The Truth Beneath Our Cities
If you want to understand a city, dig into its sewage. That’s what researchers at MIT’s Senseable City Lab do, turning sewage into data that reveals multitudes about a city’s health and more. The Senseable Lab is best-known for its work above ground, showing that NYC cab rides could go multipassenger and cumulative trip length would still go down. But the Lab thinks it can learn even more about how cities work by using robots to sift through human sewage. As The Guardian notes, “analyzing a city’s wastewater could allow outbreaks to be anticipated, antibiotic resistance to be mapped, and public health interventions to be monitored in almost real time.” The Lab started investigating the sewers of its hometown Cambridge, Mass.; it has a $4 million grant to go below Kuwait City later this year.
More Banking, But Fewer Bankers
It’s a bit late for Citigroup to release a report called Digital Disruption (PDF), but its projections are significant: the U.S. financial industry, already down 300,000 jobs from its pre-crisis peak of 2.9 million, will lose another 800,000 by 2025. It’s even worse for European banks. If you look deeper in the report, though, it’s a loss but it’s also a shift: the report’s authors point to the rise of fintech startups as the primary driver. There will certainly be job losses, but plenty of people will still be working in the banking industry, just not as many for the incumbent banks. What the Citigroup report mourns is the shift of power more than the absolute numbers.
Elon’s Long Bet Revealed
Tesla Motors unveils its long-anticipated Accord and Camry killer today, an electric vehicle with a 200-mile range targeted squarely at the average American car buyer. As Bloomberg reports, the Model 3 is a “bet the company” move by Musk, whose long-term goal is a complete re-engineering of the world’s power grid. We won’t really know until the Model 3 ships a year or more from now, but if it’s a hit, Musk will be one giant move closer to his vision. One way to know is to count the pre-orders. If they outpace expectations, we’re sure to hear about it from Tesla, just as Apple touts impressive iPhone numbers. If Tesla stays mute on the subject, NewCo’s editor in chief will have to eat some crow.
Fidelity is rethinking what its unicorn investments are worth. Again. In February moves disclosed this week, the investment giant marked down Cloudera, Dropbox, and Zenefits. Cloudera received the most dramatic haircut, with its valuation down 38 percent. Yet they’re all still unicorns and there was some positive momentum as well: At the same time it made those downgrades, Fidelity actually increased its Airbnb, Blue Apron, and Snapchat holdings.
Listening to the City
Weirded out by the MIT underground work cited above? Not everything that can be tracked in a city is so gross. The urban planners at Good City Life make maps of major cities that plot out happiness and smells. Its latest, Chatty Maps, shows the block-by-block sounds heard in a dozen cities and attempts to identify the emotions those sounds elicit. This isn’t entirely scientific but it showcases how sound, an often-underestimated part of city planning, impacts people and their overall health.
It’s Not Just One Phone
The San Bernardino iPhone-unlocking story is behind us, for now. But the ACLU wants you to know that at least 63 more cases are pending.
Photo: Lukasz Lech
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