Read for Later - “The level of information pollution that could happen with systems like this a few years from now could just get bizarre.”

This week’s headline quotes Alec Radford, a researcher at OpenAI, arguing that new artificial intelligence technologies could help governments, companies, and other organizations spread disinformation far more efficiently (The New York Times “How A.I. could be weaponized to spread disinformation”).

A quick scheduling note — I will be at the 2019 ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC, next week. Next week's post may be delayed until Tuesday, but we'll get something out. 

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

The New York Times “How A.I. could be weaponized to spread disinformation”
In recent months, two prominent labs — OpenAI in San Francisco and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle — have built particularly powerful examples of artificial intelligence that can mimic how humans write, which could potentially help disinformation campaigns go undetected by generating huge amounts of subtly different messages.

Reuters “New York Marathon expands 'virtual race’”
The New York City Marathon will welcome unlimited, free enrollment in its virtual marathon this year, aiming to attract thousands of runners from across the globe – the New York Road Runners, which hosts the marathon, has made a years-long push into virtual products, which have included a training program and a virtual racing series launched last year that has so far seen over 57,000 finishers.

CityLab “Atlanta’s Food Forest will provide fresh fruit, nuts, and herbs to forage”
Atlanta’s city council will purchase a seven-acre nascent food forest in the Lakewood-Browns Mill community, which is considered an urban food desert – food forests are layered, woodland versions of community gardens that can include fruit and nut trees, shrubs, perennial vegetables, herbs, and vines.

The Associated Press “3 million US students don’t have home internet”
In what has become known as the homework gap, an estimated 17% of U.S. students do not have access to computers at home and 18% do not have home access to broadband internet, according to an Associated Press analysis of census data - school districts, local governments, libraries, and other organizations have tried to help by installing wireless internet on buses, lending hot spots, and compiling directories of wi-fi-enabled restaurants and other businesses where children are welcome to linger and do schoolwork.

City Journal “Death of the country club”
The country club, once a mainstay of American suburbia, faces a cloudy future, as golf and tennis, the traditional club pastimes, lose popularity; declining marriage and fertility rates see fewer families joining; younger professionals balk at paying dues; and clubs’ perceived “exclusivity” falls out of favor.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

New Food Economy “Why does Stop & Shop need big robots, patrolling the aisles?”
Since January, the northeastern supermarket chain Stop & Shop has introduced more than 200 robots to stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, with more than 300 robots in Stop & Shop stores planned by the end of the year – but the robots’ introduction has raised a number of questions about automation and surveillance for employees, especially as the roll-out roughly coincided with a widespread Stop & Shop labor strike to protest unfavorable changes to union contracts.


Government Technology “Rhode Island RFP has long list of uses for Blockchain”
Rhode Island has issued a new RFP exploring the viability of blockchain statewide, looking to apply the emerging technology to registration and licensing, medical marijuana, records, and more. See also The Verdict “Blockchain diplomas bring international verification to degrees”

Communities and Demographics

Slate “New survey finds suicide is a major risk for LGBTQ youth”
A new report from the Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth, finds that LGBTQ youth are still far more likely than their straight and cis-gender peers to consider and attempt suicide, with nearly one in five of all LGBTQ teenagers and young adults surveyed (the number increases to one in three for transgender and non-binary youth) having attempted suicide in the past year – the organization surveyed nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth respondents between the ages of 13 and 24 from every state in the United States.


Bloomberg “Uber wants your next Big Mac to be delivered by drone”
The team behind Uber Elevate, which is still waiting on FAA approval, believes its drone service is the future of food delivery and will begin an initial testing phase in San Diego this summer – Uber Elevate has no immediate plans to send drones directly to homes, but will instead fly drones to designated safe landing zones where waiting couriers will pick up deliveries to bring to patrons’ doors.


Education Dive “Report: Nearly one-third of manufacturing workers have a bachelor’s”
Nearly one-third of manufacturing workers hold a bachelor's degree in 2016, up from only 8% in 1970, according to a new report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce – as automation has displaced millions of workers and taken over many routine tasks, more of the manufacturing positions remaining require a degree or credential.


The Economist “How the pursuit of leisure drives internet use”
The next wave of internet users around the world will come online almost entirely on mobile devices, seeking messaging, video, and storytelling to stay in touch with each other, to be entertained, and to express themselves – while much of the talk of connectivity in the global south has used the language of economic development, consumers seek the “timepass” of chat, apps, and games while “worthier uses” of the internet tend to follow.

TechSpot “Mary Meeker's annual Internet Trends report shows web users continue to increase as smartphones falter”
Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report counts 3.8 billion internet users (51% of the world) in 2018, an increase from 3.6 billion in 2017 – and Americans now spend 6.3 hours a day on digital media, and over a quarter of US adults say they’re “almost constantly online.”

Vice “This deepfake of Mark Zuckerberg tests Facebook’s fake video policies”
Artists Bill Posters and Daniel Howe, in partnership with advertising company Canny, created a deepfake of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and uploaded it to Instagram – a spokesperson for Instagram told Motherboard that the company would “treat this content the same way we treat all misinformation on Instagram. If third-party fact-checkers mark it as false, we will filter it from Instagram’s recommendation surfaces like Explore and hashtag pages.” The Zuckerberg deepfake follows the viral spread of a manipulated Facebook video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which Facebook chose to de-prioritize so that it appeared less frequently in users' feeds and placed the video alongside third party fact-checker information. See also The Verge “AI deepfakes are now as simple as typing whatever you want your subject to say”

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

ModernRetail “Target is using its stores for same-day delivery and online order fulfillment”
Target will offer same-day store delivery for online orders on, a service operated by last-mile delivery partner Shipt – Target customers with or without a Shipt membership can search through Target’s online inventory for same-day eligible items and order directly from Target’s site in order to receive them that day, with Shipt’s contractors picking orders and delivering them from 1,500 Target stores.

The New York Times “The new sobriety”
Falling in line with an earlier BBC article from May, a look at a growing sobriety movement (Sober Movement, Hip Sobriety, The Sober Glow as examples) that gathers around $15 artisanal mocktails at alcohol-free nights at chic bars around the country, or at “sober-curious” yoga retreats, or early-morning dance parties for those with no need to sleep off the previous night’s bender.

Streaming Media

Variety “Steven Spielberg writing horror series for Quibi that you can only watch at night”
Steven Spielberg is penning a horror series for Quibi, the short form programming incubator led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman, that users will only be able to see when their phone knows it’s dark outside – given that phones can track time and location and connect with sunrise and sunset data, Katzenberg and Whitman challenged their engineers to come up with new ways to time the Spielberg series’ content to very specific viewing conditions.