Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

08.26.16 | 5:18 pm

Facebook’s automated trending topics are more like Twitter’s—and surprisingly less useful

Facebook users may notice a big change to the social network's Trending topics sidebar. As the company said in a blog post today, the topics will no longer include descriptions written by humans. Instead, they will be accompanied by automated data about how many users are posting about a topic. This is similar to how Twitter's trending sidebar appears, but somehow it feels less useful on Facebook. 

Granted, many of its pre-written descriptions were laughably bland, often including phrases like "report says," but they offered important news context. Funny, I didn't think I'd miss them, but I do. With the new change, if you want to see additional information about a topic (on desktop), you have to hover over it or click on it—an extra step at a time when our brains are increasingly taxed by decisions. And instead of a pre-written description you get snippets from other sources.     

Facebook pointed out that humans will still be involved with the curation process for quality-control purposes. The company faced a groundswell of criticism earlier this year after a Gizmodo report implicated that its curators were suppressing conservative news, something Facebook denied. 

[Photo: Facebook screenshot]

04.22.17 | 11:03 pm

Here are just a few of the great signs at the #MarchOnScience

On Earth Day today, hundreds of thousands of people marched in cities around the world, from the main March on Science in Washington, D.C. to 600 satellite marches. Given the intellect of the marchers, it wasn't surprising to see plenty of really clever signs. Here are just a few of them:

04.21.17 | 4:20 pm

Facebook just beat its own record for lobbying the federal government

The social networking giant has cash to spare, and it's not afraid to spread it around the Beltway if it means buying a little extra influence. According to its latest lobbying report, Facebook spent $3.21 million lobbying the federal government in the first quarter of this year. That's the first time it broke the $3 million mark in a single quarter, as Axios reports. Facebook is hardly alone. As we reported earlier this year, it's boom times for tech-industry lobbying. Uber, for instance, tripled its spending last year. 

04.21.17 | 2:14 pm

Forget Uber and Waymo: Self-driving vehicles are creeping into cities via public transit

On Thursday, a new autonomous trolley hit the streets of Knoxville, Tennessee. The 12-seat vehicle provided by Olli is being integrated in the city's public transit system. It is the third such self-driving project to land in the United States this year. In January, Las Vegas debuted a driverless bus to ferry passengers along a three-block route. A couple months later, California began testing a squat self-driving bus in parking lots. Then at SXSW, local transit authority Capital Metro demonstrated its self-steering coach among festival goers. While major companies like Uber, Tesla, and Apple promise to be the big sellers of autonomous car brains and bodies, it seems the earliest companies to actually put their wheels on roads will be the unknown players powering public transit. 

[Photo: Olli]

04.21.17 | 1:05 pm

Two words: Lawn Roomba

Robot servants are already mastering food delivery and fashion, and now there's a new way for you to sit on your butt while robots do the hard labor—lawn Roombas. While not technically Roombas, they work in the same way as the robotic vacuums/cat cars. Products like the Robomow and Honda's Miimo, which just launched in the United States, will cut your lawn for you and then return to their docking station when done. These genius products are still a work in progress. According to Curbed, few of the grass cutters offer 100% coverage and may miss the edges, but hey, so does that neighbor kid you pay $20. 

Laziness does come at a cost. These helpful little robots have a steep price tag ranging from $999 to $2,799. Start mowing lawns now to save up enough money to buy this thing so you never have to mow the lawn again.

[Photo: Honda]

04.21.17 | 12:39 pm

Tech dad Bill Gates sets serious tech limits for his kids

Microsoft founder Bill Gates may have built his billion-dollar business on a love of technology, but that doesn't mean he lets his kids use it anytime they want. Gates and his wife, Melinda, won't let their three children use tech at the dinner table and they limit their screen time. According to The Mirror, they wouldn't even get their kids cell phones until they were age 14, holding firm even when the kids tried the classic argument that all their friends had them. Gates isn't alone in his anti-tech parenting stance—Steve Jobs didn't let his kids use iPads and was a notoriously low-tech parent. As one Fast Company staffer noted, keep that in mind the next time your kid demands a phone. 

[Photo: Andreas Gebert/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

04.21.17 | 11:54 am

When it comes to reading your mind, Facebook may be no Uri Geller

At Facebook's F8 conference, the company revealed it was working on reading your mind. It unveiled Project: Type With Your Brain, which is exactly what it sounds like, with the goal of allowing someone to type 100 words per minute just by thinking about them and hoped the tech would be available within just a few years. This could make computing wildly accessible for people with physical disabilities and is just generally pretty freaking cool. 

However, no one is sure whether Facebook can actually deliver on this goal, especially because the current speed record for mental typing falls well below 100 words per minute. According to IEEE Spectrum, back in February, Stanford researchers helped a paralyzed patient type eight words per minute with his mind using a device implanted in his brain, which is incredibly impressive, but far short of the 100 wpm Facebook hopes to achieve without wires or implants. Stanford's work is leaps and bounds above a German team's work that led to an ALS patient type "between 0.3 and 0.82 words per minute."

Facebook has amassed an impressive team of researchers to help it achieve its mind-reading goal (no, Uri Geller was not among them), but untangling the neural circuitry of speech might take a little longer than they think. Read the full story on IEEE Spectrum, while practicing bending spoons with your mind. 

04.21.17 | 11:00 am

Baby brain: Trying to not get pregnant is a mental and emotional burden for women

Unless you're Serena Williams, there's little doubt that being pregnant—let alone having a baby—can zap your energy and your attention span (baby brain is real, people). As it turns out, not getting pregnant can also cause a mental and emotional burden on women.

Women disproportionately bear the burden of not getting pregnant what with all the remembering to take birth control pills, coping with the side effects of the pills, scheduling IUD insertion, and period tracking. A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research, reveals that the physical burden can take a toll both mentally and emotionally, too. "It's not just about having the medication in your body, it's about the time, attention and stress that is associated with it," sociologist Katrina Kimport, who conducted the study, told

The added burden seems particularly unfair, because according to the World Economic Forum, women already do 39 days a year more work than men, when you take into account paid and unpaid work like housework and child care. Maybe time to start investing in that male birth control pill, eh? 

04.21.17 | 10:26 am

Sam’s Club is your new favorite sommelier

In a move that could make Trader Joe's, Costco, the Italian wine industry, and the entirety of the French population nervous, Sam's Club is entering the wine business. Last year, the big-box store released a $7 white wine that got surprisingly good ratings. That undoubtedly impressed people who care about wine ratings (or made them question the entire system). 

To build on that success, the company is now working on an entire line of high-quality, but super-cheap varietals, according to Delish. In addition to the chardonnay, limited-edition riesling, and red blend that they currently offer under their own Member's Mark label, they are expanding their line of affordable wine to include a Napa Valley Cabernet, a prosecco (sorry, Italy), a champagne (sorry, France), and a bottled sangria (you're good, Spain). While Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck is still the cheapest decent wine around, Sam's Club's bottles are expected to sell in the $8 to $10 range. That means these wines might be good for drinking, but not necessarily for impressing the in-laws. 

[Photo: Sam's Club]

04.21.17 | 10:22 am

This cool GOTV video will remind you of everything you love about France in under a minute

The French go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of voting in the presidential election, and one group of concerned French citizens wants to remind everyone what's at stake. They put together a great "get out the vote" video featuring a fast-moving montage of all things French—just in case there was any debate over how awesome the country is. Croissants? Fashion? French kisses? Sure, but that's just for starters. There's also democracy, and that can't function properly unless people participate. 

Barkette Barka, one of the organizers of the Sauvez la France campaign, tells me the group is trying to "make as much noise as possible" to motivate people to vote. The group says one in three French voters are expected to stay home on Sunday, which, in case you haven't been paying attention, doesn't end well for democracy. Watch the full video below. 

[Photo courtesy of]

04.21.17 | 9:41 am

KFC says it’s sending a chicken sandwich into space—and Rob Lowe is going to help

Rob Lowe is helping KFC send a spicy chicken sandwich into space, because . . . well, apparently, this is what it takes to stand out in the fast-food world these days. In a blow to Brat Pack fans everywhere, Lowe stars as Colonel Sanders in KFC's new ad campaign. He dons a space suit and promises to launch a chicken sandwich into the stars. "Can you actually launch KFC's world-famous Zinger chicken sandwich into space?" Lowe asks in the new digital ad. "And the answer is, we certainly hope so. Our entire marketing campaign depends on it." I'm hoping to see that sandwich in NASA's photo archive soon.

04.21.17 | 9:32 am

The government doesn’t regulate cosmetics, so drugstores like CVS are stepping in

While the FDA steps in to ensure that all ingredients in food and drugs are safe, when it comes to cosmetics, there is very little government regulation. The EU has banned more than 1,300 chemicals in personal care products and restricted 250 others. The U.S. has only banned 30 ingredients to date.

Beautycounter and retailers like Follain, which I wrote about this week, are lobbying the government to better regulate the industry and help consumers find safer products. But the products they sell tend to be expensive. Yesterday, CVS announced that it would be cutting out all parabens, phthalates, and the most prevalent formaldehyde donors across 600 products from its store brands by the end of 2019. This means there will be safer, affordable products on the market soon. 

[Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart

04.21.17 | 9:00 am

Samsung and Google are making nice for the new Galaxy music experience

Many reviews of Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones—including mine—noted the company's long-standing tendency to complicate things by adding software that parallels features that Google builds into Android. Exhibit A: Samsung's new Bixby AI features, which live on the S8 and S8+ alongside the Google Assistant.

But these new phones also feature an example of the two companies collaborating rather than competing: Samsung is adopting Google Play Music as its default music experience. Owners of Samsung devices will get a three-month trial of the paid service and be able to upload 100,000 of their own songs, which is double the standard allotment. And the upcoming Bixby Voice service will integrate with Google Play.

Much better than the era when Samsung was more inclined to build out its own content offerings, such as the short-lived Milk music service.