Welcome to Future. After spending last week in the Motor City, I'm devoting this week's issue to the triumphs and challenges Detroit has seen as it pulls itself back from bankruptcy and confronts its future.
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Today, I've got 1,201 words for you — a 4.5-minute read. First up...
Photo illustration: gangliu10; Aïda Amer/Axios
For decades, the world has pointed to Detroit as a symbol of the entire Rust Belt and the decay of American manufacturing. But the city is attempting to change that narrative — and succeeding.
Why it matters: Detroit may be the starkest example, but its story is mirrored in dozens of U.S. cities — Columbus, Pittsburgh and Toledo among them — that have shared its challenges and are embarking upon comebacks of their own.
In the last 10 years, Detroit has turned many of its longtime problems around — and attracted jobs in industries that will shape the future.
But, but, but: Many of the economic and demographic trends that are shaping the future of American cities are working against Detroit and cities like it.
And while Detroit has made big strides in its reinvention, it's still losing people — despite efforts to bring in new people and get college graduates to stay. “The population number is the number by which we either win or we lose," Mayor Mike Duggan told the New York Times.
Photo illustration: Jacob Boomsma; Aïda Amer/Axios
Detroit is coming back, but the bulk of that transformation has been limited to 7 square miles — the downtown core — according to recent research from scholars at Michigan State University and Wayne State University. For context, the city is 139 square miles.
Why it matters: Like Detroit, many laggard cities are beginning to catch up with the thriving metros, but often the transformation is uneven — limited to wealthier residents living in the richest neighborhoods.
"We've has some green shoots of progress, but there is a very commonly held sense that we aren't even close to done yet," Staebler says. "We won't be until we're inclusive about who gets to participate."
But, but, but: The revitalization of any place starts with downtown, and Detroit is working to re-create what's happened within those 7 square miles across the city.
Detroit has already seen scores of blue-collar workers displaced by the rise of robots. Now, as AI and machine learning get sharper, the city once again finds itself at the epicenter of automation-fueled unrest.
What's happening: While robots upend factory work and trucking in the middle of the country, AI and machine learning are coming for white-collar jobs in big cities. Detroit is poised to get hit on both ends of the spectrum.
The big picture: "AI will be as central to the white-collar office environment as robotics has been to the production economy," said Mark Muro, senior fellow and policy director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. "They'll fundamentally change what work is and what humans do. And no one gets a free pass."
A new analysis released Wednesday by Brookings overlaid the keywords in AI-related patents with job descriptions to get a more detailed understanding of which jobs are most likely to be affected by AI — and where they are.
The bottom line: White-collar work is poised to face the same turmoil as jobs at the lower end of the wage spectrum. But the higher-earning workers — who are likely to have more education and more diverse skills, as well as bigger bank accounts — will be far better prepared to navigate the tectonic shifts, Muro says.
Go deeper with the full story.
Detroit's shrinking working age population (Kim Hart — Axios)
Reviving a crumbling city (Monica Davey — NYT)
Highway to hell: The rise and fall of the car (Oliver Wainwright — The Guardian)
The story behind Detroit's comeback (Amelia Duggan — National Geographic)
Detroit's schools race into the digital future (Koby Levin — Chalkbeat Detroit)
Photo: Getty Images
In its heyday, the Port of Detroit — the largest seaport in Michigan — sent cars to the world.
When I was in Detroit, I ate dinner at Takoi, a hip Thai restaurant serving interesting cocktails and small plates — all inside a shipping container in the middle of a parking lot.
There's also the Detroit Shipping Company, which took nearly two dozen old shipping containers and created an indoor space with a beer garden, upscale food vendors and shops.
Thanks for reading!