Projects & Observations
We are focused on the social trends that could shape the future and the tech tools that may drive it. Our projects are informed and influenced by our engagement with experts across the research, tech and design spectrums. In this space, we share what we’re learning, what’s inspiring, and what’s next.
BY: Deanna Laufer | February 2, 2023
Gen X are in their peak earning and retirement savings years, yet this “forgotten generation” can be overlooked when it comes to the complexity of their financial needs. There is an opportunity to cut through this complexity with time-saving automation, digitization, and guidance to increase their confidence in achieving their long term goals.
Artificial Intelligence
BY: SARAH HOFFMAN | November 22, 2022
New AI image-generation tools are emerging that allow anyone, regardless of technical proficiency, to become an artist, a graphic designer, or an illustrator. And the quality of the output is surprisingly good and will no doubt improve quickly.
BY: JOHN DALTON | November 3, 2022
By many measures, Americans are more polarized than ever. Can we come together to solve our biggest social, economic and environmental challenges? After a recent Speaker Series event, legendary political scientist Robert D. Putnam shared some insights with FCAT's John Dalton on how America's past may hold the keys to its future. Robert D. Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and a former Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
BY: JOHN DALTON | May 10 2022
Synthetic biology is the promising and controversial technology platform that combines biology and artificial intelligence, opening up the potential to program biological systems much as we program computers.
FCAT recently hosted Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, and the author of “The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology,” where she discussed the science, and the ethical, moral, and religious issues surrounding synthetic biology
Artificial Intelligence
BY: SARAH HOFFMAN | April 13, 2022
FCAT recently hosted a presentation by psychologist and author Jean-Francois (JF) Bonnefon on his latest book, “The Car That Knew Too Much”. The book discusses a groundbreaking experiment, the Moral Machine, that allowed millions of people from over 200 countries and territories to make choices about life-and-death dilemmas posed by driverless cars. Should they sacrifice passengers for pedestrians? Save children rather than adults? Kill one person so many can live?
Artificial Intelligence
BY: SARAH HOFFMAN | March 10, 2022
Can the design process be enhanced or improved by the power of AI? After a recent Artificial Intelligence Club event, Columbia University’s Lydia Chilton sat down with FCAT’s Sarah Hoffman to discuss the potential of AI as a creative tool. Chilton is an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science Department and is an early pioneer in deconstructing complex problems so that crowds and computers can solve them together.
BY: JOHN DALTON | February 3, 2022
FCAT recently hosted a presentation by Gillian Tett, Chair of the Editorial board and Editor-at-Large, US, of the Financial Times. Her recent book, “Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life”, has just been published. Following her presentation, FCAT’s John Dalton caught up with Gillian to ask a few additional questions on how anthropology can be used effectively in navigating business and social trends.
BY: Una Mc Grath, Design Strategist, FCAT | December 14, 2021
Social distancing due to Covid19 has made us think more about social connection—where, how, and why we connect—in our lives and in our work. As organisations adopt hybrid working, building business resilience for future climate or health crises, how do we best design for social connection in this hybrid, phygital (physical/digital) world? And why does social connection matter so much?
Artificial Intelligence
BY: Sarah Hoffman | December 9, 2021
We've spent a lot of time discussing the unintended bias that can easily creep into AI algorithms. But the same technology, properly designed and trained, can also be used to confront biases. A new generation of automated tools seeks to proactively promote inclusion in:
BY: David Bracken | October 26, 2021
Blockchain-based video games promise to accelerate the adoption of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and greatly expand the digital asset ecosystem. By making in-game items NFTs that are embedded in the blockchain, players can take ownership of the digital assets they accumulate while gaming and then sell or trade them for real-world value. Such functionality could restructure the economics of the $175 billion gaming industry and turn legions of gamers into digital asset investors.
BY: Robert Hoffman | October 5, 2021
FCAT teams have been experimenting with Virtual Reality since 2014. Prompted by Zoom fatigue after 1.5 years of working remotely, several teams within Fidelity are exploring VR as a better way to work together. Some use the VR loaner program provided by FCAT, while others buy their own headsets and develop customized applications.
By: Una McGrath | July 29, 2021
The Future of Work was brought into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic, as workers worldwide found themselves suddenly in the greatest work-from-home experiment in modern times.
This crisis has shifted values, behaviours, and attitudes across all areas of work and life, in particular about where, when, and how we work.
FCAT Research
We’ve all received email messages with misspellings, designed to outsmart AI-driven spam filters. Perhaps you’ve also heard about how a two-inch piece of tape tricked Tesla cars into speeding up 50 miles per hour.1 What these and hundreds of other anecdotes demonstrate is that it’s relatively easy to manipulate AI systems. Indeed, efforts to "fool" AI have already impacted our industry, where we find numerous examples of people trying to manipulate:
By: DEANNA LAUFER | May 17, 2021
Automation is moving up the value chain, taking on more “human” tasks like financial planning, factory floor management, and home health care. In response, companies need to reevaluate how to build trust in automated systems, considering both their reliability and the human-machine relationship.
FCAT Research
By: SOPHIA MOWLANDEJAD | April 6, 2021
Part One of a series about Inclusive Financial Services

Financial exclusion is a reality for millions of Americans who don't have access to useful and affordable financial products and services delivered in a responsible and sustainable way. The FDIC noted that the surge in joblessness caused by COVID exacerbated financial exclusion – there’s a direct correlation, for example, between being unemployed and being unbanked. But financial exclusion is about more than just being unbanked.
FCAT Research
Over the past twelve months, we have collectively experienced a massive disruption triggered by a tiny pathogen. And in the face of virus-prompted changes, we’ve each had to adapt—as parents of new online-learners to leaders of teams, businesses, and nations. As the pandemic plays out, we see three areas where meaningful adaptations have taken hold.
FCAT Research
Now that so many of us are doing almost everything online at home -- shopping, work, doctor appointments, school, financial check-ins, parent-teacher conferences --- you may have noticed some not so subtle behavior changes among those around you. Maybe a colleague has suddenly started blocking her video feed during Zoom calls. Perhaps a customer has started speaking slower, making a lot of spelling errors, or is typing at a different pace. Maybe you’ve noticed a change in the tones of a colleague’s MS Teams or Yammer posts or changes in a customer’s chatbot message style. All of this could be indicative of something important, and AI is an ideal tool to pick up on these changes.
BY: JOHN DALTON | February 4, 2021
FCAT Research is a bet on the value of outside-in thinking, a rigorous analysis of external trends that we believe will have a dramatic impact on our business, our industry, and on the lives of our customers and associates. Our goal is to help Fidelity associates reimagine the future of our business. So where do we look for the most promising trends?
BY: SOPHIA MOWLANEJAD | January 14, 2021
FCAT hosts an ongoing Speaker Series as part of its mission to “bring the outside in” and share diverse perspectives with Fidelity associates to provoke conversation and action. A few weeks ago, as part of that series, the FCAT Research team hosted a presentation by Lynda Gratton and Andrew J Scott, authors of “The New Long Life.” Their book suggests that we live in an age where technology has not been matched by the necessary innovation to social structures. After the presentation, FCAT socio-cultural researcher Sophia Mowlanejad caught up with Andrew, a Professor of Economics at London Business School and consulting scholar at Stanford University's Center on Longevity, on steps we can take to improve our financial planning.
BY: SARAH HOFFMAN | January 12, 2021
Before the novel coronavirus swept through the world, things were looking bright for women in the US workplace. For the first time in almost a decade, women made up the majority of the workforce; 42% of businesses were women-owned; women with patents went from 4% in 1976 to almost 22% in 2019; at each level in the pipeline, the number of women was increasing.1 And then the pandemic hit.
BY: Alessandro Vigilante & Caroline Federal | December 3, 2020
Until recently, the cognitive load of almost all financial decisions has remained with individual users. But now, the ability to source and collect reams of data, combined with rapid progress in artificial intelligence, lays the groundwork for autonomous finance – freeing individuals from routine decisions, so they can focus on living the life they want.
BY: ALESSANDRO VIGILANTE | November 20, 2020
As the as-a-Service business model keeps expanding from infrastructure to applications, financial services capabilities and products are being re-built to benefit from, and participate in, the platform economy.
BY: FCAT RESEARCH | November 13, 2020
FCAT hosts an ongoing Speaker Series as part of its mission to “bring the outside in” and share diverse perspectives with Fidelity associates that provoke conversation. A few weeks ago, as part of that series, the FCAT Research team hosted a presentation by Dr. Nicolas Christakis, author of Apollo’s Arrow – The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on The Way We Live. Dr. Christakis is a physician and sociologist who explores the ancient origins and modern implications of human nature.
FCAT Research
BY: DEANNA LAUFER | November 10, 2020
Just as COVID-19 has inspired a wave of invention across industries, a new breed of green fintechs are tackling climate change via financial innovation in payment, lending, trading, investment, and insurance.
FCAT Research
BY: Sarah Hoffman | October 30, 2020
Technologies have been getting smaller, and smarter, for a long time. But recent developments in miniaturization have changed the game. In medicine, nanotherapies – where nanoparticles (larger than an atom or a molecule, but smaller than a bulk solid) deliver a drug to a given location in the body – are within reach. Researchers at Stanford School of Medicine found that drug-coated nanoparticles reduce the buildup of plaque in mouse arteries without causing negative side effects.1 Drones also are shrinking, some as small as a quarter. And advances in materials design mean that sensors and networking capabilities can be baked right into walls and desks for stronger, more energy efficient buildings. Even space exploration is getting small; CubeSat’s mini satellite is a mere 10 x 10 x 10 cm.
FCAT Research
BY: SARAH HOFFMAN | October 16, 2020
FCAT’s Sarah Hoffman, VP AI and Machine Learning Research, sits down for a far-ranging interview with Haptik’s Burka Gurgenidze-Seinau, discussing the AI field, how AI influences our daily lives, and how it may reshape the future.
FCAT Research
October 7, 2020
Mike Durbin, Head of Fidelity Institutional, discusses new Fidelity research on the implications of COVID-19 with Judy Marlinski, Head of FI Product and Advisory Solutions, and Megan Kelley, Head of Research at FCAT.
FCAT Design
BY: WILL REED | September 21, 2020
I was struggling to facilitate my first Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) session when it hit me — this was "another growth opportunity." Specifically, it was an opportunity to rethink what it means to be a leader in our hyper-connected, ambiguous, and shape-shifting environment. And it started with 3 simple questions.
FCAT Research
BY: SOPHIA MOWLANEJAD | September 10, 2020
Sadly, it’s too easy to tally up the losses from COVID-19 – as of the end of August, more than 700,000 lives, millions of jobs, more than 100,000 small businesses in the U.S., and seven to ten months of learning for students. COVID-19 has also disrupted innovation because of how isolated knowledge workers, immigration restrictions, and broken global value chains have impeded knowledge sharing. But crises also present opportunities, and this one is no exception. In fact, COVID-19 has unleashed innovation beyond traditional hotbeds like Silicon Valley, big pharma, and research labs, in unexpected areas like:
Facing a global pandemic and a continuing need to bring on new team members, Fidelity recently turned to FCAT for help in creating an immersive, interactive onboarding experience for employees. The test program was initiated to explore an alternative to face-to-face orientation.
FCAT Research
By: Sarah Hoffman | Aug 27, 2020
Bias in AI is a known problem. Cases involving medical care, parole, recruiting, and loans have all been tainted by flawed data sampling or training data that includes biased human decisions.1 The good news: large organizations are waking up. Even the Vatican has chimed in with a charter on AI ethics.2 Even better news: there are practical methods for combatting AI bias.
By: Sarah Hoffman | Aug 4, 2020
Three simultaneous crises – a deadly pandemic, record-setting unemployment, and a global protest movement – have led to huge challenges at the workplace. Several trends have now come to the forefront: flexibility, emerging technology experimentation, and corporate social responsibility.
FCAT Research
BY: SOPHIA MOWLANEJAD | August 1, 2020
Gen Z currently accounts for 40% of all U.S. consumers, and by 2030 they are expected to make up 30% of the labor force.

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