Read for Later - "Income inequality is at the bottom of this. We need to target and attack [it] aggressively."

This week’s headline quotes Dr. Jesus Ramirez-Valles, director of the Health Equity Institute at San Francisco State University, responding to new research that points to substantial declines in the self-reported health of Americans in the lowest income groups – the analysis shows a lack of progress in health equity over the past 25 years in the United States (NPR “The gap between rich and poor Americans' health is widening”).

A note that we are already looking ahead to the 2020 Midwinter Meeting and the Symposium on the Future of Libraries (January 24 – 28, 2020, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). We are currently accepting session proposals for the 2020 Symposium. First review of proposals will begin July 15th with a final closing date for proposals of August 15th. You can learn more from our press release.

You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures.

What new information has sparked your interest? Drop me a line to let me know what you're reading or discovering that helps you consider the future of libraries.

Five Highlights

Scientific American “Social robots play nicely with others”
As part of Scientific American’s 10 Emerging Technologies of 2019, a look at “social” robots designed to engage with people and to elicit an emotional connection, which are expected to become more sophisticated and prevalent in the next few years in public spaces (hotels, airports, banks, restaurants), as personal assistants, and in caretaking. See also Wired “The second coming of the robot pet”

NPR “The gap between rich and poor Americans' health is widening”
A new study published in JAMA Network Open finds that as income inequality increases, so too does the gap in health – across all groups, Americans' self-reported health (how many healthy days have you had? how would you rate your overall health?) has declined since 1993 and race, gender, and income play a bigger role in predicting health outcomes now than they did in 1993. See also The Verdict "Future of healthcare: What will medicine look like in 2040?"

CityLab “Oregon’s single-family zoning ban was a ‘long time coming’”
Oregon lawmakers gave their final approval to House Bill 2001, which would eliminate single-family zoning around the state and allow duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, or “cottage clusters” on land parcels that are currently reserved for single-family houses – Governor Kate Brown is expected to sign off on the law, which would make Oregon the first state to ban the century-old practice of reserving land for a single type of residential development. See also Curbed “Hey, middle class, the housing crisis is coming for you next” and The Christian Science Monitor “Rural America faces housing shortage. How one town is addressing it.”

The Hechinger Report “Virtual field trips bring students face-to-face with fragile ecosystems”
A look at how virtual reality is being used in the classroom to overcome barriers of physical distance and offer students a first-person view of the changes scientists are observing in remote areas (NASA’s Earth 360 videos, NOAA’s Virtual Dive Gallery).

SkyNews “81% of 'suspects' flagged by Met's police facial recognition technology innocent, independent report says”
In the UK, the Metropolitan Police have been piloting live facial recognition (LFR) since August 2016 and a new report finds that of 42 facial recognition matches, only eight were verified as correct, an error rate of 81%, meaning that, in the vast majority of cases, the technology flagged faces to police when they were not on a wanted list. See also Wired “I opted out of facial recognition at the airport—it wasn't easy”

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

TechCrunch “Waymo is now allowed to transport passengers in its self-driving vehicles on California roads”
Waymo, Google’s self-driving venture that is now a business under Alphabet, has been given permission by California regulators to transport passengers in its self-driving vehicles – the company can’t charge for rides and the vehicles must have safety drivers behind the wheel.


NPR “University Of Alaska readies for budget slash: 'We may likely never recover’”
The University of Alaska System is bracing for a 41% cut to its budget, after Governor Mike Dunleavy vetoed a $130 million line item in the state's budget – the cuts would likely result in faculty layoffs, furlough notices for 2,500 employees, a freeze on hiring and travel, and possibly closing down one of the system's three universities (main campuses in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau) and all of its 13 community campuses. See also Gizmodo “The Alaska Governor’s proposed budget cuts would be a disaster for US climate research”

The Environment

The Guardian “Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis”
New research [$] suggests that a worldwide tree-planting program may be the cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, removing two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities – the analysis found there are 1.7 billion hectares of treeless land on which 1.2 trillion native tree saplings would naturally grow (excluding all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from the analysis).

The Internet

Reuters “Google internet balloon spinoff Loon still looking for its wings”
In its first commercial trial, Google’s Loon service will work with Telkom Kenya to let mountain villagers buy 4G service at market-rate prices for an undefined period – Loon seeks to bring wireless connectivity to remote parts of the world by floating solar-powered networking gear over areas where cell towers would be too expensive to build. See also CNET “This Loon internet balloon just spent seven months in the air”

Journalism and News

Engadget “Mozilla preps its ad-free news subscription service for testing”
According to various sources, Mozilla has sent out notices inviting users to participate in the upcoming beta launch of its news subscription service, the "Firefox Ad-free Internet,” meant to give users access to content from their favorite publications without having to look at ads.

Mobility and Transportation

TechCrunch “In addition to urban air mobility, why not rural air mobility?”
As startups focus on urban air mobility (UAM), electric air taxis that promise to address city-dwellers’ mobility concerns, a consideration for how similar technologies might support rural areas that have faced declines in population and economic stability in recent decades.

Streaming Media

The New York Times “Netflix has a talk show problem”
Netflix has successfully moved into nearly every genre, but has struggled to launch a successful talk show, canceling three shows in the last two years – part of the problem may be that talk shows (and current events commentary) make for an awkward fit with viewers' streaming habits.

Voice Control

The Verge “Amazon confirms it holds on to Alexa data even if you delete audio files”
In a letter to Senator Chris Coons addressing his request for information about how long the company holds on to voice recordings and transcripts from Echo interactions, Amazon confirmed that it retains customers’ voice recordings and transcripts until the customer chooses to delete them, but that some of those transcripts or information gleaned from the transcripts are not removed, both because the company has to scrub the data from various parts of its global data storage systems and because, in some cases, Amazon chooses to hold on to the data without telling the user.