new campaign – James Charles went viral when he posted photos of himself featuring makeup art he had created on himself, including designs featuring skull faces, butterfly embellishments, and oozing rainbows (GQ “The new face of Covergirl is a guy”). See also The Christian Science Monitor, The Daily Dot, Fortune, Mashable, The New York Times, Time, and The Washington Post.
A new survey from Bank of America and USA Today finds that those in their 20s increasingly equate adulthood with financial independence, event as less than half of the 22-26-year-olds surveyed pay their own rent (47%), health insurance (41%), or contribute to a retirement account (27%) (Forbes “Survey: Gen Z, millennials struggle with 'adulting’”).
Many older adults may be moving from an ‘aging in place’ mentality to an ‘aging in community’ approach, seeking out urban neighborhoods where they can walk or take public transit to shopping, restaurants, and public services (The New York Times "The future of retirement communities: walkable and urban").
The Rwandan government announced a new partnership with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), UPS, and California drone company Zipline to deliver blood to remote or inaccessible parts of the country via drones – if the pilot succeeds, the drones’ cargo could expand to include vaccines and other medications (New Scientist “Drones will fly life-saving blood supplies to clinics in Rwanda”). See also Engadget, ReCode, and The Verge.
At the other end of the drone spectrum, the Islamic State has successfully used a drone with explosives to kill troops on the battlefield, prompting American commanders in Iraq to issue a warning to forces to treat any type of small flying aircraft as a potential explosive device (The New York Times “Pentagon confronts a new threat from ISIS: exploding drones”). See also Motherboard and The Verge.
Millennials are the best educated and most diverse population of young people in U.S. history, but they are not big spenders, tending to prefer experiences things, which may not be good for an economy driven by consumer spending (The Los Angeles Times “Millennials aren't big spenders or risk-takers, and that's going to reshape the economy”).
A study from the Center for American Progress notes limited minority student enrollment in top public institutions in nearly every state, even as minority students are over-represented in less-selective public four-year institutions and community college (Education Dive "Study: Flagships remain mostly shut-off to minority students").
The National Council of La Raza’s new report notes that school-age Latinos are doing better academically today than 15 years ago, but that they are more likely to live in poverty and lack health care, continue to make up a significant portion of ELL (English Language Learners) students, are significantly underrepresented in preschool programs, and that only 21% of Latino eighth-graders read at a "proficient" or "advanced" level compared with 44% of white eighth-graders (NPR "Latino students: a portrait in numbers").
A new plan announced by Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo could help college students save $5 million a year if college professors turn to free, open-licensed materials (The Hechinger Report “A possible solution to one college cost problem: free books”).
In 2011, just 2% of college and university presidents had been elected or appointed government officials immediately before becoming college presidents, but several recent searches have selected government officials to lead higher education institutions, potentially raising campus communities’ concern over ideology or political polarization in the classroom (Inside Higher Ed "Picking political presidents").
St. Louis Public Schools plans to convert a former school into affordable housing for teachers, part of an attempt to attract and retain professional staff that might otherwise leave for better paying jobs in the larger country (Next City “Transforming vacant schools into affordable housing for teachers”).
Sprint announced a new partnership to give a million high school students a free smartphone, tablet, or PC and up to four years of free wireless service as part of a plan to narrow the “homework gap” (ReCode “Sprint is giving away a million devices — and wireless service — to U.S. high school students”).
Facebook Workplace has officially launched, seeking to become the dominant business communication network in the same way it has dominated social networking (Wired “Facebook Workplace tries to muscle in on your job”). See also AdWeek, Bloomberg, Consumerist, Geekwire, Motherboard, ReCode, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
Facebook and Google will work with partners in Asia to build the longest and highest capacity undersea fiber-optic cable between the two continents, the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), a move that highlights the larger role that tech companies are playing in the construction of telecommunications infrastructure (Wired “Facebook and Google will stretch internet cable from LA to Hong Kong”). See also CNET, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
University of Pennsylvania researcher Robin Stevens and her team found that social media provides a vital third space for diverse youth in communities where public spaces have been trimmed back or are unsafe, but it can also magnify negative elements and create physical confrontations offline (Next City "Philly teens find “public space” online").
Facebook’s voter registration reminders contributed to substantial increases in online voter registration across the country, including record-breaking or near record-breaking one-day registration totals in California, Indiana, and Minnesota (The New York Times “Facebook helped drive a voter registration surge, election officials say”). See also The Daily Dot, Engadget, and Gizmodo.
The American Civil Liberties Union exposed Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for feeding user streams to Chicago-based Geofeedia, a company that sold the data to police agencies for surveillance purposes – the social media companies have since stopped providing the data feed to the company (ArsTechnica “ACLU exposes Facebook, Twitter for feeding surveillance company user data”). See also Fusion, Motherboard, TechCrunch, The Verge, and The Washington Post.
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
Amazon continues to build an on-campus presence with Amazon pickup lockers, Amazon Prime Student memberships ($50 a year), and same-day delivery of 3 million products on many campuses – all part of a strategy to connect with young consumers early and make them loyal for life (Mashable “How Amazon is trying to hook college students on Prime”). See also Consumerist.
Not sure what to make of this – an appeal to make natural history museums quieter, more contemplative spaces for discovery (Aeon “Give natural history museums back to the grown-ups”).
Events like Sleepless at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles are helping to lure millennials to cultural and performance institutions’ whose audiences have been steadily aging (Forbes "Music institutions get creative to attract millennials").
TripAdvisor will stop selling tickets to attractions where humans come into contact with wild animals after researching the issue with animal groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) – while experiences sell, many businesses are betting their customer relationships on social causes (Consumerist "TripAdvisor no longer selling tickets to hundreds of animal attractions"). See also National Geographic.
Preservationists, historians, and architecture critics are leading a new appreciation for Brutalism’s muscular, public-minded aesthetic (The New York Times “Brutalism is back”).
With the launch of Music Unlimited, Amazon officially entered the competitive market of subscription streaming music services (Vocativ “Amazon launches its ‘Music Unlimited’ streaming service”). See also ArsTechnica, CNET, The Daily Dot, Geekwire, Gizmodo, The New York Times, ReCode, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Wired.
Netflix has secured rights to two new stand-up comedy specials from comedian Chris Rock, his first stand-up specials after an eight-year hiatus (Variety “Netflix nabs Chris Rock for two comedy specials in $40 million deal”). See also CNET, Engadget, Gizmodo, Mashable, and The Verge.
The second US presidential debate garnered 124 million views on YouTube, 3.2 million on Twitter’s livestream, and 7.4 million on Facebook’s Live broadcast – 63 million viewers watched the debate on TV – though many of those streaming viewers tuned in for bite-sized portions, rather than the full debate (Wired “YouTube crushed TV in total debate viewership”). See also CNET, ReCode, and Vocativ.
The second debate was also the most tweeted debate ever, with more than 17 million tweets sent out related to the event (Vocativ “Second presidential debate is most tweeted debate ever”).
Twitter will livestream a TV-style election night broadcast produced by BuzzFeed News’s political team (ReCode “Twitter, not Facebook, will livestream BuzzFeed’s election night coverage”). See also Nieman Lab.
The NFL issued a new policy banning official NFL team Twitter and Facebook accounts from sharing their own video clips of action within NFL stadiums, including television highlights and even GIFs – part of a push to have fans visit official team websites with advertisements (The Daily Dot "The NFL just banned teams from sharing GIFs").
A profile of Tristan Harris, co‑founder of Time Well Spent, an advocacy group that encourages the tech world to design software that allows users to disengage more easily from their devices (The Atlantic "The binge breaker").
Sports Illustrated will debut a VR experience chronicling the journey of four climbers and their attempt to ascend Mount Everest (Engadget "Sports Illustrated captured a full Mount Everest climb in VR").