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Situational awareness: Richard Liu, CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com, will not have day-to-day duties in the company's main business but in "new" ventures, he told analysts today. Liu faces allegations of raping a University of Minnesota student in August.
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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
In today's topsy-turvy world — an unpredictable fog in which technology, geopolitics and the economy seem to turn on a dime — companies and governments would give anything to see around the next corner.
Axios' Kaveh Waddell writes: Scientists have yet to create an artificial intelligence system to help with such forecasting, leaving today's futurists leaning on time-honored traditional methods — deeply studying history for clues of what may come next.
The utter chaos in politics, economic trends and technology has created "a golden age for futurism," says Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future, a nonprofit research center. "We're in this period where all these things that we took for granted are all of sudden up for grabs."
Lacking any machine to help them — even the equivalent of a quadrant or a slide rule — futurists to a large degree rely on intuition and common sense. "Unfortunately, it’s more art than science," says David Schatsky, who studies future technologies at Deloitte. "We don't have a machine that spits out, 'Here's a trend based on some data.'"
But there is a largely agreed-upon trail of facts — it's the past.
Down the road, AI could help. Machine learning could be better than humans at scanning history and finding anomalies in the present, says Bob Murphy, head of the computational biology department at Carnegie Mellon University.
For now, though, futurists work largely by hand, blurring lines between fiction and nonfiction, econometrics and ethnography, history and forecasting.
The ultimate goal, says Gorbis: To find the things that "if we don’t pay attention to them now, we’re gonna kick ourselves five years from now."
In the recovery from the financial crash, the largest, densest U.S. cities have had much steeper employment growth than smaller communities, according to a new study.
The report, by Brookings' Clara Hendrickson, Mark Muro and William Galston, says:
The report traces this economic trend through to the current of political polarization. "In a very real way, the 2016 election of Donald Trump represented the revenge of the places left behind in a changing economy," the authors say.
Photo: Laura Chiesa/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty
With an eye on curbing China’s scientific surge, the U.S. is considering export controls on a long list of emerging technologies, including AI, robotics and quantum computing.
Kaveh writes: In an announcement today, the U.S. Commerce Department says it may issue export controls on leading technology, and sought public comment on what any such restrictions should consist of.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
The future of war: robot soldiers, drone armies (Katrina Manson — FT)
The high-stakes game for sports gambling (Dan Primack — Axios)
The land that failed to fail (Philip Pan — NYT)
Why cats are so clean (The Economist)
Science gets less bang for the buck (Patrick Collison, Michael Nielsen — The Atlantic)
Photo: Erica Pandey/Axios
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A shoe store with a nail salon. A T-shirt shop with pinball machines. And an outdoor-wear clothier with an icebox to try on down jackets. Struggling with declining foot traffic, traditional mall retailers are debuting gimmicks and side businesses to get shoppers through their doors.
Axios' Erica Pandey writes: Columbus' Easton Town Center, a massive outdoor mall, has become a testing ground to see if these ideas work. The nail and hair salon is inside a DSW shoe store, and the ice box is in Eddie Bauer, allowing customers to see if the jackets will really keep them warm.
It's especially popular on hot summer days, store manager Eric Gorenz told me, when people use it as a quick way to cool off.