This week’s headline quotes Chris Moran, manager of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, which features tall tree houses, wobbly bridges, 20-foot climbing towers, and natural elements that introduce risk in order to help develop more self-reliant young people (The New York Times “In Britain’s playgrounds, ‘bringing in risk’ to build resilience”).
A quick announcement - the call for proposals for the 2018 Future of Libraries Fellowship is now open. The fellowship offers a stipend of $10,000 to advance new ideas and perspectives for the future of libraries through the creation of a public product that will help library professionals envision the future. We look forward to many exciting project proposals - the deadline is May 15th.
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.
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.
The Verge “Google used AI to sort millions of historical Life photos you can explore online”
Google’s new Life Tags provides a searchable archive of Life magazine photographs – Google used artificial intelligence to attach hundreds of tags to organize the archive, and while the tags can feature errors or ignore important elements (photographer, date, etc.) they point to the future usefulness of AI in organizing information.
Pew Research Center “Nearly one-in-five Americans now listen to audiobooks”
A Pew Research Center survey from January finds that nearly three-quarters (74%) of Americans have read a book in the past 12 months in any format (a figure that has remained largely unchanged since 2012) with print books remaining the most popular format for reading (67% of Americans having read a print book in the past year) – while most formats saw similar patterns to results from 2016, there has been a modest increase in the share of Americans who read audiobooks, from 14% to 18%.
Gizmodo “The University of Arizona tracked students’ ID card swipes to predict who would drop out”
Researchers at the University of Arizona have been tracking the swipes of student ID cards (at residence halls, labs, the student union, and elsewhere) in an effort to better predict and intervene in student performance – while the program is not designed to track students, the availability of time and location information, and the extent to which students realize that their data is being collected, raises concerns for privacy.
The New York Times “In Britain’s playgrounds, ‘bringing in risk’ to build resilience”
Educators in Britain are following a trend to bring risk into their play areas, introducing stacks of two-by-fours, crates, loose bricks, mud pits, tire swings, log stumps, and workbenches with hammers and saws as play objects that provide limited risks that can help children become more self-reliant and develop “resilience and grit.”
The New York Times “Dorm living for professionals comes to San Francisco”
A look at Starcity, a new development company that is creating dorm-style living for middle-class and non-tech residents in San Francisco – the company has three properties with 36 units, with nine more in development, and a wait list of 8,000 people for the spaces that feature a bedroom of 130 square feet to 220 square feet, shared bathrooms, and rents from $1,400 to $2,400 a month fully furnished, with utilities and Wi-Fi included. See also CNET and Digital Trends.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
The Verge “British Airways brings its biometric identification gates to three more US airports”
British Airways is expanding its biometric identification gates to airports in New York (JFK), Miami (MIA), and Orlando (MCO) – the “biometric e-Gates” use facial recognition to match flyers with their passport, visa, or immigration photos and can remove the need to show a boarding pass or identification when getting on a plane.
The Daily Dot “Uber’s self-driving trucks can now be found on Arizona highways” and “Waymo to start rolling out self-driving truck fleet in Atlanta”
Two announcements for self-driving trucks. Uber’s self-driving trucks are driving on roads in Arizona where they complete long-haul trips without human interaction before human drivers step in to complete the final few in-city miles. Alphabet-owned Waymo’s self-driving trucks will be used to deliver freight to Google’s data centers in Atlanta. For Uber, see also Digital Trends, Engadget, Fast Company, ReCode, and TechCrunch; for Waymo, see also TechCrunch, TechSpot, and The Verge.
The New York Times “Most Americans see artificial intelligence as a threat to jobs (just not theirs)”
A new Gallup survey finds that the American public widely embraces artificial intelligence in attitude and in practice – nearly five in six Americans already use a product or service that features AI. See also Gizmodo.
Cities and Government
ArsTechnica “Elon Musk says The Boring Company’s Loop will prioritize pedestrians, cyclists”
Elon Musk’s The Boring Company continues to evolve its vision for future transportation facilitated by tunnels and the automatic transport of vehicles – in a series of tweets, Musk suggested that The Boring Company’s tunnels and Hyperloop would prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over cars, using thousands of small stations to get users close to their destinations. See also GeekWire, Gizmodo, and Mashable.
ReCode “Many in Silicon Valley support universal basic income. Now the California Democratic Party does, too.”
With tech-funded pilot projects in Oakland and Stockton, universal basic income has gained attention in California’s technology community – and now it is officially part of California’s Democratic Party platform, signaling that the idea is beginning to enter the political mainstream as a solution to growing economic inequality.
TechCrunch "MIT study shows how much driving for Uber or Lyft sucks" and “MIT to revisit ride-sharing study after Uber rebuttal”
MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research surveyed more than 1,100 Uber and Lyft ride-hailing drivers to produce The Economics of Ride-Hailing: Driver Revenue, Expenses and Taxes, finding that the profit from ride-hail driving was “very low,” with a median profit of $3.37 per hour with 74% of drivers earning less than the minimum wage in the state where they operate. In a comment to The Guardian, an Uber spokesperson related that the company believes the research methodology and findings are “deeply flawed,” adding, “We’ve reached out to the paper’s authors to share our concerns and suggest ways we might work together to refine their approach” – as a follow up, the lead researcher behind the report accepted Uber’s criticism of how driver income data was gathered and said he will revise the research using more generous income calculations. See also The Associated Press, Fast Company, The Guardian, NPR, and Reuters.
The Chronicle of Higher Education “Enrollment in most foreign-language programs continues to fall”
Enrollment in language courses other than English fell 9.2% in colleges and universities in the United States between the fall of 2013 and the fall of 2016, according to a new study by the Modern Language Association – the sharpest declines were in Italian, ancient Greek, Portuguese, Biblical Hebrew, and modern Hebrew programs.
District Administration “California schools adopt inclusive textbooks that highlight LGBT figures in history”
Starting in fall 2018, California students will use textbooks that highlight the historical contributions made by people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender – the new curricular materials come after the state’s passage of the FAIR Education Act in 2011, which requires that history instruction cover LGBT people as well as those with disabilities.
Wired “Washington state enacts net neutrality law, in clash with FCC”
Washington governor Jay Inslee signed the nation’s first state law intended to protect net neutrality – the governors of Montana, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Vermont have signed executive orders banning state agencies from doing business with broadband providers that don't promise to uphold the principles of net neutrality, but Washington is the first state to pass rules that ban network discrimination. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, GeekWire, and The Verge.
The New York Times “Here come the fake videos, too”
Growing concern over the availability of deepfake tools like FakeApp — a program that was built by an anonymous developer using open-source software written by Google – that make media manipulations easy to create by offering realistic face swaps that leave few traces of manipulation
The New York Times "It’s true: False news spreads faster and wider. And humans are to blame."
A paper published in Science tracks the spread of fake and real news tweets and finds that fake news both reached more people than the truth and spread faster than the truth — the researchers looked at stories that were classified as true or false, using information from six independent fact-checking organizations including Snopes, PolitiFact, and FactCheck.org, and found that stories that had been marked as false “diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information” and that the novelty of false stories elicited user replies expressing greater surprise and disgust that might drive the sharing of this content. See also CNET, GeekWire, Nieman Lab, TechSpot.
News and Journalism
Poynter “Here's how close automated fact-checking is to reality”
A new fact sheet from the Reuters Institute shows how automated fact-checking continues to grow, with most initiatives and research focusing on identifying false or questionable claims circulating online and in other media; authoritatively verifying claims or stories that are in doubt, or facilitating their verification by journalists and members of the public; and delivering corrections instantaneously, across different media, to audiences exposed to misinformation.
The Drum “Associated Press will identify and debunk fake US midterm election news stories on Facebook”
The Associated Press (AP) will expand its collaboration with Facebook to “identify and debunk” false and misleading stories related to the US midterm election – the AP said that its journalists have been assigned to fact-check national, state, and local election-related stories on Facebook, supplying related AP news stories that debunk misinformation, validate a story as true, or provide additional background and context.
Poynter “Facebook’s spending $3 million to help local newspapers build digital subscriptions”
Facebook announced a new Facebook Journalism Project: Local News Subscriptions Accelerator, providing $3 million to help metro newspapers build their digital subscriptions – among the included newspapers are The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Denver Post, The Dallas Morning News, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Omaha World-Herald, The Seattle Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Tennessean, Newsday, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. See also CNET and Engadget.
Play and Toys
The Daily Dot “Barbie’s new ‘boundary-breaking’ female leader dolls aren’t breaking any boundaries”
Mattel launched a new Barbie “Role Models” campaign highlighting 19 women leaders across various careers (Olympian Chloe Kim, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, feminist Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and NASA physicist Katherine Johnson) – while the campaign has received attention for empowering young girls with positive role models, critics have noted that the dolls reflected changes to each woman’s appearance, often by slimming their waists, changing their facial features, and lightening their skin. See also Fast Company and again, GeekWire, and Mashable.
The Drum “Google reveals 'right to be forgotten' takedown requests have now hit 2.4m”
Google’s Transparency Report reveals that the company has received 2.4 million takedown requests originating under the European Union’s so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling - the largest source of requests (85%) originate from private individuals. See also Engadget.
Mashable “Turns out that Geek Squad has been in the FBI's pocket for a decade”
According to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the FBI has provided Geek Squad employees with financial incentives for reporting potentially illegal content found on customers' computers. See also TechSpot.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
CNET “Amazon expands discounted Prime to Medicaid recipients”
Amazon will expand its discounted Prime service for customers on government assistance to include qualifying recipients of Medicaid – the program discounts the cost of Prime membership to $5.99 per month (from $12.99 per month) while still offering the full range of Prime perks, including free, two-day shipping on select products, Prime Video, Prime Music, Prime Photos, Prime Reading, Prime Now, Audible Channels, and more. See also Digital Trends, Engadget, GeekWire, The New York Times, and TechSpot.
The Hollywood Reporter “Netflix orders weekly talk show from 'Daily Show' breakout Hasan Minhaj (Exclusive)” and Fast Company “Norm MacDonald is the latest host in Netflix’s talk show surge”
Netflix continues to explore the talk show and current events format (after two seasons of Chelsea Handler’s show and David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction), with announcements for forthcoming shows from The Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj and Saturday Night Live alumni Norm MacDonald. For Minhaj, see also Engadget and The Verge; for MacDonald, see also Engadget.
Variety “Netflix is testing patches to gamify binging for kids”
Netflix has been testing a gamified streaming experience for children, letting them collect “patches” for watching episodes of select shows – Netflix confirmed “We are testing a new feature on select kids titles that introduces collectible items for a more interactive experience and to expand the storytelling world for the show.” See also Digital Trends, Engadget, and The Verge.
The New York Times “Obama in talks to provide shows for Netflix”
Former President Barack Obama is reportedly in advanced negotiations with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows that would be available only on the streaming service. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, The Daily Dot, Digital Trends, Fast Company, Gizmodo, The Hollywood Reporter, TechCrunch, and TechSpot.