Read for Later - “A life that is simpler, not a life where we keep producing more and more running faster and faster, and having more and more products to choose from.”

This week’s headline quotes Giorgos Kallis, an environmental scientist and political ecologist at The Autonomous University of Barcelona, from his 2015 paper, “Imaginaries of Hope: The Utopianism of Degrowth” – the degrowth movement sees economic growth as potentially damaging to the environment and seeks a dramatic reduction in energy and material use through access to public services, a shorter work week, and an increase in leisure time (Vice “The radical plan to save the planet by working less”).

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, PA). 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

Fast Company “Will robots ever be better caretakers than humans?”
A growing number of startups seek to sell robotic companions for older adults, offering emotional support, day-to-day assistance, or remote monitoring through artificial intelligence – while the robots are often met with enthusiasm from consumers and medical experts alike, the companies selling them must navigate issues of design, avoid a creep factor, and distinguish their value from human caretakers. See also Digital Trends “The promise and pitfalls of using robots to care for the elderly”

Vice “The radical plan to save the planet by working less”
While society has historically considered growth a positive thing, synonymous with job security and prosperity, the emerging degrowth movement argues that the growth of the economy is inextricably tied to an increase in carbon emissions and calls for a dramatic reduction in energy and material use, focusing on access to public services, a shorter work week, and an increase in leisure time.

Quartz “Investors are betting the Netflix of education can give kids what schools can’t”
Outschool connects kids who want to learn with people who want to teach, in small online groups via video chat, ranging from quirky topics and methods (like learning Spanish by singing Taylor Swift songs) to the practical (like mastering the five-paragraph essay) – with over 8,000 classes from 1,000 teachers and over 31,000 parents as customers, Outschool represents a new opportunity for students who are home-schooled and parents who are seeking extra opportunities for learning.

The Atlantic “There is too much stuff”
As Amazon has amassed a boundless inventory and pushed other retailers like Target and Walmart to follow a similar path in online retail, consumers have been left with an endless variety of choice that isn’t necessarily beneficial to them – to combat this choice anxiety, many brands and retailers now market curation, differentiation, and discovery as they attempt to sell an assortment of stuff targeted to their ideal customer.

The Verge “Metadata is the biggest little problem plaguing the music industry”
In the music world, metadata most commonly refers to the song credits on services like Spotify or Apple Music, but it also includes all the underlying information tied to a released song or album, including titles, songwriter and producer names, the publisher(s), the record label, and more – as metadata needs to be synchronized across all kinds of industry databases, it has become one of the most important, complex, and broken elements, leaving many musicians unable to get paid for their work.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machine

TechCrunch “Waymo is bringing its self-driving trucks back to Arizona”
Waymo, Alphabet/Google’s autonomous vehicle company, is bringing its self-driving trucks back to Arizona after a year’s hiatus – this new test phase will be conducted on freeways around the metro Phoenix area with both empty trucks and with freight.

Wired “Generative music apps let your phone write songs for you”
A number of mobile apps and streaming services (Endel, Mubert) provide generative music which uses algorithms and other data points (GPS location, weather, the time of day) to create streams of original sound that match activities, moods, and locations.

Cities and Government

The Economist “Norway’s capital is the latest city to declare war on cars”
Oslo has joined other cities, including London, Paris, and Stockholm, in trying to reduce the number of cars and congestion in their downtowns – Oslo has removed some 700 parking spaces from the city center (50 or so spots remain for accessibility and deliveries), replacing them with benches, bicycle docks, and more pavement, and has rezoned some streets to be closed off to private cars or to only flow in one direction. See also The Guardian “Madrid could become first European city to scrap low-emissions zone”

Communities and Demographics

TechCrunch “Lyft is adding gender-neutral pronouns to its app”
Ride-hailing service Lyft will introduce a pronoun feature on its app to allow riders to indicate the use of they/them/theirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his, and other options.

Economics and the Workforce

The Washington Post “The average millennial has a net worth of $8,000. That’s far less than previous generations.”
New research released by Deloitte finds that the net worth of Americans aged 18 to 35 has dropped 34% since 1996, as the costs of education (up 65% in the past decade), food (up 26%), health care (up 21%), housing (up 16%), and transportation (up 11%) limit young people’s opportunities for investment and savings.


Education Dive “Fewer than half of public colleges are affordable to low-income students, report finds”
A new report from the National College Access Network (NCAN) finds that the share of public colleges considered affordable to low-income students decreased between the 2012-13 and 2016-17 academic years – NCAN defines an affordable college as one with a total cost of attendance not exceeding the combination of its average grant and federal loan awards; average expected family contribution for Pell Grant recipients; average Federal-Work Study award; and summer wages, plus $300.

The Bookseller “Plan S start date delayed to January 2021”
International research funder consortium cOAlition S has delayed the start date of Plan S, an initiative which aimed to make all government-funded research Open Access from January 2020 – the formal starting-point for its mandates will now be January 2021.


BuzzFeedNews “The first public schools in the US will start using facial recognition next week”
Lockport City School District in western New York will become the first in the United States to pilot a facial recognition system as a way to track credible threats to student safety – the district will pilot the Aegis system as an “initial implementation phase" meant to troubleshoot the system, train district officials on its use, and discuss proper procedures with local law enforcement in the event of an alert triggered by the facial recognition tech.

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

Vox “‘Co-living’ is the new ‘having roommates’ — with an app”
Another look at co-living, comparing it to the much less splashy trend of “having roommates” but with a number of amenities, such as house cleaning services and catered parties, that target tech workers and substitute the appeal of cost-savings with “community,” “smart design,” and “technology” – according to a new report by real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, the major co-living companies in the U.S. currently have just over 3,000 beds, mainly in major cities, but will likely triple to about 10,000 in the next few years.

The Verge “North Face tried to scam Wikipedia to get its products to the top of Google search”
The North Face, in a campaign with advertising agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made, executed a campaign to get its products to the top of Google searches by replacing Wikipedia's photos with its own product placement shots – the campaign swapped out photos on Wikipedia entries for North Face branded destination photos so that when Google searchers looked for information about a particular destination, they would see the branded photo in their search results pulled from Wikipedia. News of the campaign in AdAge prompted Wikipedia’s volunteer editors to remove all of the product shots and a formal response from the Wikimedia Foundation. See also Fast Company “Why The North Face manipulating Wikipedia confirms our darkest fears of advertising”

Voice Control

GeekWire “Now you can erase every Amazon Alexa recording from the last day with a voice command”
Amazon announced new ways for Alexa users to delete voice recordings they’ve made on Echo speakers and other devices that use the digital assistant – new commands like “Alexa, delete everything I said today” and future options like “Alexa, delete what I just said” will allow users to wipe histories of recordings via voice. See also Gizmodo “Amazon attempts to improve Alexa privacy, hilariously fails”