Our Forecast: Biden Has a Commanding (But Not Certain) Lead

Daniel Malloy is OZY’s politics editor. Scott Tranter is founder and CEO of 0ptimus.

This year, against a backdrop of unprecedented global upheaval, OZY is partnering with the data and technology firm 0ptimus to build a better way to forecast the 2020 presidential vote. Election predictions are a tricky business, but learning from the past has helped us launch a new guide to navigate the final weeks of campaigning. These numbers will change, and they’re not gospel, but with Election Day less than two months away, Joe Biden looks poised to be the 46th president of the United States — and the Democrats are substantially favored to control both chambers of Congress.

Our prediction model currently gives Biden an 81 percent chance of winning the presidency, while Democrats have a 76 percent chance of taking a Senate majority and a 98 percent chance of keeping their House majority. You can see a state-by-state and race-by-race breakdown here, where the model will update daily with the freshest data.

Where do the numbers come from? The model crunches a dataset of 200-plus base features spanning from polls to economic conditions to candidate traits to campaign finance reports. For aggregate outcomes, we run millions of simulations using the individual race predictions to derive the range of possible overall outcomes for the electoral college and both chambers of Congress. The electoral college simulations take into account potential correlated errors among states, adjusting for the potential of one candidate sweeping similar states — like President Donald Trump did in 2016 in the Midwest. You can read more about the methodology here.

We worked together to develop an OZY-specific model that increases the weight of small donations — a sign of enthusiasm for a candidate — while decreasing the importance of outside super-PAC spending on a race. We also gave a bump for female candidates, who powered Democrats’ 2018 success, and de-emphasized a score praising ideological moderation, which OZY considered less important in a base-driven election.

Why should you believe the numbers? In 2018, OZY first partnered with 0ptimus, a Republican firm — it worked on Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign — that developed an unbiased, nonpartisan prediction model to better serve its clients in both the political and business worlds. We pegged from the start that Democrats would win the House and Republicans would hold the Senate. And our final forecast was one House seat and one Senate seat off from a perfect score. In January, our model predicted Biden would win the Democratic nomination, which ultimately came to pass, though after some wild swings following the first couple of states.

It’s important to acknowledge uncertainty: If Biden has a 75 percent chance of victory, that means Trump’s odds of triumph are the equivalent of flipping a coin twice and having it come up heads both times. The model anticipates higher turnout this year, but modeling turnout during a pandemic is incredibly difficult — and we don’t know what the virus will look like in swing states by November. We also don’t know if the exceptionally high rate of rejected mail-in ballots in some primaries will hit Democrats hard in what could be a messy count in the weeks following Election Day.

But based on what we do know, our electoral college simulations produce an average outcome of 308 electoral votes for Biden and 230 for Trump, which would be roughly a mirror image of Trump’s victory in 2016. The current presidential toss-up states in our model are Arizona, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. It is extremely difficult to imagine a path to 270 electoral votes for Trump that does not include Florida. It is also very difficult to envision a scenario where Trump lets Iowa and/or Texas slip away from him but still wins reelection. Both of those states are currently rated Lean Republican, but the more competitive they are, the more precarious Trump’s overall position. 

Similar to 2016, the industrial Midwest presents Trump’s best path to victory, but Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all currently lean toward Biden. For Trump to reassert himself in the race, he would need to nudge these Midwestern states closer to him while also not giving up any more ground in the Sun Belt. A burst of polls since the party conventions have led to the model’s overall probability of a Biden victory remaining stable but underlying patterns within specific states shifting (with Florida and Ohio moving toward Trump, while Arizona and Georgia moved toward Biden).

If Biden wins, he will almost certainly have a Democratic Senate to work with. We give Democrats a 76 percent chance of an outright majority, and a 13 percent chance of a 50-50 tie — which would mean effective Democratic control in a Biden win, with new Vice President Kamala Harris breaking ties. The mean outcome of our Senate simulations gives Democrats a 52-48 edge. The current Senate toss-up races are Georgia and Iowa, which both feature Republican incumbents fighting for reelection in races they won by 8 percentage points in 2014. Several more Republican incumbents currently face even tougher odds in their Senate races: Arizona, Maine and North Carolina currently Lean Democrat, while Colorado is rated Likely Democrat.

At 98 percent, the Democrats’ House majority is basically a foregone conclusion. The mean outcome of our House simulations has Democrats winning 235 seats, while Republicans win 200 seats — essentially unchanged from the 2018 outcome. Highlighting the uphill battle Republicans face, 16 of the 25 races currently rated as toss-ups voted Republican in 2018.

If 2020 has shown us nothing else, it’s that more twists and turns lie ahead. Aside from our exclusive election predictions with 0ptimus, OZY will be telling you what’s happening on the ground with America’s fringe movements, conducting revealing interviews with newsmakers, exploring innovative efforts to turn out the vote and much more. Buckle up.

Sunday Magazine: Go Inside Trump’s Second Term

Love him or hate him, President Donald Trump secured an unlikely victory in 2016 and could do it again. While few foresaw his initial win, even fewer predicted what this highly unusual president would do in office. Now we know. Ahead of this week’s Republican National Convention, and as Trump himself has struggled to articulate what a second term would look like, today’s Sunday Magazine explores how four more years would shape the U.S. government, American culture and the wider world.

how he could win

Electoral College Graduate. This is not a national election. If it were, Joe Biden would almost certainly win. But because the name of the game is getting to 270 electoral votes, there is a path for Trump to repeat his feat of winning the electoral college while losing the popular vote. How? Wisconsin. If Trump can hold on in this mostly white battleground, while keeping the advancing blue tide at bay in the South — especially Florida and Arizona — he can afford to lose Michigan and Pennsylvania from his 2016 tally and still pull off the win … even if he loses the popular vote by 3 or 4 percentage points.

Reversal of Fortune. We’re already starting to see polls tighten from Biden’s peak, and it’s unclear whether these telethon conventions will do much for either party. But the comeback path for Trump is fairly clear: An improving economy and a light at the end of the tunnel for the coronavirus. Trump has already committed billions to manufacturing vaccines that aren’t even proven to work yet. And one could easily see him doing a major announcement of a vaccine approval — even if preliminary — as his October surprise.

Unique Circumstances. Given the pandemic, no one has any real clue who’s going to vote, especially given how Democrats are more likely to be cautious in their approach. Trump has said he wants mail-in voting to be harder (unless he’s doing it), and has indicated that’s a key reason to block extra Postal Service cash — and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told lawmakers on Friday that he would not return the sorting machines that had been removed because they’re “not needed,” though he’s holding back on more cuts. But the real question is not the USPS, which can more than handle the extra volume. It’s our creaky localized systems, with county election officials combing through an unprecedented stack of mail-in ballots to make sure they were submitted correctly. Florida 2000 could look like child’s play. 

Monkey Business. The Russians, by all accounts, are at it again with a fresh campaign of electoral chaos-mongering to back Trump, including social media influence efforts similar to 2016 and more, though intelligence officials have shared few details. China and Iran are getting in on the act by trying to hack campaign emails. (Let’s hope everyone has learned about two-factor authentication.) But there are far more serious and direct ways for nefarious actors to sway the vote: Think hacking electrical grids to shut down transportation in major cities on Election Day. Read more on OZY.

The Aftermath. After a year of pandemic lockdowns, racial justice protests and, in some cases, violence in the streets, Trump’s re-election could set off a powderkeg. Expect a response in the streets … and perhaps a more draconian counter-response from a newly unrestrained president with a second mandate. Oh, and gun sales have been surging in recent months, with Black Americans leading the way.


policies to watch

Brown New Deal. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler is a former coal industry lobbyist, while Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt is a former oil and agricultural industry lobbyist. Rather than the showy, scandal-scarred politicians who preceded them, these nondescript agency heads are effective at tilting the playing field toward industry — and that will only accelerate during Trump 2.0 as their efforts work through the regulatory process and the courts. For example, Trump in July signed a rollback of the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental reviews before launching projects like pipelines and highways. Environmental groups are suing to block the move, but Trump — pitching the rollback as a way to more quickly build vital infrastructure — will have time to win these court battles and more in a second term.

Made in America. Pre-pandemic, the U.S. had gained 480,000 manufacturing jobs under Trump, partially clawing back decades of losses. But gains were uneven and the jobs were mostly lower paid, as the Rust Belt continued to lose ground. Term Two would see Trump attempt to send this growth into overdrive, with his usual recipe of tariff hikes and cuts to regulations and taxes. But there’s a new tool in his arsenal: the Defense Production Act. In a recent speech at a Whirlpool plant in Ohio, Trump talked up the DPA as he vowed to make America a center of medical manufacturing — for national security reasons. So far he’s only sparingly deployed the DPA, which can force private companies to prioritize government orders, but it could become more of a feature to prep for the next pandemic. 

School Choice. Second-term presidents typically have near-total turnover of their Cabinet. Trump started that early, burning through secretaries who displeased him or got caught up in scandal (Tom Price, we hardly knew ye). But Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the most polarizing department head of all, has remained steadfast and could hang on. That would bring  new vigor to the fight for school choice, starting with DeVos’ $5 billion tax credit to back privately funded school voucher programs, which support students opting out of traditional public schools for private or parochial schools. Pitting public school teachers’ unions against the (mostly minority) parents of kids in failing schools, it’s an issue that Republicans believe can help them make inroads in urban areas.

Judicial Legacy. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 87 and in failing health. Liberal colleague Stephen Breyer is 82. Conservatives Clarence Thomas, 72, and Samuel Alito, 70, could opt to step aside for younger right-leaning jurists. It’s not crazy to think Trump could appoint six of the high court’s nine justices (the most of any president since four-termer Franklin Delano Roosevelt). Say goodbye to Roe v. Wade, strict environmental regulations and perhaps Obamacare. And the conservative blockade could thwart liberal initiatives in Congress for decades. Trump says he’ll put out a new list of candidates, but all signs point to one woman to replace RBG: Amy Coney Barrett, the Midwestern mother of seven and outspoken Christian conservative. Read OZY’s 2018 profile.

Build the Wall. During his last campaign, Trump repeatedly promised a “big beautiful wall” on the Mexican border. But he had a hell of a time getting money out of Congress to build it. With congressional crumbs and facing down legal challenges, Trump has so far done little more than spruce up existing barriers to make them more imposing. (Alas, no alligators yet.) But the pandemic has offered an opportunity: The Trump administration has aggressively pursued its eminent domain cases against South Texas landowners while coronavirus has largely shuttered the courts, pushing for quick wins and land grabs so the government can build. Expect pedal to the metal during Term Two: Read more on OZY.

Family Separations Redux. One of the most outrageous moments of the Trump presidency was the separation of immigrant families at the border. According to an NBC News scoop last week, the policy was intentional and voted on with a show of hands by top Trump officials in the Situation Room. Dissenting voices like Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen are no longer working for Trump, and there’s likely to be ample turnover in a new Trump term. But Stephen Miller, the architect of the administration’s hardline immigration policy, shows no signs of going anywhere. Expect an even more draconian outlook in the second term. 

Tax Cut 2.0. In response to the pandemic, Trump has suspended collecting the 12.4 percent payroll tax for employers and their employees who make less than $104,000 — pushing Congress to forgive the levies for the rest of 2020 if he wins. (This is controversial because the payroll tax funds an already-struggling Social Security trust fund.) There are other ways he could further slash taxes after the $1.5 trillion tax cut, largely for businesses and the wealthy, that formed the chief legislative accomplishment of his first term. If — and only if — Republicans take back the House and hold the Senate with Trump’s win, influential anti-tax activist Grover Norquist points out the likely plan: reduce corporate taxes further and index capital gains to inflation. Read more on OZY.

Trump Inc. The president has already smashed through existing norms and ethics regulations regarding the mixing of government and business interests (i.e. charging the Secret Service up to $650 a night for rooms at Mar-a-Lago during his frequent stays). But second-term Trump could finally, for example, act on his idea to host a major international summit at one of his properties. He could link development deals with foreign relations, or release federal land so he could develop property. And he could finally push through his plan to build a new FBI headquarters at the existing site on Pennsylvania Avenue — to ensure that a competing hotel could not move in across from the Trump hotel there.

Infrastructure. The idea of Trump rebuilding America’s roads and bridges has become a running joke. Would an unleashed Trump in Term Two finally push through a long-promised infrastructure package in a kumbaya moment with Democrats? Trump’s early efforts mostly involved rolling back environmental regulations (see above) while Dems want a bigger pile of money. Perhaps in Term Two the president can conquer the literal and figurative gridlock.

Culture Wars

culture wars

Vax Attacks. For Trump, a workable COVID-19 vaccine is an existential issue for his presidency: Until we all have confidence that the coronavirus is contained, life will not get back to normal. And yet, 35 percent of Americans, most of whom are right leaning, say they wouldn’t get a shot if it were approved today. Plus, pre-presidency Trump was a prominent anti-vaxxer who used discredited science to blame vaccines for autism. So amid these competing impulses, does Trump go all-in on ensuring everyone is vaccinated — helping the economy and thus his presidency? Or does he do the “many people are saying … we’ll look into it” routine to avoid pissing off members of his base? Read more on OZY.

QAnon Caucus. Playing to the anti-vaxers would be similar to Trump’s public stance on QAnon, the bizarre conspiracy theory that believes Trump is in the midst of thwarting a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run the world. This week he claimed he didn’t know much about the theory other than “they like me very much.” Another Trump term would just toss gasoline onto a fire that’s already been declared a domestic terror threat by the FBI because of how these theorists encourage violence to save supposedly abused children. Congress is set to have at least one QAnon-believing member, Marjorie Taylor Greene. Are more on the way?

Reset America Fuel. The death knell of any movement is apathy. If Trump wins again, expect a boost of confidence among white supremacists just like we saw in the first term. But with it comes the opposite reaction: the masses we’ve seen marching in the streets for racial justice will likely surge again to express their outrage. And while having a sympathetic ear in the White House would be helpful, much of the change these activists seek is at the local level. Expect the president to respond forcefully, including encouraging ridiculously long sentences for arrested protesters.

Partisanship Reigns. Major parts of the federal government had long been considered above partisanship. Civil servants worked for decades across multiple administrations. But if there’s four more years of Trump, expect a mass exodus of career government employees from places like the Department of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even the U.S. Postal Service — places that have become newly partisan under Trump, and where service-minded employees feel they could weather four years, but not eight. And many of those positions will go unfilled — just like Trump hasn’t bothered to fill many political appointee jobs — as part of an overall tactic to shrink the federal government. Read about past partisan uses of the Post Office on OZY.

Winner? The Media! The Trump bump is real: Newspapers and magazines saw surging online subscriptions, and cable TV ratings were up. The media industry — teetering in the pandemic — is bracing for a very unsexy Joe Biden presidency. But a Trump reboot means the POTUS they love to hate (in a mutually beneficial relationship) is back for a new season, and the eyeballs will stay on the press as they crusade for truth while acting indignant at White House news conferences. Let the book deals and fat cable news contracts continue to rain.

Stephen Bannon Charged With Fraud Over Border Wall Group

Source Getty

key players to watch

Here are some people in Trump’s orbit who could see their stars rise in a second term.

Bob Asher. Trump’s leading rainmaker in Pennsylvania is the Asher’s Chocolate Co. magnate, a real life Willy Wonka, only if Willy Wonka was a 5-foot-9 millionaire bankroller of conservative candidates who once served nearly a year in federal prison for corruption. If he somehow helps deliver the Keystone State again, Asher will have Trump’s ear. Read more on OZY.

Bill Stepien. Flamboyant political novice and architect of Trump’s 2016 digital strategy Brad Parscale was sacked as the 2020 campaign manager last month in favor of Stepien. A New Jersey GOP stalwart and former college hockey player, Stepien, 42, was described by a former colleague to New York magazine as someone not driven by ideology so much as winning: “Politics was a sport to him.” If he pulls off this victory, expect his profile to soar and for him to be rewarded with a top White House gig.

Kimberly Guilfoyle. The former Fox News host and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. is barnstorming the country as one of Trump’s top surrogates. As the ex-wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom who had bad blood with Kamala Harris going back to the San Francisco district attorney’s office, Guilfoyle, 51, has strong symbolic value as an ex-Democrat. While the knives are out for her within the campaign for her management of the fundraising operation, Trump doesn’t turn on family. You can imagine her in a Kellyanne Conway-type role in Term Two.

Mike Lindell. The MyPillow company CEO, Minnesota Trump campaign chair and recovered crack addict believes he has found the cure to coronavirus: oleandrin, an experimental extract of the extremely toxic oleander plant. He reportedly has Trump interested, too. While no study on oleandrin’s effect on humans has been published yet, you don’t have to worry: Lindell, 59, assured Anderson Cooper his interest in oleandrin is solely in saving lives … and not in the fact that he has a financial stake in the company producing it. Sounds like a second-term commerce secretary to us.

Steve Bannon. Sure, Trump just distanced himself from his former White House chief strategist after Bannon was busted for fraud last week, charged with siphoning nearly $1 million from a private effort to build a wall on the Mexican border. But the alt-right provocateur was sounding the alarm before most people about the coronavirus, and Trump would have been well-served to take his advice in the winter and spring. Perhaps there’s room for reconciliation and a pardon, or at least for Trump to take his old strategist’s calls in Term Two. Read more on OZY.


world stage

MBZ, the New MBS. The U.S.-brokered deal in which UAE recognized Israel comes at a time that Abu Dhabi, after living in the shadow of Saudi Arabia for decades, is flexing its diplomatic muscles like never before. What does it mean for Trump 2.0? The rising influence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as a counterweight to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Read more on OZY.

Future UNclear. The United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions like the World Trade Organization, which the U.S. helped set up, have faced funding cuts in Term One. In Trump 2.0, they could wither and even perish altogether, as Trump has questioned their very existence. In a bid for survival, they could go the World Health Organization route and embrace China, but that would alienate second-tier powers such as Germany, France India and Japan.

China Standoff. The Chinese think about generations rather than four-year electoral cycles. So President-for-life Xi Jinping’s strategy has been essentially to wait Trump out. But with four more years, Trump will aim to put the screws to China on more than just the fate of TikTok and cracking down on Chinese leaders on social media. Expect more military confrontation in the South China Sea, more aggressive U.S. support for Taiwan and an overall more forceful effort to halt China’s economic rise on the part of Trump. The great question is China’s ability to counter these moves.

Retreat From the Stage. More broadly, pre-Trump America was often seen as a beacon of hope by those fighting for human rights and democracy around the world. Trump is far more likely to point out America’s past sins — CIA meddling, wars of choice — and give repressive regimes a pass if they serve his short-term interests. This trend would only accelerate in Trump 2.0. Europe could fill the breach, but has its own squabbles, allowing China’s nakedly transactional diplomacy and Russia’s chaos-sowing what-aboutism to advance.

President Obama Meets With President-Elect Donald Trump In The Oval Office Of White House

Outgoing President Barack Obama (R) meets President-elect Donald Trump (L) following a meeting in the Oval Office on November 10, 2016. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

wild card

Land Swaps. Former DHS chief of staff Miles Taylor said recently that Trump mused about trading Puerto Rico for Greenland during the cleanup efforts following Hurricane Maria. Since property deals are his game anyway, we could foresee Trump making a bid for Turks and Caicos or the Cayman Islands if a post-Brexit UK stumbles and needs a bailout. Who doesn’t love a nice beachfront property?

Show Trials. In his first term, Trump did not follow up on his pledge to “lock her up,” when it comes to Hillary Clinton. But with a more loyal attorney general in William Barr overseeing an investigation into whether the Obama administration “spied” on Trump’s 2016 campaign, expect a slew of politically motivated prosecutions into Obamaites in Term Two. Clearly it rankled Trump to see intimates like the now-pardoned Roger Stone hauled off in cuffs. Term Two could be payback time.

Why Stop at Two? In December, we took a semiserious look at how Trump could run for a third term. Now he’s openly talking about it, with the justification that the aforementioned “spying” from Team Obama justifies an electoral “redo.” The constitution does quite clearly bar him from serving a third term, but, hey, it’s worth a shot with a friendly Supreme Court.

Sunday Cover Illustration by Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo

Donald Dossier: The Looming Vaccine Wars

It would be mind-blowing if it weren’t so predictable. You’ve probably been hearing a lot lately about QAnon, the wide-ranging conspiracy theory alleging that a cult of Satan-worshipping pedophiles runs the world and only Donald Trump can stop it. The theory is gaining new traction online, despite efforts by social media giants to squelch it, and an open QAnon believer named Marjorie Taylor Greene is all but certain to enter Congress in January after winning a Republican primary race in Georgia. Greene’s win was accompanied by all sorts of anonymously sourced hand-wringing among Washington’s elite Republicans … and a Twitter pat on the back from Trump.

The FBI considers QAnon — named for the anonymous online poster “Q” who alleges to be a high-ranking government official with top-secret clearance, and thus access to all this salacious pedophile information — to be a domestic terror threat. Its adherents have been tied to murder and attempted terrorist attacks. And what is Trump’s prime takeaway when asked about them? “I hear they like me very much.”

Trump’s not-quite endorsement of the QAnon theory, claiming ignorance of the details other than the fact that they’re fans of his so they must be good people, is a familiar trope by now. During his 2016 campaign, he said he didn’t know former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke until he was browbeaten into disavowing Duke’s endorsement. He said some of the participants in a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, were “very fine people.” He has said of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un: “He likes me. I like him.”

So what happens when people who like him put his presidency at risk? If Trump wins a second term — a long shot but still very possible — we will find out.

In an unprecedented, laudable effort, the Trump administration has committed billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies to mass-produce coronavirus vaccines ahead of their approval by the Food and Drug Administration so that they can be made widely available quickly. Some are in large-scale trials now, and wide distribution could begin by year’s end if one or more is approved. It wouldn’t relieve this pandemic cloud, but it would be an incredible moment of relief for a nation that has endured a year like no other.

But in order for it to be effective, people have to take it. A full 35 percent of Americans say they would not get a vaccine right away if it was approved. Among Republicans, that figure is 53 percent. Given Trump’s power to move his supporters, this presents a golden opportunity if he can sell the public on getting the jab, to help get the country to herd immunity and toward some version of the life we led pre-pandemic: going to school in person, dining out, diving into a mosh pit and so forth. He could slap his face on it and call it “the Trump Vaccine, by AstraZeneca.” Whatever it takes.

Ah, but that would be too logical.

Trump has a natural soft spot for the anti-vax crowd, aside from their tendency to like him. Conspiratorial by nature, he has for years spread the disproven allegation that vaccines cause autism with his usual blind certainty. If a culture war erupts over vaccinations — and everything causes a culture war these days — it’s easy to imagine Trump taking the QAnon approach and trying to avoid alienating a segment of his fan base. In fact, there’s ample overlap between QAnon adherents and anti-vaxxers, who in some cases fear the vaccine is a form of mind control. And that Bill Gates might be involved.

Would Trump relish the chance to float some BS about Gates, who’s been critical of the president’s handling of the virus? You betcha. Will it overwhelm his better judgment of wanting to go back to holding mass rallies and other fun Trump stuff in his second term?

We do have a recent precedent. Last year when there was a measles outbreak in New York, Trump was unequivocal: “They have to get their shots.” Let’s hope, for once, he sticks to the script.

Sunday Magazine: A World in Need

There’s a lot of pain in the world right now, from the health crisis of COVID-19 to the economic fallout that has touched most everyone in one way or another. So we’re going to take the sage advice of children’s television legend Fred Rogers. When asked about his response to tragedy, Rogers said: “Look for the helpers.”

Today, we’re empowering you, our OZY family, to become the helpers. Our Sunday Magazine explores a nation — and world — in need, while also arming you with ways to help. And while money is often a good solution, there are plenty other ways to pitch in as we try to build a better world in a time of despair. Read on and be inspired to take action.

the stakes


Grim Numbers. More than 15 million Americans are collecting unemployment insurance, and the official unemployment rate stands at 10.2 percent. Both figures have fallen since the apex of pandemic lockdowns in May, but they remain above the peak of the Great Recession in 2009. With eviction moratoriums ended and expanded federal unemployment benefits reduced, the next fear is a wave of people being tossed out onto the street: An estimated 30 to 40 million Americans are at risk of eviction. The coronavirus numbers have declined a bit in some key states, but much of the economy remains in a state of suspended animation until a coronavirus vaccine is approved and widely distributed. 

Whither the Relief? Democrats in the U.S. House passed a $3 trillion bill to provide a fresh round of economic relief — direct payments to families, aid to states and localities, a U.S. Postal Service bailout and much more — but negotiations with Republicans in the Senate and White House ran aground. So last weekend President Donald Trump took executive action to back $300 per week of expanded federal unemployment insurance for many workers (down from $600), extend a suspension of student loan payments and other measures. But Congress would have to act for a more sweeping rescue, and Republicans remain divided on the size and scope of further relief — with no action likely until at least September.

Florida’s Unemployment Dream Team. Florida’s famously terrible unemployment assistance system — one Republican called it a “shit sandwich” — has left hundreds of thousands struggling to get the benefits they are due. So several women with a very particular set of skills got together to help people navigate the system. Dubbed the “Unemployment Dream Team,” they’ve put resources together online and helped 50,000 people get their benefits. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Read more on OZY.

Unequal Impact. The economic crisis is exacerbating America’s existing racial inequality. Black unemployment is now 15 percent (compared with 6.3 percent a year ago) while white unemployment stands at 9.4 percent (up from 3.6 percent). Black Americans are also far more likely to be frontline or “essential” workers, who are suffering a more severe impact from coronavirus. Watch OZY and OWN’s special town hall on COVID-19 and Black Women.

Haves and Have-Nots. A number that’s looking pretty good right now? The stock market. The S&P 500 is flirting with an all-time high, and tech titans like Apple, Facebook, Alphabet and Netflix are soaring, an indication of just how far the stock market is removed from the regular economy. In fact, America’s 643 billionaires have gained a total of $685 billion in wealth — just since mid-March. Mother Jones puts it all in context, pointing out that hiring 50,000 teachers nationwide would cost just $30 billion. Mr. Bezos, can you please write a check?

Unrest in Chicago. Amid concerns over police brutality and pandemic-heightened economic anxiety, cities have seen scattered outbreaks of violence and looting in recent months. More upheaval in Chicago followed last weekend’s police shooting of 20-year-old Latrell Allen, who is charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting at officers and is expected to recover after being hit in the shoulder. After the incident, Chicagoans raided the high-end shopping district known as the Magnificent Mile. Political leaders roundly condemned the looting, but as one Black Lives Matter organizer put it, “That’s reparations.” 

how you can help


Giving Guides. There are a slew of great apps out there to help you give to charity. A couple of our favorites: CoinUp donates spare change after rounding up your card charges. Charity Miles has people sponsor your workouts. But you still have to pick the charity. Charity Navigator is a great place to start vetting. There are also cool new tools in Supportful (a holistic GoFundMe) #Spreadlovenotcorona (which harnesses the power of hashtags) and Nextdoor (despite its reputation). Read more on OZY.

Keep it Local. Your money and effort will have more of a tangible impact on the world around you if spent locally. From giving at your place of worship to volunteering at your local food bank to making sure that when you get takeout it’s not from a big chain, neighborhood acts make a difference. Please remember that hospitals can also use your money and time, as many are struggling through the pandemic. And to help you find other ways to give back locally, here’s a database of local United Way chapters

Racial Justice on Your Mind. You can also be intentional with your money about supporting racial justice and closing the wealth gap. Check out this ecommerce site entirely devoted to Black-owned businesses. And all profits for our “Reset America” gear at the OZY Store are directed to the racial justice charity of your choice.

Your Body for Science. With the globe closely following the race to find an effective vaccine for the coronavirus, you can do your part by participating in a large-scale clinical trial. From the Bay Area to Portland to Austin to Clearwater, Florida, and beyond, drug companies are actively recruiting participants. If you’ve had the virus and recovered, you can also donate your plasma to help others fight it off.

When Recovery Is Your Bag. The New York nonprofit Unshattered provides job skills training and employment for women overcoming addiction. Simple enough. But Unshattered meets the moment by making handbags, face masks and fashion accessories from upcycled materials like Broadway show banners, military uniforms and salvaged Mercedes Benz car interior fabrics. See more on OZY.

State of the Art. In an effort to funnel money to Black Lives Matter and related causes, several artists on Instagram are donating their talent in exchange for funds. And who doesn’t want a sweet skateboard? (There’s also a specific fund for Black Women Photographers.)

Freebies. With so many of us under financial strain ourselves, handing out cash might not be feasible. But even an act as simple as watching this video on loop can help direct funds to Black Lives Matter, via YouTube ad dollars. Or as we all fight this secondary pandemic of mental health woes — the CDC warned that a shocking one in four young adults considered suicide in the past month — you could volunteer to call a stranger on the phone or check in on a neighbor. Read more on OZY.

Feeding the Neighborhood. We first told you last year about how “solidarity fridges” took off in Paris, with businesses and community members putting their leftovers into fridges for anyone to take. Now the pandemic has seen this trend bloom, from Austin to New York to San Francisco to New Orleans to the Netherlands. Could you do something similar in your community?

where the comeback begins


Cincinnati Magic. Candice Matthews Brackeen and Brian Brackeen have launched a first-of-its-kind $50 million venture fund for underrepresented founders in the Midwest, starting from their unlikely hotspot for entrepreneurs of color: Cincinnati. This isn’t a charity. The Brackeens are capitalists, out to capture a market inefficiency to find returns in an overlooked part of the country, among overlooked founders. Read more on OZY.

If You Build It … With rock-bottom interest rates making home ownership more affordable, the U.S. real estate market remains red hot, but not for the downtown condos that were trendy pre-pandemic. McMansions are back, in a big way, given the trend toward remote work — and thus the need for office space at home, and no worries about long commutes. Shed a tear for Manhattan real estate, but the larger house boom also boosts all sorts of ancillary industries. Consider the Japanese manufacturer Kubota, which just announced a new plant in Kansas that will make track loaders, useful for digging and hauling on large residential properties. Read more about the reverse urban migration on OZY.

Rural Arts. But rural America can no longer count on manufacturing the way it once did, and opportunities are dwindling. So small towns are increasingly turning to a surprising place for economic salvation: galleries, museums and craft breweries. Residents in rural counties that host performing arts organizations earn up to $6,000 more than those without them. Read more on OZY.

Who’s Hiring? There are plenty of places that are still seeking talent, or even thriving during the pandemic. The biggest banks in the U.S. and Europe hired 19,000 people during the first six months of the year, amid surging demand for loans and other products. Tech startups continue to expand in hubs like Seattle. At the other end of the wage spectrum, demand for farm workers is as strong as ever — though the jobs carry harrowing coronavirus risks.

Make China and India Spend Again. A sharp increase in consumption — and a dip in savings — in China and India helped the world economy recover after 2008. But this time, it’s unclear whether we will be able to count on the world’s two largest nations to bail us all out of a global recession. Read more on OZY.

world in need 


While the pandemic is Job One, several countries have been hit with additional tragedy.

Crackdown in Belarus. After dictator Alexander Lukashenko declared election victory with a laughable 80 percent of the vote against popular challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Belarusians took to the streets. Their government responded with mass arrests and torture, while shutting off the internet and other communication modes. You can help by supporting the nonprofit Amnesty International, which is helping bring to light abuses within the country.

Beirut Fallout. A devastating explosion — the exact cause of which remains unclear — killed 170 people, left 300,000 homeless in downtown Beirut and sparked increased unrest. The country was already teetering on the edge of economic collapse before the blast. You can help by backing any number of groups, including the International Medical Corps and UNICEF.

Environmental Disaster in Mauritius. More than 1,000 tons of fuel oil spilled into the Indian Ocean last month after a Japanese tanker ran aground on coral off the island nation of Mauritius, causing the worst ecological crisis in the country’s history, with devastating implications for its biodiversity and tourist trade. There are crowdfunding campaigns to help locals, but hair salons are also chipping in — turns out human hair is a great material for soaking up oil.

homelessness crisis


The Next Pandemic. The rent is due at last in America, and millions can’t pay. The telltale signs of people’s belongings piled on the sidewalk are indicative of the wave of evictions that are now wreaking havoc. In Ohio, 23 percent of people said they couldn’t make their rent or mortgage payment last month or had little or no confidence they’d make it this month. And there are eerie parallels to the mortgage crisis of 2008 in the government’s unwillingness to step in.

Hotel Living. It seems like an easy enough fix: Hotels are vacant due to the pandemic, and the homeless population is surging — and particularly vulnerable to the virus. But housing the homeless in hotels is proving to be difficult in California, which instituted Project Roomkey with much fanfare this spring but has been slow to roll out due to bureaucratic stumbles. And housing the homeless in hotels among the well-to-do on the Upper West Side of New York has drawn some community backlash.

Long-Running Crisis. America’s homeless problem long predates the pandemic, owing to skyrocketing housing costs and economic inequality. Early this year, OZY took a comprehensive look at the problem and some innovative solutions, from tiny houses for veterans to a chatbot for “the hidden homeless.” Dive in further on OZY.

Is School Out Forever?

The devilishly difficult problem of reopening schools amid a global pandemic was perhaps best described by the Richmond, Virginia, superintendent of public schools: It’s “like playing a game of 3D chess while standing on one leg in the middle of a hurricane.” From ABCs to Ph.D.s, the global education infrastructure faces an unprecedented challenge of trying to balance competing health, learning and economic interests that affect pretty much everyone in society. But this is also a time of intense experimentation and transformation, where we are already seeing old models of schooling fall away and new ones emerging.

Today’s Sunday magazine examines what the strangest back to school in memory will look like around the world and what it means for the future of education. Because when it comes to moving against the virus, we’re a long way from checkmate.

where does reopening stand?

Patchwork Quilt. The Trump administration is pushing hard for in-person school reopenings, with even Dr. Anthony Fauci in cautious support. But because education in the U.S. is decentralized, the country’s 13,000-plus local school districts and more than 4,000 colleges and universities are left to figure out policies themselves. It means we’re largely seeing a mix of remote and in-person instruction, and lots of delays. The coronavirus continues to rage, though cases are slowing in key states like Florida and Arizona. Meanwhile, new research is showing that kids can spread the virus just as effectively — if not more so — than adults. Their symptoms are usually far less severe, but the recent deaths of 9-year-old Kimora Lynum in Florida and an unnamed 7-year-old boy in Georgia are a tragic reminder of the risks.

Early Stumbles. In-person reopening has already seen setbacks. Within a week, schools in Corinth, Mississippi, have sent 116 students home to quarantine, 260 employees in the Gwinnett County, Georgia, school district tested positive, and a high school in Elwood, Indiana, shut back down. After a photo went viral of a crowded Paulding County, Georgia, high school hallway, filled with mostly maskless teens, students there are reportedly being threatened with suspension or expulsion if they don’t come to school in person — despite a coronavirus outbreak among members of the football team.

Lack of Trust. In Oxford, Mississippi, approximately 52 percent of the students who have opted to study virtually for at least the first two months of the school year are Black, even though Black children account for only a third of the district’s enrollment. It mirrors what polls and focus groups are finding is a lack of trust that public schools — which have long poorly served students of color — will keep kids and their families safe from a virus that disproportionately affects communities of color. While there are fears this could exacerbate America’s racial achievement gap, some studies indicate Black students fare better in homeschool environments. Read more from The Hechinger Report on OZY.

More Than Education. Part of what makes this so difficult is not simply that learning remotely is a far greater challenge, but that schools provide so much more than education. They bring valuable socialization and fitness opportunities to kids whose mental and physical health might have suffered otherwise, not to mention a safe space for children living in dangerous circumstances. And they provide nutrition: Some 22 million kids get free or reduced-priced lunch at school.

College Comeback. Colleges and universities have constantly shifted their comeback plans, but at this point about 25 percent plan to be mostly online, 21 percent primarily in person, 15 percent taking a hybrid approach … and 27 percent TBD. Some are welcoming only select students with open arms. As New York requires a 14-day quarantine for visitors from certain states with high coronavirus rates, Ithaca College told out-of-state students that they must study remotely as long as their state remains on the quarantine list. International students are all but shut out. It’s all forcing students to adapt quickly. As rising Harvard senior Joy Nesbitt writes: “I’ve come to the decision that uncertainty is OK. In fact, uncertainty is part of the college experience regardless of whether COVID-19 is a factor or not.” Read more on OZY.

Lessons From Abroad. Israel is seen as a cautionary tale after its spring reopening; its rush  to full capacity led to a massive virus outbreak. China, which reopened with temperature checks and intense monitoring, has seen a few bumps in the road but no massive problems. European countries like Denmark, Germany and Finland have reopened without seeing major spikes — but they also had far fewer cases than the U.S.

the higher ed economic cliff

The Case for a Gap Year. One way to future-proof your long-term career aspirations is to make time to invest in yourself now: Get up to speed on market dynamics and gain professional experience and the skills that will be the most desirable in tomorrow’s economy. That’s why the pandemic offers a perfect opportunity for all students to take a year off between high school and college, argues Jessica Mitsch, CEO and co-founder of Momentum Learning. Read more on OZY.

Left in the Lurch. Many students are taking Mitsch’s advice, and that’s putting colleges in a bind. Typically, university administrators use deposits — minimum fees that students send in to secure their place after receiving an acceptance letter — to forecast the size of their incoming class. Those enrollment numbers in turn are a key determinant of the annual revenue that colleges earn and shape how they allocate resources. However, those are no longer reliable indicators: A study by higher ed consulting firm Art and Science shows 12 percent of students who paid up have since decided they no longer plan to pursue full-time four-year college this fall. In effect, school finance departments are flying blind. Read more on OZY.

Clogging the Pipeline. In the long term, education experts say that reduced enrollments will likely increase the wealth gap between institutions with deep pockets that can weather this storm and those that do not have the same financial flexibility. The impact of deferrals could be felt next year too. If the number of deferred applicants who queue up to join college in 2021 is significantly larger than usual, that cuts into the number of seats available for new high school graduates. Read more on OZY.

Is College Worth it? A pandemic-spurred rise in e-learning also raises questions about whether pricey university educations are worth the cost, when there are a wealth of online options. The debate is not new, but it’s being compounded as students rethink their options. One place to start? A look at the colleges that give the best return on investment in salaries.

Better Off Without Sports? With the cash cow that is college football on the brink of losing a season, universities are staring at a massive short-term budgetary hole. But it’s a mistake to assume that schools are propped up by packed stadiums. NCAA schools spent a total of $18 billion on athletics in 2018 and brought in $10 billion in revenue, leaving universities and donors to cover the rest. The University of Texas brought in the nation’s most athletic revenue last year at $223 million … but it spent nearly as much and transferred just $3 million back to the university. There are, of course, ancillary benefits to big-time sports, from brand building to alumni engagement. The pandemic could force an overdue contraction of the college sports industrial complex — though if moves at Stanford are any indication, it will mean slashing sports that don’t make money rather than paring back lavish football facilities.

new models and big ideas

Microschool’s In. In communities from Chicago to San Diego, parents are forming pandemic pods and microschools — bubbles where small groups of kids can meet and learn together. These options offer more interaction for children than studying online and are also safer than returning to full-fledged schools. Raleigh, North Carolina, backed by the local school district and the YMCA, set up socially distant supervised “learning centers” where kids can take remote classes on Wi-Fi, allowing their parents to go to work. All these options raise questions about access: The learning centers cost $24 per day, and microschools can cost $25,000 for the year.

Walk in the Woods. Outdoor classrooms are safer than closed spaces. Marry that with the adventures that nature offers, and the pandemic could serve as a launch pad to teach kids outdoor life skills that will come in handy. Forest schools began in Denmark and are now common in many European nations. Some U.S. schools are attempting the model too, with interest growing as a pandemic alternative.

Survival Skills. A growing number of Indian schools are teaching students not just about climate change but also how to live through droughts or extreme weather they may encounter in the future. This new green curriculum includes hydroponic farming, replenishing forests and even accepting plastic trash as school fees to turn it into eco-friendly bricks. These schools are offering a powerful lesson for education systems around the world. Read more on OZY.

On the Air. Large parts of sub-Saharan Africa don’t have reliable internet, but radio is ubiquitous. That’s why Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Madagascar and Rwanda have turned to radio and TV classes, delivered daily to millions of students. As Senegal’s promotional campaign says, “School is closed but learning goes on.”

Get in the Game. Relying on Minecraft to keep your kids busy? Poland has turned to video games as part of its school curriculum. In March, the Polish government launched a Minecraft server which packages quizzes and other educational activities, with each student allotted a plot of virtual land to construct buildings. Awards go to the best gamers. Sure beats an algebra quiz. 

teachers under pressure

Unions in the Crosshairs. Teachers — who have spent their careers taking on the skills of social worker, parent, police officer and more — are balking at putting their lives on the line while enforcing social distancing and health checks. And their unions are increasingly pushing for online-only instruction as they negotiate with political leaders. The New York union, for instance, wants a 14-day closure at any school where a positive coronavirus case is recorded. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten recently declared her support for “safety strikes” if local unions believe reopening plans are insufficient. Read OZY’s 2018 profile of Weingarten.

Who’s Essential? Teacher reluctance is being met with a barrage of pushback from parents who are seeing their children’s academic and social lives atrophy and need child care in order to work. Thanks to the pandemic, the term “essential workers” now means everyone from health care personnel to transit operators to grocery store employees who must go to work despite shutdowns. Perhaps teachers should also be on the list. As one nurse writes in The Atlantic: “I can understand that teachers are nervous about returning to school. But they should take a cue from their fellow essential workers and do their job.”

Florida, Man. Always a political hotbed, the Sunshine State is one of the few places where a governor has aggressively pushed for in-person instruction statewide. The face of the opposition is Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, representing 14,000 teachers who are suing Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying they don’t want to be “the petri dish” for reopening schools. The Miami native is an accomplished musician, with a master’s in music education, and was an award-winning band teacher before becoming the rabble-rousing head of Florida’s teachers union. He’s criticized DeSantis for “playing politics with children’s lives” and calling a return to in-person teaching “irresponsible.” The results of his public critiques may have an effect on the November presidential election too, given DeSantis’ coziness with President Donald Trump and educators’ organizing power in the crucial swing state. 

rethinking education & tech

Teaching Culture. As the pandemic has collided with protests for racial justice, parents are looking for answers. Charging in with a solution is Steven Wolfe Pereira, CEO and co-founder of Encantos, the award-winning entertainment ed-tech company that offers both physical and online bilingual (English and Spanish) education products for elementary-age children. Its app has videos and interactive books that teach not just the obvious subjects, like phonics and math, but also delve into music and social awareness. Read more on OZY.

Tutor, AI. When students enter UC Berkeley unprepared for college-level math, they aren’t sent to a remedial classroom but to ALEKS, an adaptive tutor that can assess readiness and instantly adapt the curriculum. One company called Cell-Ed offers cell-phone based courses of study, with a mix of AI and live teachers. AI tutors are proliferating even more during the pandemic, and they could be a critical component to solving the financial woes in the American education system by reducing teacher workloads and helping make higher ed cheaper. 

Sex Ed at Home. Sex education remains a touchy subject, and only a little more than half of U.S. states require it in schools. But successive surveys in recent years have shown a growing appetite among parents nationwide for sex education for their kids. And the apps that have emerged in response — from Planned Parenthood and others — are uniquely positioned to work as the teachers whom teenagers turn to for age-appropriate information on puberty, sexuality, consent and how to foster healthy relationships. During the pandemic, they’re taking off even more. Read more on OZY.

Bitmoji Classrooms. As they try to bring some life to the remote learning experience, teachers are creating cartoon versions of themselves using the app Bitmoji, and then utilizing other design tools to create a digital classroom. They’re putting time into decoration just as they would in their physical classroom, and students can interact with the space by, say, clicking on a bookshelf to get a reading assignment. But like anything on social media, the trend has drawn controversy from some administrators who say teachers should be spending less time on virtual decor and more on their lesson plans.

Looking for more cutting-edge trends? Check out the Future of Learning newsletter from our friends at the nonprofit newsroom The Hechinger Report.

reset america and schools

Teaching 1619. The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize–winning 1619 Project, which seeks to reframe the start of U.S. history to the date the first African slaves arrived on American soil, was turned into a curriculum that is now taught in some 4,500 schools nationwide — a number that’s bound to grow after the recent protests sparked by George Floyd’s death. But the project has drawn hefty criticism from conservatives who cite historical inaccuracies and accuse it of sowing racial division. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) even introduced a bill to ban it from being taught in schools across the country.

Power to the Students. From a more diverse required reading list to structural reforms, students are increasingly stepping up to force change, with groups such as Diversify Our Narrative organizing online. At elite private schools, Black students are launching Instagram pages called “Black At …” for their particular school, documenting injustice and airing grievances. At the university level, students have more power as paying customers — and athletes in particular as revenue generators. They’re starting to flex that muscle, with demands from athletes in the Pac 12 and Big Ten conferences that mix health and safety with racial and economic justice, combined with a threat not to play if their demands aren’t met.

Teaching the Teachers. Stacy Johnson spent decades in the classroom witnessing injustice, but it took researching her dissertation to quantify how the environment can be inherently racist. For example, how behaviors natural to Black students (e.g., call-and-response, interruption) are dismissed as rude, squeezing the “Africanness” out of them. Now Johnson is on a mission to teach the next generation of teachers how to take a new tack. Read more on OZY.

South African Shift. An eruption of protests at South Africa’s most elite schools is targeting the racism experienced by Black students, teachers and parents. The entire class of final-year high school students at Bishops in Cape Town has submitted a petition calling out “systemic oppression.” Parents at St. Mary’s DSG in Pretoria have gathered at the school, holding placards saying things like “I cannot pay for my child to be oppressed.” And an Instagram account, @yousilenceweamplify, has highlighted nearly 300 heart-wrenching testimonials from Black students across the country. Read more on OZY.

The Groundbreaking New Show You Shouldn’t Miss

Dear OZY Family,

We’re so proud to be launching The Carlos Watson Show tomorrow, with an exclusive YouTube sneak peak today for our subscribers — and a special nod to our friends at American Family Insurance. We believe it’s time for a fresh set of conversations, ones that are worth listening to — and this is the show for this moment. I wanted to share some brief thoughts, and you can read my full letter here.

As so many of you confirmed with your heartfelt responses to our #ResetAmerica effort, we are living in a moment that calls for action. But while striving to be true allies in the pursuit of racial and social equality, we have to ground our action in real understanding and listening. I’ve known Carlos for a decade as a colleague, co-founder and dear friend — and I don’t think there is anybody more qualified to facilitate the honest and genuine dialogue that we’re craving. He is an exceptional listener, and when I asked him where that openness comes from, he shared something profound. In fighting the odds to become one of the few Black CEOs in media, he has never had the luxury of choosing not to listen. There was no path available to him that easily sidestepped those with whom he might disagree — and he repeatedly, consistently had to choose to learn rather than walk away. And that is the spirit that animates this show.

There is a privilege in choosing not to listen, and it’s one I think we should shed. You may not necessarily agree with everything you hear on the show, but we offer these conversations as opportunities for us to listen and learn, together. Join us, starting tonight on The Carlos Watson Show, and tell me what you think. I promise I will read each of your comments and get back to you. And subscribe now!

— Samir Rao, co-founder and COO

the show of the moment


What Is It? The Carlos Watson Show is a half-hour daily interview show, available on YouTube, that goes deep with politicians, actors, entrepreneurs, thinkers and more. In the spirit of OZY, we want you to see more and do more. When you watch this show, we want you to come away learning something new, rethinking your assumptions … then texting your mom and your best friend to tell them about it.

Meet The Host. Born to teachers in Miami, Carlos Watson has an insatiable appetite for learning that’s led him to an Emmy-winning journalism career and to found two companies — including OZY. Things didn’t always look so promising: Young Carlos was so rebellious that he was kicked out of kindergarten. But he went on to find his academic stride, earning degrees from Harvard and Stanford Law School. Now he’s a journalist and television host who’s earned praise for his ability to persuade high-profile guests to open up about a wide range of topics on camera — interviewing everyone from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Condoleezza Rice to Karamo Brown to Jameela Jamil and countless others. Read more about Carlos.

What Have We Seen So Far? Across a wide spectrum of celebrity guests, many of them come away from the tapings saying: “I’ve never said that publicly before.” In this extended format — not the quick sound bites you’ll find elsewhere — guests get the chance to open up, as Carlos probes them to share a side the public often doesn’t see … but Carlos isn’t afraid to challenge them when the moment calls for it.

Sneak Peek. Subscribe to OZY’s YouTube channel for an exclusive sneak peek at the next episodes, starting with an interview with the woman of the moment: Rep. Karen Bass. She’s on the short list to be Joe Biden’s running mate. If you can help us get to 50K YouTube subscribers by the end of the day today, we’ll be giving one of our new subscribers the chance to attend a live taping over Zoom with Carlos and a celebrity guest next week.

Listen Up. If you want to experience The Carlos Watson Show on the go, subscribe to the podcast version, with help from our friends at iHeart Radio.

karen bass: carlos talks to a vp contender

The Next Veep? With Biden due to announce his vice presidential choice in the coming days, this Los Angeles congresswoman is a top contender. And we spoke to her about her unlikely journey, and what it would mean to be VP. Watch now.

Activist From the Jump. Bass was a precinct captain for Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential run in 1968 — at age 14. She went on to be active in the antiwar and international solidarity movements, before finding her calling with a social justice nonprofit during the crack cocaine epidemic. Read OZY’s 2017 profile.

Political Rise. Bass first ran for state assembly in 2004, then rose quickly in Sacramento, becoming America’s first Black female state House Speaker. One problem: there was a financial crash and she had to negotiate deep budget cuts with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. After hitting her term limit in the state house, she seized an open Los Angeles congressional seat in 2010. While unquestionably liberal, Bass is not known as a bomb-thrower. “She’s not an ideologue. She’s a practical realist,” then-Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican who worked on an African trade bill with Bass, told OZY in 2017.  

More recently, she’s used her consensus-building skills to become chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and lead Democrats’ efforts on police reform amid this year’s racial justice protests. But now that her spotlight is heating up, so too are efforts to dig into her past. She’s currently taking flak, for example, for having visited Cuba at age 19 and for comments she made at a Church of Scientology event 10 years ago.

Touched by Tragedy. Both Bass and Biden know what it’s like to lose children. Biden’s first wife and daughter died in a 1972 car crash, and then his son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015. Bass lost her 23-year-old daughter Emilia and son-in-law in a car wreck in 2006. “The most difficult part of it was, and it was the same with [Biden], is when those accidents happened, both of us were in public life,” Bass tells Carlos. “So you don’t have an opportunity to grieve privately.” 

Martial Artist: Bass tells Carlos one thing it might surprise people to know: She has earned brown belts in the TaeKwonDo and hapkido martial arts. Does she use the skills in politics? “Not in terms of physical fighting, but there’s a lot of the mental part of martial arts that you learn,” Bass says. “You learn how to navigate conflicts. And one of the goals of a martial artist is to not fight.” Watch now.

thrilling guests

Here’s a taste of more of the big-time names we’ll have on the show in the coming days.

Terry Crews, “The Distractor.” You know him from “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” White Chicks … and blowing up the Internet by warning about “black supremacy” in the wake of the racial justice protests sweeping the nation. But Crews’ road to stardom is a remarkable one: From growing up poor in Flint, Michigan, to walking onto the football team at Western Michigan to the NFL, he always had an artsy side: Crews would earn extra cash by drawing portraits for teammates. After leaving the game, Crews was flat broke — but picked up and moved to Los Angeles to attempt an acting career. He’s battled depression and a pornography addiction on his way to stardom — and is now a lightning rod. How will he explain his inflammatory comments?

Members Of The Coronavirus Task Force Hold Press Briefing

Sean Spicer

Source Getty

Sean Spicer, “The Front Man.”  To his friends and family, he’s Sean, but to the rest of us, he’ll forever be “Spicey,” the alter-ego Melissa McCarthy memorably played while miming the tight-buttoned White House press secretary on Saturday Night Live (if only his podium really did have wheels!). Spicer never quite found his happy stride under Donald Trump — his very first press conference including him having to lie for the president about crowd sizes and Spicer admits to Carlos that he made mistakes at the podium. Still, Spicer has found his legs since leaving the West Wing, even making it into the final six on “Dancing With the Stars.” And now the former Republican National Committee spokesman is living his best life as host of his namesake show, “Spicer & Co.,” on Newsmax TV. Will he say “Black Lives Matter”?

Malcolm Gladwell, “The Mischief Maker.” It’s impossible not to have a fascinating conversation when talking with Gladwell, the famed New Yorker writer whose work, from books such as The Tipping Point and Blink to his “Revisionist History” podcast, sheds light on the strange world we live in. The son of a Jamaican mother and English father, Gladwell grew up in Canada and bounced around a series of American newspapers and magazines before finding his stride … a testament to the fact that even the most talented among us benefit from experience, an idea he elucidates with his famous “10,000 hour” rule to mastering a craft.

Baker Mayfield, “The Disrupter.” Most remember him for his cocky persona on the college football scene, including taking an Oklahoma flag and pinning it at the heart of the Ohio State Buckeyes logo at midfield. But Mayfield is actually the ultimate scrapper, a real-life Rudy who walked on not once but twice at some of football’s most competitive schools before finding his stride as the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners. Now Mayfield is in the NFL, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, trying to prove once again that he belongs. 

Andrew Yang, “The Outsider.” The New York City entrepreneur made waves as a Democrat running in the 2020 presidential campaign, going from the virtually anonymous founder of the nonprofit Venture for America to a political rockstar who body-surfed atop his fervent followers, the Yang Gang. Buoyed by his signature proposal, universal basic income, and his argument that the United States was facing a pivotal moment where massive job loss and technological gain would require a refocusing toward “Humanity First” policies, Yang outlasted most of the massive field but dropped out after placing eighth in the New Hampshire primary. Still, as unemployment runs rampant amid the coronavirus pandemic and a stimulus bill remarkably like UBI was passed in March, many see Yang as a visionary just a few months ahead of his time. And, as he tells Carlos, Yang is already in talks with Joe Biden about taking a new position in the administration — if the Democrats win.

Bethenny Frankel, “The Hustler.” She had a tumultuous childhood, often spending time at the racetrack with her father, before  This reality star got her big break as the runner-up on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, in 2005, before becoming a main cast star of The Real Housewives of New York City. Those appearances led to a series of shows built around her dynamic character, as the author of four self-help books and the founder of both Skinnygirl, a lifestyle brand, and Bstrong, a disaster relief organization. 

Maggie Siff, “The Badass.” She is the ultimate actress, having played powerful characters in some of the best shows on television, from Mad Men and Billions to Sons of Anarchy, where she won a Critics Choice Television Award for best supporting actress in a drama series. The 46-year-old Bronx native got an English degree from Bryn Mawr College and an M.F.A. in acting from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, showcasing her skills in regional theaters before breaking through on hit TV programs during the mid-2000s.


Source Getty

Who’s Next? You tell us who you’d like to see on the show, by emailing us or tagging #CarlosWatsonShow on Instagram or Twitter. There are plenty of good choices already in the OZY family, whether we’ve profiled them on our site, hosted them at OZY Fest or followed their rise on the TV show Breaking Big. Should we sit down again with Bill Gates for an update on the pandemic? Should we get political with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Kellyanne Conway? Learn White House secrets with Michelle Obama? Talk hoops with Giannis Antetokounmpo, or football with Lamar Jackson? Cook up something special with Padma Lakshmi or Eddie Huang? Cut through the BS with Trevor Noah? We want to hear from you.

Quiz Time. Which The Carlos Watson Show guest would see him or herself on TV and think: “Oh my God, I look like an angry leprechaun!” Answer at the bottom of this story.

transformative shows from history

In honor of the debut of The Carlos Watson Show, we’re celebrating the talk shows that changed TV forever.

The Nat King Cole Show. At the peak of his powers, the celebrated performer become the first Black man to host a nationally televised variety show in America in the fall of 1956 on NBC. The show did well in the ratings but NBC struggled to find national sponsors because of fears that their products would be boycotted in the South. “Madison Avenue,” Cole later quipped, “is afraid of the dark.” The show lasted just 13 months. Read and watch more on OZY.

The Phil Donahue Show. From humble beginnings in Dayton, Ohio, in 1967, Donahue became a national sensation by pushing the envelope. He sprinted around the studio, interviewing audience members, and covering previously unheard of topics from cross dressing to interracial lesbian couples who have children by artificial insemination. Read and watch more on OZY.

The Oprah Winfrey Show. It was clear from the very first minute of her first episode in 1986 that Winfrey was something entirely different, and within two months, the show had passed Donahue in the Nielsen ratings. She would go on to to transform the entire talk show genre, focusing on self-improvement, intimate personal issues and connecting with her audience as no host had previously. Read and watch more on OZY.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. The Comedy Central show may have started with Craig Kilborn, but it was Stewart who became an icon by mastering the art of skewering the news during his run as host from 1999-2015. Stewart always bristled at the notion that he was young people’s first source for news, but for many he was. And by calling out BS so skillfully and getting under the skin of the powerful with humor, he shaped the media landscape that exists today.


Source Images Getty, Composite Sean Culligan/OZY

the global fight for justice

As part of our mission to Reset America, The Carlos Watson Show is built to chronicle this unique moment in our history. Here’s the latest on what’s been happening around the world with the protests for racial justice.

Them Too. Since protests kicked off more than two months ago in the U.S., protesters in countries around the world — including France, Britain and South Africa — have used its rallying cries to confront their own difficult histories, toppling statues and refusing to allow their own governments off the hook or paint police brutality as an American problem. Three officers in France have been charged with manslaughter over the January death of a Black delivery driver in custody. Read more on OZY.

On the Court. In Japan, biracial athletes like Louis Okoye have been key to keeping the conversation about systemic racism going, calling out discrimination in professional leagues and pointing to early stereotyping that goes on even in school sports classes.  

Teaching the Truth. In New Brunswick, Canada, the local Black Lives Matter chapter says it’s gotten officials to agree that they’ll incorporate Black history into school curriculums in a meaningful way, hoping that changing the way history is remembered can alter the public’s outlook and make lasting change. 

Favela Fight. Brazil’s slums are a prime target for violent police, who last year killed more than five times the number who died at the hands of U.S. cops. But the focus on worldwide police brutality sparked by the George Floyd protests — and outrage over the death of a Black Brazilian teen shot by cops — spurred Brazil to ban deadly police raids into the favelas last month.

Down Under. Police in Sydney, Australia, arrested six people who organized a BLM rally this week, saying their right to protest didn’t trump pandemic safety rules against large gatherings. Protesters showed up, but a police presence swiftly overwhelmed the gathering, which focused on indigenous man David Dungay, who died in police custody in 2015.


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Quiz Answer

Sean Spicer.

The Power of TikTok

Ignore TikTok at your peril. The ubiquitous app built on short video clips seems frivolous at first, with its lip-synching, dance challenges and goofball celebrities. But this is how a rising generation communicates across the globe. And the app — thanks to its obscenely valuable Chinese parent company — now is at the heart of geopolitical strife between the world’s biggest powers. Today’s Sunday magazine explores TikTok’s rise, its addictive joys, its challenges and what will replace it if it crumbles. The clock’s ticking. Read on.

Power and Controversy

What Is it? TikTok is the uncut heroin of social media apps: It gives you instant mind-numbing pleasure and keeps you hooked with an endless scroll of short videos (up to a minute long), typically set to music, always quirky, often hilarious. Unlike Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, TikTok doesn’t rely on followings or thrive on news and controversy. It just uses sophisticated, artificial intelligence-driven technology to deliver videos it thinks you want. And its algorithms are much more democratic than other apps, making it much easier for unknowns to go viral. It’s also incredibly easy to make videos yourself, importing sound from YouTube or elsewhere, and to interact with hashtags for challenges.

Origin Story. Developed in an astounding 200 days by engineers at ByteDance, the app was technically born in September 2016 as A.me, rebranded a couple of months later as Douyin before it took over China’s biggest cities. But TikTok really shares its DNA with Vine and Musical.ly, another Chinese-born app that ByteDance acquired in 2017 for $1 billion. A year later, Musical.ly was completely absorbed by TikTok, with all accounts carrying over. 

Global Domination. TikTok was the most downloaded app in the world this year, hitting 2 billion total downloads. ByteDance, the world’s most valuable startup, is now valued at more than $100 billion on the back of TikTok (still called Douyin in China) as well as a fleet of other Chinese social media apps. The pandemic has sent its numbers soaring, with tweens and teens getting their parents on the TikTok train and everyone looking for a bit of frivolity amid the heaviest year ever.

The Backlash. TikTok has largely been a haven from politics, unlike the screaming on other platforms, but politics has found it nonetheless. India banned TikTok last month, and the U.S. is considering doing the same, citing national security concerns. A group of American investors is reportedly considering taking a majority stake in TikTok to head off a ban.

Future Charli D’Amelios

With 74 million followers, Charli is the TikTok queen, but there are plenty out there chasing her title. Here are some accounts to follow now before everyone else does.

Boman Martinez-Reid, @bomanizer. TikTok finally has its own reality star. Martinez-Reid, 22, a Canadian arts school graduate, has garnered more than 1.3 million followers on the platform since his first video in December — by raising the bar for comedy. His content plays off of the ridiculousness of reality TV. Read and watch more on OZY.

Darrion Nguyen, @lab_shenanigans What do you do with a degree in biochemistry and theater from the University of Texas at Austin? Make TikToks, naturally. Nguyen, 25, a first-year Ph.D. student at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, has more than 460,000 followers, often personifying biological processes with audio from memes circulating around TikTok. That includes a dramatic recreation of soap fighting the coronavirus.  Read and watch more on OZY.


lol dang lysosome chill ##fypage ##fyp ##foryoupage ##lab ##foryou

♬ ThE JONAs BROTHerS USED MY SOUnd – crustyegirl

Janine Kreft, @kreftscouch. The Chicago clinical therapist dishes out advice (since she can’t advise strangers, you can’t call it “therapy”) via quick videos that have made her a viral star. Her TikTok tutelage lets her, in troubled times like now, disseminate tools to a community of mostly high school and college-age kids — at last check, more than 354,000 followers and 6.3 million likes — hungry for them. Read more on OZY.

Tina Turtle, @tinaqueen_158. She first gained popularity on the platform by displaying her flirty, playful antics with her co-workers but since has expanded into music challenges, dances and showing off outfits. She has no one specific lane — just a carefree Black girl showing her Black girl magic.

Jay Versace, @tharealversace. Modern-day civil rights leaders ply their trade as much on social media as in the streets. In the online regions where wit, fearlessness and brevity garner the greatest rewards, it takes a talent like 22-year-old Versace to break through. Read more on OZY.

Trends 1

Source Ned Colin/OZY

Trends to Watch

What’s Popular? Forget gossip mags, celebrity fashion on TikTok is now all the rage — which this summer means straw hats and tie-dye. But the beauty of the platform lies in the weird, which is why “Alt TikTok” is taking off, a world largely populated by LGBT users and reliant on a sublimely strange sensibility that includes anthropomorphic brands. And don’t forget the neverending drama among the teens with the platform’s biggest followings, leading to a showdown this month dubbed the “TikTokalypse.”

The New Scorseses. As a cover of Frédéric Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu sets the scene, a young man, his back to the camera, pounds away on a grand piano. A series of jump-cuts follows: to his emotionless face, then as he fixes a picture on a wall and finally as he appears to watch himself play. It’s just one example of professional artistry on display on TikTok, which now serves as a potential launch pad for the next generation of independent filmmakers with its combination of easy-to-use technology and rags-to-riches algorithm. Read more on OZY.

Challenge Me. TikTok runs on challenges, where users create videos on a similar theme. What’s hot right now? Pop star Jason Derulo, a kingpin of the platform, created a TikTok dance challenge to pair with his latest song. For self-improvement, there’s #75hard, in which you commit to a strict diet and exercise regimen (plus nonfiction reading!) for 75 consecutive days. 

Going Pro. Last year, TikTok launched a “Pro” version, which gave users additional insight and analytics, to help you make money from the platform. Videos aren’t directly monetized (yet) like YouTube, but users can “tip” creators with digital coins while they do a livestream. And there’s always the influencer route, for people with big enough followings to cash in when they feature products.

Not All Candy. While TikTok is best known for being lighthearted, America’s racial reckoning has been impossible to ignore, and the platform has been used for social justice organizing. With music, of course. Childish Gambino, in many cases, has provided the soundtrack to the nation’s marches.

International Strife

Trojan Horse? The growing pushback against TikTok has a lot to do with rising geopolitical tensions: Indian and Chinese soldiers have come to blows on their shared border, and the U.S. and China are shuttering each other’s consulates in a dispute over intellectual property. Political leaders say they’re concerned the app could pose a security threat from the Chinese government, given the troves of user data stored there and how active Chinese hackers have been in recent years. TikTok has tried to distance itself from Beijing in response, hiring an American CEO and yanking the app from Hong Kong after China imposed a strict new security law there.

The Real TikTok Challenge. While these moves hurt TikTok’s growth, they also represent a critical test for the West and its partners like India. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. is adopting — and pressing its allies to follow suit — a strategy traditionally employed by China: Ban the enemy’s tech products. If they can use the strategy to develop superior tech or force China into more transparency, it would be a victory.  Read more on OZY.

Get Out the Vote. Neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden has a TikTok account. (The TikTokiest moment of the campaign thus far came when SNL’s Kate McKinnon did a TikTok challenge with Elizabeth Warren … after she dropped out of the race.) But a proposed ban could become a political football with both men seeking to look tough on China. Biden has not yet weighed in on banning the app, but this could end up being a flashpoint about who’s better at challenging Xi — or wooing Gen Z.

The Future Is African. Under pressure from multiple other governments, TikTok has quietly planted seeds that are shaping Africa as its latest bride. The world’s youngest continent, with countries dependent on China for investment, could be the safe space the app needs. Read more on OZY.

The Next TikTok

Creative Destruction. As governments and businesses crack down on the platform, it’s creating the possibility of TikTok’s sizable markets with proven users opening up — and similar apps, old and new, are now racing to position themselves as its replacement. Here are a few, and you can read more on OZY.

Triller. The New York-based, short-form video app launched in 2015, but hadn’t really gained traction in India … until now. Over the past month, it has become the country’s most-downloaded iOS app. In the U.S., it’s making a play for users by netting the exclusive streaming rights to Mike Tyson’s upcoming fight against Roy Jones Jr. on Sept. 12.

Chingari. Several apps have jumped into the breach in India since TikTok’s abrupt removal. But Chingari has risen to the top, witnessing nearly 100,000 downloads and 2 million views every hour and trending at the top spot on Google Play Store. “When an ex-TikToker comes to Chingari, he doesn’t have to spend time learning the database,” says Chingari co-founder Sumit Ghosh. “He feels at home.” Read more on OZY.

Reels. Mark Zuckerberg just had to sidle his way in here, didn’t he? This Instagram offshoot is launching in August, allowing users to shoot 15-second videos and share them as stories. Just like Instagram ripped off Snapchat, the Zuckerberg empire (Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp) always finds a way to adapt and grow. The question is whether 15-second videos can supplant minute-long TikToks.

What No One Will Tell You About Robots

Human fascination with robots has long been fused with fear. The first widespread use of the term came a century ago in a Czech play about robots manufactured to serve and work for people. The catch? The bots turn on their masters.

That plot has played out in fiction countless times since. Meanwhile, the real world has created ever more advanced versions of mechanical servants. Today’s artificial intelligence (AI) is more sophisticated than anyone could have imagined decades ago, and it’s already influencing our lives in incredible ways — even if the robot masses have not (yet) revolted. Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently said AI is “more profound than fire or electricity” in its impact on humanity.

But like fire, AI can burn us too. Today’s Sunday magazine takes stock of where we are, where the technology is headed and the pitfalls that lie ahead with AI. There is much to celebrate, loads to fear and even more to question about a future in which machines join humans in striving for a better world.

Autonomous Robot Doing Domestic Cleaning Chores In Household Bathroom

the promise

Friends With Benefits. Imagine robots did all the cooking, cleaning and dog-walking around your house. They ferry you around town, care for a sick parent, teach kindergarten to your child, deliver packages, perform your favorite hit songs … and have sex with you. Guess what? Many of those kinds of robots are already available, and will only get better at human-like tasks in the coming years.

What About My Job? We should not necessarily be thinking of AI and robotic technology as an adversary in the workplace. For manual labor, think wearable exoskeletons that can improve efficiency and reduce injury. For knowledge work, it can be a powerful assistant that helps us do our jobs better, one that reduces our own cognitive load and frees us to work on higher-order tasks and more interesting and creative things. Plus, some jobs that we don’t think of being that creative today, like project manager, could get a major … human … makeover. The project managers of the future will have to make sophisticated decisions to get the best out of both humans and machines. Hear more on OZY’s Future of X podcast.

Product Enhancement. Transhumanists — “cyborg” is so passé — explore the symbiosis of man and machine, going so far as to upgrade parts of their bodies. Think supercharged ears or a bionic arm to replace an amputated one. And then there’s professional mad genius Elon Musk, who wants to fuse human brains with computers to create super-intelligent beings, and has dedicated his company Neuralink to the task. But at what point do we cease being human? We’re a long way from drawing that line.

When Do I Get My Self-Driving Car? In many areas, AI has not yet lived up to the hype. Despite overly optimistic predictions, fully autonomous cars are still only in use in certain trial programs. It often can exacerbate racial bias. And the technology has not yet made a dent in complex fields such as accounting, law, engineering and health care. These disappointments are breeding the technology’s many doubters. Read more on OZY.

COVID-Accelerated. Some AI trends are getting a boost amid the pandemic and economic turbulence. Fast food chain White Castle is hiring Flippy, a burger-flipping robot, later this year to reduce human contact with the food. AI is being pressed into service to identify the next pandemic. But the crisis has also exposed AI’s limits: When our behavior went haywire in response to the virus, machine-learning systems for inventory management, streaming recommendations and other areas couldn’t keep up


the secrets

Arms Race. By 2030, a third of the combat capacity of Russia is expected to be driven by AI — including AI-guided missiles with the ability to change their target mid-flight. Israel has adopted a targeting network to aid the Israel Defense Forces in remotely patrolling the many contentious regions under their control. The U.S. is building a robotic submarine system that will detect underwater mines and other anti-submarine enemy action. But it’s China that appears to be one robotic step ahead, with its massive domestic surveillance program and military drones that can ferry passengers. Read more on OZY https://www.ozy.com/the-new-and-the-next/which-military-has-the-edge-in-the-a-i-arms-race/358014/

Global Gears. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has received a prototype, developed by Boeing Australia, of a jet-powered drone to flank and protect its manned combat aircraft. Brazil and India have set up panels for their militaries to work with cutting-edge labs on developing AI. The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence has launched its own AI lab, as has the South Korean army, which has also used a sentry robot in the demilitarized zone along the border with North Korea.

Quiz: Which country has touted its work on mini-robots that can slide under enemy tanks? The answer is at the bottom of this story.

Do Killer Robots Dream? There are corners of the internet that scream about bloodthirsty bots already enacting takeovers. But an increasing number of serious people are expressing concern about malicious AI. From the U.S. and other major militaries refusing to sign a treaty against fully autonomous weapons to the time Facebook had to shut down its chatbots because they created their own language, runaway robots should concern us all. Read more on OZY.


love and robots

Sins of the Flesh. As with many technological advances, the sex industry is on it. Functional sex robots are hitting the market (if you can afford to pay up to $10,000), but experts are raising the alarm about moral questions, with reports that the bots can be programmed to reenact a rape scenario or resemble children. But would child sex dolls actually prevent pedophilia?

You Tell Us. Would you ever have sex with a robot? If not, why not? If so, whom would you design your robot to resemble? Take our Twitter poll.

L Is for the Way You Look at Me. These robotic relationships may well become about more than sex. Many experts believe that humans will fall in love with robot companions as they advance, in part because our brains are not equipped to parse those emotions. In fact, a growing number of people identify as “digisexuals” — attracted to androids.

Algorithmic Soul Mate. AI is being put to use to make real-life connections as well. One service called AIMM promises to both find you a mate and then coach you through the courting process, with all sorts of questionable, at times sexist assumptions that remind us that AI is only as good as the people creating it. Read more on OZY.


your health

Incredible Shrinking Surgeon. Robot-assisted surgery is becoming more widespread and affordable by the day. Eager for the next big leap? Watch out for Boston-based Vicarious Surgical, which recently won recognition from the Food and Drug Administration as a breakthrough device for using virtual reality and tiny robots to perform surgeries inside your body — guided by the surgeon on the outside. Read more about robot-assisted surgery on OZY.

Diagnostic Test. Reports of the demise of the radiologist were greatly exaggerated, but AI is getting better at diagnosis. Google recently announced that its AI system often — but not always — matches or outperforms humans in diagnosing breast cancer. And machine diagnosis is another trend that’s seeing a pandemic surge, as the need to swiftly identify coronavirus outbreaks is a matter of life and death.

Nursing Aide. Robots are already popping up at hospitals, performing tasks like delivering medication. And their capabilities are starting to get more complex, such as feeding patients who cannot feed themselves. It’s just another example of how baby boomers — not millennials — are the target demographic for the next era of AI. Read more on OZY.

The Robot Is In. With chatbots getting more advanced, AI is increasingly becoming more involved in your mental health. Apps like Youper can engage with you on a human level with a friendly chat — anytime, anywhere — that can provide a critical mental lift. Read more on OZY.

Would you rather spill your guts to a bot or a real-life therapist? Tag us on Instagram and let us know. 


sticky questions

Robot Prejudice. It may be easier than we thought for autonomous machines to develop one of humanity’s less attractive features: prejudice. Why? New research using computational simulation models suggests that prejudice requires only limited intelligence and cognitive ability to develop and spread in populations of artificially intelligent machines. Are we consigned to a future of robot Archie Bunkers? What happens if the “outsiders” they’re biased against turn out to be us? Read more on OZY.

In Living Color. AI has a well-documented race problem: It struggles to recognize Black faces, among myriad other problems stemming from the fact that there are too few Black faces in the industry itself. Given the newfound enthusiasm for people investing in historically Black colleges and universities in the wake of racial justice protests, how about a woke Silicon Valley type offers up $50 million or so to seed AI research and development at Howard University to help offer balance.

All Rise for Chief Justice Robot! “Judges are like umpires,” U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts declared at his 2005 confirmation hearings. But if being an appellate judge is really just a matter of calling balls and strikes, then isn’t that a job that could be performed more thoroughly and precisely by a computer, and without political or personal bias, age or infirmity, or ugly confirmation battles? If justice is blind, does it still need to have eyes? Read more on OZY.

AI for the Defense. Overworked and underfunded public defenders in the U.S. have enormous caseloads, which makes competent legal representation difficult. But thanks to initiatives like the Tubman Project, AI is being deployed to help public defenders keep up by doing things like auto-filling forms and reviewing hours of police body-camera footage. How long before AI is also helping negotiate plea deals and more?

Electoral Disruption. Upstart political candidates are turning to AI tools to take on electoral machines — and they’re winning. Companies on the left and right are using advanced tech to streamline fundraising and better scale targeted ads, or uncover granular details about how messaging campaigns can best influence voters based on their foundational beliefs. Can a bot make you change your vote? Read more on OZY.

Reining Them In. Part of the problem is that AI powers can’t agree on the rules of the road. Last month, Chinese search giant Baidu left the Partnership on AI, an American-led consortium of tech companies, nonprofits, research groups and more, designed to develop ethical guidelines around AI. Baidu was the group’s only Chinese member and its departure comes amid a worsening relationship with the U.S. For now, AI governance remains inconsistent across and even within countries: California, for example, has banned facial recognition technology for local law enforcement, while it’s commonplace in Florida.

Quiz Answer: Iran released images in October of miniature robots that can slide under enemy tanks.

Is It Time to ‘Topple’ the System? Big Ideas From the OZY Town Hall on A&E

The nationwide unrest over the past two weeks in the wake of George Floyd’s killing have thrust a racial reckoning on America that requires frank conversations. And in The Time Is Now: Race and Resolution, a town hall special hosted by OZY Editor-in-Chief Carlos Watson that aired across A&E networks Monday night, emotions at times ran high as many participants grappled with the big questions of how America must change to fight systemic racism.

Ray Johnson, a former police officer from Chicago, condemned the actions of the Minneapolis police officers at the scene with Floyd but said he couldn’t necessarily diagnose racism from a video. “Let’s say an African American person kills a white person. I don’t just immediately assume that it’s a racial thing.”

That set Amanda Seales off. “You are literally comparing a regular person and a regular person to a literal police institution that was built off of the backs of overseers and people finding slaves,” said the actress, comedian and activist. “So it was created within the context of racism, just like America was created within the context of racism.”

It’s time, she said, for a paradigm shift.

“It’s like Jenga,” Seales said. “You’ve got to stop moving the pieces from the top. That’s what has to happen. You got to move the pieces from the bottom. You know why? So we can topple.”

It was a response that represented many of the big solutions the panelists and audience members — from a wide cross section of race, age and life experience — brought to bear on a problem that does not generate easy answers.

“Defund police” has become a rallying cry on the streets, and even a stated policy for a supermajority of the Minneapolis City Council, who say they want to disband the department. But Tamika Mallory, an activist who was a force behind the Women’s March in 2017, said that’s only the start. “We’re talking about rooting out white supremacy and racism across the system — and that’s not just in police departments. It’s also in the courts.”

And it’s in our homes.

Heather Riggins said her three daughters in Colorado “don’t see color” and so it’s hard for her to explain to them what’s going on around the country. Jemele Hill, formerly of ESPN and now with The Atlantic, replied that that’s the problem. “You want them to see color — you just don’t want them to be racist. That’s a totally different thing,” Hill said. “You want them to appreciate the beauty and the nuance in other cultures. … When you say, ‘I don’t see color,’ you also make people of color invisible at the same time.” Riggins thanked Hill for the perspective, adding that she has a lot to learn.

For many, it went back to education, for white Americans in particular, to learn more about the history of slavery and racial oppression, the kinds of things often left out of textbooks.

And for Eeda Charbomneau, there was a simple, aggressive solution: “Racism should be illegal — period. There should be a punishment for racism. That’s the only way you stop people from acting out in such a selfish way. You know, people don’t change their minds unless they have to.”


Want to know what you can do? Check out OZY’s 30-Day Justice Plan.