This week’s headline quotes Matt Hammersley, CEO and cofounder of Novel Effect, an app that uses voice-recognition technology to insert sound effects and music to books as you read them aloud.
A reminder that we've opened the call for session proposals for our 2018 Symposium on the Future of Libraries, part of the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting, February 9 -13 in Denver. We had over 25 sessions at the 2017 Symposium and look forward to another rich discussion of the near- and long-term trends shaping the future of libraries.
You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures. The Center's trend cards are also available to help you talk with colleagues and members of the community, map how trends fit together or how they fit into your community, or spark innovation activities.
And as you scan through these articles, consider dropping me a line to let me know what you're reading this week to help prepare for the future.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
Vogue “@LilMiquela is an Instagram it girl, social influencer, and recording artist—she’s also a digital simulation”
Miquela Sousa, @lilmiquela on Instagram, boasts hundreds of thousands of followers, shares selfies with youthful and optimistic captions and pointed political critiques, and swaps makeup tips with her superfans – but like others from a new category of celebrity, she is a computer simulation of a person, designed for reasons that remain unclear, by people who would very seriously prefer to remain unknown.
Engadget “AI writes Yelp reviews that pass for the real thing”
Researchers from the University of Chicago utilized a deep learning program known as a recurrent neural network (RNN) to train an AI with publicly available Yelp restaurant reviews which it then used to generate its own fake Yelp reviews that were able to pass as real and useful to users. See also Fast Company and The Verge.
Engadget “App detects pancreatic cancer from the whites of your eyes”
Researchers at the University of Washington developed the BiliScreen app to test for pancreatic cancer using a smartphone's camera and computer vision algorithms to detect levels of the chemical bilirubin in the whites of a person's eyes.
Reuters “Ford teams with Domino's on self-driving pizza delivery test”
Ford Motor Company and Domino's Pizza will begin testing a program to have pizzas delivered by self-driving cars – randomly selected customers in the Ann Arbor area could be visited by a Ford Fusion Hybrid equipped with self-driving technology (accompanied by human drivers) and will receive text messages on how to retrieve their pizzas once the delivery vehicle has arrived. See also CityLab, The Daily Dot, GeekWire, The Huffington Post, Mashable, The New York Times, and The Verge.
Books and Publishing
MIT Technology Review “This app may be the future of bedtime stories”
The Novel Effect app uses voice-recognition technology to insert sound effects and music to books as you read them aloud, making the experience of reading aloud more engaging for kids at home or in the classroom.
GeekWire “Game writers to be honored with Nebula Award in first for professional science fiction and fantasy org”
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced a new category for its 2018 Nebula Awards – Best Game Writing will recognize the writers of video game narratives.
Cities and Government
Politico “Trump has decided to end DACA, with 6-month delay”
U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children. See also CityLab, Digg, Mic and again and again, and ReCode.
Mic “Business leaders to Donald Trump: ‘Preserve the DACA program’”
The leaders of some of the country’s largest companies signed a letter supporting the DACA program, stating “Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy.” See also The Daily Dot, Engadget, Fast Company, GeekWire, Mashable, ReCode and again and again, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
The Washington Post “Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley”
100 anarchists and antifa (“anti-fascist”) members confronted a protest in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, marking another street brawl between opposing ends of the political spectrum, a regular feature of the Trump presidency.
The New York Times “The urban revival is over”
Urbanization may be on the decline in the United States – in the last two years the suburbs outgrew cities in two-thirds of America’s large metropolitan areas, fourteen big cities lost population in 2015-16, and low-density suburban counties may once again be the fastest-growing parts of the nation – as violent crime, increasingly rising costs of living in the most desirable cities, and an anti-urban mood in Washington and many state legislatures that works against large cities limits urban growth.
The Guardian “Forget Wall Street – Silicon Valley is the new political power in Washington”
News of the New America Foundation’s firing of scholar Barry Lynn, who studied the growing power of technology companies like Google and Facebook, has raised concerns over the growing influence technology companies exert as funders of thinktanks and lobbyists. See also ArsTechnica and again and again, Fast Company, Gizmodo and again, Mashable, The New York Times, The Verge, The Washington Post and again, and Wired.
Demographics and Communities
ArsTechnica “US dads of newborns are greying—percentage over 40 doubled since the 70s”
A new study from Stanford researchers published in Human Reproduction (login or subscription) finds that across races, education levels, and regions, the percentage of fathers in their 40s more than doubled, from 4.1% to 8.9%, and in their 50s and above jumped from 0.5% to 0.9%.
The Daily Dot “The growing movement to ban conversion therapy”
“Conversion therapy,” the widely discredited practice of seeking to rid LGBTQ youth of their same-sex desires, has been condemned by groups like the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association and banned by several states – now, a bill reintroduced in Congress seeks to ban the practice nationwide.
The Daily Dot “ACLU, LGBTQ legal groups sue Trump over trans military ban”
The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal have each filed lawsuits against the Trump administration over the President’s transgender military ban – the ACLU complaint alleges that the military ban violates transgender service members’ constitutional rights by denying equal protection and substantive due process under the law; Lambda Legal's complaint argues that the Trump administration’s policy violates “the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment.” See also Fast Company, Mashable, and Mic.
The Huffington Post “Ed Skrein turns down 'Hellboy' role to prevent whitewashing”
Actor Ed Skrein, known for his roles in Deadpool and Game of Thrones, announced that he’d be stepping down from his role in the upcoming Hellboy reboot after learning that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage – the announcement was viewed as a notable move against whitewashing practices that have become commonplace in Hollywood. See also Mashable, The Verge, and Wired.
Wired “Above devastated Houston, armies of drones prove their worth”
Drones and professional UAV operators will experience the first test of their usefulness in disaster recovery efforts, helping assess damage to homes, roads, bridges, power lines, oil and gas facilities, and office buildings—and determine whether it's safe to go back.
NPR “U.S. employers struggle to match workers with open jobs”
The United States has a record number of jobs open, around 6 million, but employers struggle to fill those positions as they require employees with skills that may actually exceed their needs.
The New York Times “To understand rising inequality, consider the janitors at two top companies, then and now”
A fascinating look at the paths and circumstances of two office janitors, one at Eastman Kodak’s campus in Rochester in the early 1980s which provided full-time employment, four weeks of paid vacation per year, reimbursement of some tuition costs to go to college part time, and a bonus payment every March; and one at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino which outsources the work, leaving janitors without time for vacation or education.
The Hechinger Report “After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople”
An interesting look at how some schools are considering trade and vocation programs to prepare young people for the estimated 30 million jobs that pay an average of $55,000 per year and don’t require a bachelor’s degree.
Education Week “Wisconsin district asks Supreme Court to resolve transgender restroom issue”
The Kenosha (Wisc.) Unified School District filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether school policies that require transgender students to use the restrooms corresponding to their biological sex violate Title IX or the U.S. Constitution.
GeekWire “Amazon, Microsoft and other tech giants step up to aid tropical storm Harvey rescue efforts”
Tech leaders including Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google announced efforts to support those affected by tropical storm Harvey, including cash donations and the use of tools like Facebook’s Safety Check and a Harvey-focused Google map detailing road closures, traffic incidents, and shelter locations.
ProPublica “When climate change meets sprawl: Why Houston's ‘once-in-a-lifetime' floods keep happening”
Tropical storm Harvey’s effect on Houston has raised concerns over climate change as well as focusing attention on the city’s extreme development and growth that created economic gains for some while increasing flood risks for everyone.
Wired “We can’t let the dark web give online anonymity a bad name”
As the dark web is portrayed as a bad place where bad people do bad things, a reminder that it also serves as an enclave for the real promises of the internet - freedom, anonymity, privacy – that could be especially important for marginalized communities or people living under authoritarian regimes.
Mashable “Facebook is going after one of the big ways fake news spreads”
Facebook will limit the ability for Facebook Pages to advertise on the site if they repeatedly share news articles that are marked as false by third-party fact-checking organizations. See also CNET, The Daily Dot, Engadget, The Hill, ReCode, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
Reuters “Uber to end post-trip tracking of riders as part of privacy push”
Uber is pulling a heavily criticized feature from its app that allowed it to track riders for up to five minutes after a trip – the change restores users' ability to share location data only while using the app. See also CNET, Consumerist, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, Mic, and The Verge.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
PSFK “Nordstrom lets shoppers reserve online and try in-store”
Nordstrom will expand its ‘Reserve Online & Try In Store’ service to almost 40 stores across the United States, allowing customers to pick items online, receive text notifications when the items are available in stores, and then go to the store to try them on in person, combining the convenience of shopping online with an efficient and personalized in-store experience.
The Verge “KFC in China tests letting people pay by smiling”
A KFC in Hangzhou, China, will test Smile to Pay technology that scans users faces with a 3D camera and a “live-ness detection algorithm” to check the identity of the person paying – users must also enter their mobile phone number to help guard against fraud. See also Mashable.
The Sharing Economy
The Verge “You can now catch Lyft in more than 40 states”
On-demand ride service Lyft announced availability in 40 US states – the 10 states without complete coverage are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington. See also Engadget and TechCrunch.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
BBC “Virtual reality game takes on dementia”
Scientists developed the Sea Hero Quest VR game as part of a dementia research experiment – the game tests players’ ability to navigate, one of the first indicators of dementia.
The Guardian “Augmented reality: Apple and Google's next battleground”
Apple and Google will both accelerate their plans for augmented reality and smartphones – Apple’s ARKit is due to be released as part of iOS 11 and Google will release a new system called ARCoreto complementing its existing Tango system. See also The Drum.
The New York Times “‘Cortana, open Alexa,’ Amazon says. And Microsoft agrees.”
Amazon and Microsoft have coordinated to make their Alexa and Cortana voice assistants communicate with each other, allowing users to summon Cortana using Alexa, and vice versa – the move could make it possible for voice assistants to access more proprietary services, such as Cortana's integration with Microsoft Outlook. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, Engadget, Fast Company, GeekWire, Gizmodo, ReCode, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Wired.
TechCrunch “Amazon adds parental consent to Alexa skills aimed at children, launches first legal kids’ skills”
Amazon has launched the first Alexa skills specifically aimed at children – The SpongeBob Challenge supports memory by having children relay increasingly complicated Krusty Krab restaurant orders to SpongeBob, Squidward, and Mr. Krabs; Sesame Street’s Elmo challenge has kids play hide-and-seek using audio clues to figure out where Elmo is hiding. See also The Verge.
Advertising Age “Google will now talk through speakers, fridges and vacuums”
Google’s voice-based chat service Google Assistant is now compatible with a new group of speakers and household appliances, ready to field regular search queries and become a vehicle for online commerce.
Wired “Why voice assistants will give you a headache”
The rise of voice devices will change how, when, and whether users will have the ability to disconnect from digital devices.