New Next Now (Trends for August 2017)

18 August 2017 | Keep­ing Up with the Trends

Sav­ing the world, one video game at a time. Sound unbe­liev­able? Accord­ing to Rachel Ament (@rachelament) at @NPR, sev­er­al indie game devel­op­ers are hop­ing to do just that. Just this year, 17-year-old game design­er Sky­lar Thomas part­nered with PETA’s youth chap­ter to release Paint­ball Hero, a mobile app that lets play­ers dig­i­tal­ly res­cue abused ani­mals from farms and fac­to­ries. Anoth­er game that’s mak­ing waves in 2017 is Andrew Wang’s The Cat in the Hijab, which sim­u­lates the harass­ment Mus­lims often endure in west­ern coun­tries. Both projects reflect recent efforts to dri­ve activism through gam­ing — an excit­ing prospect for an indus­try long con­sid­ered a source of leisure­ly enter­tain­ment… and not much more.

And yet, Ament right­ly asks: “Does the impact of these ‘games for good’ rever­ber­ate off-screen?” In short, can activism-based video games tru­ly make a dif­fer­ence?

There are no short­age of per­spec­tives on this trend. Psy­chol­o­gist Mari Swingle, author of i-Minds: How Cell Phones, Com­put­ers, Gam­ing, and Social Media are Chang­ing Our Brains, Our Behav­ior, and the Evo­lu­tion of Our Species, argues that gamers are more like­ly to embrace the mes­sage if they can make a per­son­al con­nec­tion in the game. Says Ament: “When we see our­selves in the game, our on- and off-screen lives tend to blur. We feel more con­nect­ed to our on-screen actions, mak­ing us more like­ly to repeat them.”

Inner Void Interactive’s lead design­er, Nathan Piper­no (@NathanPiperno), rec­og­nizes the poten­tial for activist games to reach a will­ing audi­ence, but he advo­cates for a less con­spic­u­ous approach: “Play­ers don’t want to be lec­tured… [b]ut they can be extreme­ly per­cep­tive if impor­tant themes are deliv­ered organ­i­cal­ly in the game.” Still, Kahlief Adams (@Kahjahkins), co-pro­duc­er of the pop­u­lar gam­ing pod­cast “Spawn on Me,” believes that games can suc­ceed in edu­cat­ing peo­ple about impor­tant top­ics: “Often we see folks who might not even know about a par­tic­u­lar social jus­tice issue… video games can be the per­fect gate­way into learn­ing more.”

As an avid gamer, I tend to agree with Adams. Video games are still active­ly evolv­ing, dri­ven by devel­op­ers and gamers alike who grew up play­ing Super Mario Bros. and Son­ic the Hedge­hog as chil­dren, but now crave more sophis­ti­cat­ed, immer­sive expe­ri­ences as adults. Recent crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess­es like The Last of Us and Life is Strange prove there is unde­ni­ably a grow­ing mar­ket for human con­nec­tion and emo­tion­al res­o­nance in video games. And because games, by design, invite play­ers to “step into the shoes of anoth­er” and take on per­spec­tives they might oth­er­wise nev­er have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence, the time for pro­mot­ing social activism through gam­ing — in my view — has nev­er been more ripe. [Read More Now]

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Peanut but­ter and… jel­ly­fish? Everyone’s favorite stinger of the sea may be des­tined for the snack aisle at your local super­mar­ket. Accord­ing to @atlasobscura, jel­ly­fish pop­u­la­tions are spik­ing around the globe and that presents a major threat to pow­er plants, fish­eries, and tourism hotspots. But researchers in Den­mark are work­ing on a clever solu­tion — turn­ing jel­ly­fish into snack food. Writes Natasha Frost (@natashamfrost): “The tech­nique involves soak­ing the jel­ly­fish in alco­hol, and then let­ting it evap­o­rate off to turn semi-sen­tient goo into crunchy, snack­able discs.” The result? A low-fat, tasty crisp that’s high on antiox­i­dants and good for the envi­ron­ment. Would you try it? [Read More Now]

The Eclipse and Sci­ence. 21 August 2017 will mark the date of a major solar eclipse. You have prob­a­bly read about it, but have you read about the sci­en­tif­ic aspects of it? Rebec­ca Boyle (@rboyle31) cov­ers this extreme­ly well. [Read More Now]

Mak­ing room for change. This month, @Entrepreneur guest writer and Intu­it CEO Brad Smith (@IntuitBrad) offers three strate­gies for dri­ving change even when your organ­i­sa­tion is run­ning smooth­ly. Eval­u­at­ing met­rics is key, Smith writes, both inter­nal­ly and exter­nal­ly: “Are you being aspi­ra­tional enough? What are the biggest risks on the hori­zon?” It’s also impor­tant to aug­ment your strengths and to nev­er dive into rad­i­cal change alone. Instead, lis­ten close­ly to your stake­hold­ers and build a uni­fied vision togeth­er. Final­ly, Smith advo­cates for clear, open com­mu­ni­ca­tion: “Don’t be afraid to repeat, repeat and repeat your plan for at least 90 days… be clear and spe­cif­ic about how this change affects people’s roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties.” [Read More Now]

Have you a Patre­on? If you are into the eco­nom­ic side of the inter­net, espe­cial­ly when it comes to cul­ture, check out Adi Robertson’s (@thedextriarchy) sto­ry about the crowd­fund­ing-type work of Patre­on. A taste: “Patre­on isn’t sim­ply a replace­ment for record labels or TV net­works, though. Instead it’s the ide­al incu­ba­tor for niche inter­net sub­cul­tures, where a small but ded­i­cat­ed group of fans can direct­ly sup­port work they care about.” [Read More Now]

Good health, bet­ter busi­ness. India hold­ings giant Tata is about to get a work­out, thanks to new chair­man Natara­jan “Chan­dra” Chan­drasekaran. The com­put­er engi­neer-turned-CEO, also an accom­plished marathon run­ner, is bring­ing his fit­ness phi­los­o­phy to the strug­gling con­glom­er­ate: “You can’t per­form if you’re not fit. If you want to run a six-minute mile, you have to bring your weight down.” Cur­rent­ly, Tata’s port­fo­lio boasts hun­dreds of com­pa­nies rep­re­sent­ing 700,000 employ­ees and over $100 bil­lion in sales, reports Clay Chan­dler (@claychandler) for @FortuneMagazine. While some of those hold­ings are per­form­ing very well—name­ly Tet­ley Tea and Land Rover — many oth­ers are falling behind, unable to com­pete with more stream­lined rivals. Says Chan­dra: “To get to the next lev­el we need scale. We can’t do it with mul­ti­ple small com­pa­nies. We need top com­pa­nies…. We’ll def­i­nite­ly prune the port­fo­lio.” [Read More Now]

Defy­ing dia­betes. Researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go have tak­en the fight to dia­betes. Their weapon of choice? Genet­ics. Accord­ing to Rachel Nixon in this month’s @NewScientist, the tech­nique involves edit­ing the gene that com­mon­ly reg­u­lates blood sug­ar and then admin­is­ter­ing the altered gene by way of skin grafts. Already, the treat­ment has yield­ed pos­i­tive results in mice: each sub­ject gained less weight and devel­oped a stronger resis­tance to insulin, and the ben­e­fits last­ed over three months. That’s an encour­ag­ing sign for those already strug­gling with the dis­ease, giv­en that skin grafts have long been used to treat burns. Says Tim­o­thy Kief­fer, researcher at the Uni­ver­si­ty of British Colum­bia in Cana­da: “I do pre­dict that gene and cell ther­a­pies will ulti­mate­ly replace repeat­ed injec­tions for the treat­ment of chron­ic dis­eases.” Now that’s excit­ing! [Read More Now]

We’ve made con­tacts! “The con­tact lens indus­try in the UK is worth £290 mil­lion, and over 125 mil­lion peo­ple wear lens­es glob­al­ly,” writes Camil­la Hodg­son (@CamillaHodgson). She also notes that a 28-year-old Har­vard grad is shak­ing up the entire indus­try. [Read More Now]

Pow­er up! Renew­able ener­gy tech is on the rise, thanks to a recent $286 bil­lion invest­ment wind­fall. What does that mean for the renew­ables indus­try? The answer is sim­ple: micro­grids. @Forbes con­trib­u­tor Lisa Wirth­man (@LisaWirthman) reports that the demand for reli­able ener­gy is high, par­tic­u­lar­ly among the biggest users — fac­to­ries, apart­ment build­ings, even cin­e­mas. But many busi­ness­es are leav­ing tra­di­tion­al pow­er grids behind, invest­ing instead in micro­grids that pro­vide more sta­ble and effi­cient cen­tralised pow­er at a much low­er month­ly cost. These micro­grids can aggre­gate pow­er from many dif­fer­ent sources (includ­ing pow­er plants), but they can also run entire­ly on renew­ables alone. Aron Bow­man, COO for ELM Field­Sight, says his com­pa­ny even offers a self-auto­mat­ed mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol sys­tem “so [our cus­tomers] can just focus on run­ning their busi­ness.” [Read More Now]

Top reads for sum­mer. It’s not too late to start on Bill Gates’ sum­mer read­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for 2017. This year, the phil­an­thropist and Microsoft cofounder has offered up some sur­pris­ing titles, includ­ing come­di­an Trevor Noah’s pow­er­ful mem­oir Born a Crime and J.D. Vance’s run­away hit Hill­bil­ly Ele­gy, which spot­lights “the mul­ti­fac­eted cul­tur­al and fam­i­ly dynam­ics that con­tribute to pover­ty” in America’s Rust Belt. Gates’ most entic­ing sug­ges­tion, how­ev­er, is Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus: A Brief His­to­ry of Tomor­row. Says Gates: “[Harari] argues that humanity’s progress toward bliss, immor­tal­i­ty, and divin­i­ty is bound to be unequal… as inno­va­tion accel­er­ates, it doesn’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly ben­e­fit every­one.” Many thanks to Thu-Huong Ha (@thuhuongha) at @qz for this great fea­ture! [Read More Now]

Fact check! Who says kids can’t be for­ward thinkers? This month, @mental_floss con­trib­u­tor Kirstin Faw­cett (@KirstinFawcett) high­lights five per­cep­tive young­sters who have recent­ly won acclaim for cor­rect­ing — yes, that’s right — cor­rect­ing muse­ums. One eagle-eyed 10 year old, Char­lie, spot­ted a mis­take at Lon­don Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Museum’s lat­est dinosaur exhib­it: a col­lec­tion of fos­sils sup­pos­ed­ly belong­ing to an Ovi­rap­tor had, clear­ly, come from a Pro­to­cer­atops. Ini­tial­ly skep­ti­cal, Charlie’s par­ents nev­er­the­less alert­ed staff, who con­firmed the flub. Says his mum: “Char­lie has Asperg­er syn­drome and tends to find a sub­ject he loves and tries to learn so much about it, so it’s real­ly nice that he’s been able to show what he’s learned and that knowl­edge base.” [Read More Now]

Taxi! Taxi! Just in case you missed this: The Face­book page for Cli­mate Real­i­ty has a not-to-miss video on “Bei­jing is replac­ing its fleet of 70,000 taxis with elec­tric cars” from the World Eco­nom­ic Forum. [Read More Now]

Co-work­ing spaces. Read about the co-work­ing space rev­o­lu­tion hap­pen­ing in India? It’s big, says Suneera Tan­don (@suneeratweets). To give you an idea, here’s one excerpt: “With mil­len­ni­als dri­ving the work­force and the grow­ing need to build com­mu­ni­ties, co-work­ing spaces are shap­ing the future of work,” said Ramesh Nayar, chief exec­u­tive at JLL India. The firm esti­mates that this demog­ra­phy is expect­ed to gen­er­ate demand for between 12 and 14 mil­lion seats over the next few years.” [Read More Now]

I’m the boss? Feel­ing anx­ious about man­ag­ing a team for the first time? What’s your lead­er­ship style? This month, @HarvardBiz offers some insight­ful tips to help first-time man­agers break through the ice and max­i­mize their poten­tial. Con­trib­u­tor Amy Jen Su (@AmyJenSu) advo­cates for a clear and bal­anced approach, even dur­ing times of stress or dif­fi­cul­ty: “Main­tain­ing a sta­ble and ground­ed pres­ence increas­es the like­li­hood that your team will feel com­fort­able bring­ing you impor­tant infor­ma­tion.” My favourite bit of advice, how­ev­er, is to resist keep­ing your team in the dark. Says Su: “As a new man­ag­er, it’s also crit­i­cal to share the WHY behind your vision, pri­or­i­ties, expec­ta­tions…. Help con­nect work deliv­er­ables or pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment to what’s hap­pen­ing at the orga­ni­za­tion­al lev­el.” [Read More Now]

Tech­nol­o­gy fast-track. Tech is trend­ing in Sin­ga­pore as gov­ern­ment fund­ing ini­tia­tives con­tin­ue to attract and sup­port new start-ups. Accord­ing to @SCMP_News staff writer Stephen Thomp­son, Singapore’s Nation­al Research Foun­da­tion Tech­nol­o­gy Incu­ba­tion Scheme alone “has fund­ed over 100 ear­ly stage tech­nol­o­gy busi­ness­es” since 2012. Var­i­ous oth­er state agen­cies have invest­ed US$13.2 mil­lion toward a new bio­med­ical facil­i­ty, which will spear­head the use of 3-D print­ing for cut­ting-edge sur­gi­cal and orthopaedic appli­ca­tions. Singapore’s min­is­ter for state and trade, Koh Poh Koon, esti­mates 26,000 more start-ups in Sin­ga­pore since 2003—an increase of near­ly 120 per­cent — and over 19,000 new jobs added. Many of these also include for­eign entre­pre­neurs, thanks to the government’s removal of a key cap­i­tal require­ment in Singapore’s immi­gra­tion pro­gramme. Says Koon: “[These for­eign start-ups] com­ple­ment local start-ups through the cross-fer­til­i­sa­tion of ideas, catal­yse new part­ner­ships and good jobs for our peo­ple…” [Read More Now]

Kyle ElzyKyle Thomas Elzy research­es and writes our month­ly fea­ture of what’s hot in the nextsens­ing world. He is a sto­ry­teller by trade. His pro­fes­sion­al back­ground lies in copy­writ­ing, edit­ing, scriptwrit­ing, graphic/web design, and audio/video edit­ing. He has col­lab­o­rat­ed close­ly with numer­ous muse­um, aca­d­e­m­ic, cor­po­rate, and non­prof­it organ­i­sa­tions.

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