SoftBank's emotion-reading robot Pepper during a tech demonstration.
Toru Hanai/Reuters

A morning roundup of the day’s news.

Is Google our new government?: Corporate giants like Google are vastly outpacing the government in their advances in transformational artificial intelligence tech—and so they get the power over how this all plays out. The New York Times reports:

There are two ways to respond to the tech industry’s huge investments in the intelligent future. On the one hand, you could greet the news with optimism and even gratitude. The technologies that Google and other tech giants are working on will have a huge impact on society. Self-driving cars could save tens of thousands of lives a year, for instance, while computerized methods for diagnosing and treating disease could improve our health and cut the cost of care.

… But the tech industry’s huge investments in A.I. might also be cause for alarm, because they are not balanced by anywhere near that level of investment by the government.

  • Inside Apple’s mothership: Wired takes a look at Apple’s new “retro-future” Silicon Valley campus, and what happens “when you turn a skyscraper on its side.”

The vanishing middle class: The Guardian visually maps out the “hollowing out” of the middle class in U.S. cities, showing the stark polarization of incomes today versus the high concentration of middle-class households in the 1970s.

Prison overhaul: Louisiana is on the brink of historic criminal justice reform, its most aggressive move ever to reduce its highest-in-the-world incarceration rate. (Times Picayune)

Survival of the fittest: The Twin Cities have stolen D.C.’s three-year title as the nation’s fittest region, according to the annual American Fit Index rankings. (Star Tribune, Washington Post)

  • On the other side of the spectrum, 24/7WallSt ranks the cities with the worst diets, based on Gallup polling. Topping the list: Lubbock, Texas, and Memphis, Tennessee.

Foundational transit: Inside Philanthropy sees Detroit’s new QLine streetcar as a case study of the influence private foundations are having on cities now — a piece of urban transit infrastructure that’s essentially the product of philanthropy and wealthy investors.

The urban lens:

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