This week’s headline quotes Jibo, the connected home robot, notifying users that its functions will soon be “limited” as its makers begin to wind down services for the social device (The Verge “Dying social robot Jibo goes out with a song and a dance”).
A quick note from our 2019 Midwinter Meeting in Seattle. Recordings from the Midwinter Meeting, including sessions from the Symposium on the Future of Libraries and the News You Can Use series, are now available. To access available recordings, you will need to visit the Midwinter Scheduler and sign in using an ALA login (free to create as a member or non-member), select the session, and choose the audio or video tabs where available. The Symposium and News You Can Use pages list all sessions with hyperlinks to the Scheduler.
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.
The New York Times “Is ethical A.I. even possible?”
As activists, researchers, and journalists voice concerns over the rise of artificial intelligence and its potential for biased, deceptive, and malicious applications, companies are responding with ethics officers, review boards, and stated principles meant to ensure their systems are designed and deployed in an ethical way.
The Verge “Dying social robot Jibo goes out with a song and a dance”
The makers of Jibo, a connected home robot, have begun to wind down service for the devices, with the robot notifying users that its functions will soon be “limited,” that it “really enjoyed our time together,” and a wish that “maybe someday, when robots are more advanced than today, and everyone has them in their homes, you can tell yours that I said ‘hello.’” See also Wired “My Jibo is dying and it's breaking my heart”
The Guardian “'I can get any novel I want in 30 seconds': can book piracy be stopped?
A UK perspective on ebook piracy and users’ motivations – those who frequent piracy sites tend to be from better-off socioeconomic groups, aged between 30 and 60, and are motivated by cost, lack of libraries in their area, a feeling that culture should be free, and convenience.
The Atlantic “The servant economy”
As Uber turns 10 years old, a look at the many gig and on-demand imitators it spawned – and the hundreds of thousands of people brought into new work arrangements that are more than a gig but less than a job. See also One Zero “The sharing economy was always a scam”
Bloomberg “This is what peak car looks like”
Auto sales in the U.S., after four record or near-record years, are declining and analysts say they may never again reach those heights, driven back by ride-hailing and new transportation options and concerns over gridlock and pollution.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
Forbes “Nearly half of all ‘AI startups’ are cashing in on hype”
A new report from venture capital firm MMC finds that out of 2,830 startups in Europe who were classified as being AI companies, only 1,580 accurately fit that description – the companies are classified as AI companies by third party analytics sites, but often go uncorrected as startups who are labeled as being in the field of artificial intelligence attract 15-50% more in their funding rounds than other technology startups.
Vox “A new study finds a potential risk with self-driving cars: failure to detect dark-skinned pedestrians”
A new study from researchers at Georgia Tech finds that object-detection models, like those used by self-driving cars, were 5% better at predicting images of pedestrians with lighter skin tones than darker ones – while the study has not yet been peer-reviewed, it adds to a growing body of evidence about how human bias seeps into automated decision-making systems.
The Verge “A never-ending stream of AI art goes up for auction”
Sotheby’s auction of Mario Klingemann’s AI-generated video installation, Memories of Passersby I, shows the potential role for AI in the world of high art and invites questions about the nature of art and creativity. See also The Atlantic “The AI-art gold rush is here”
Communities and Demographics
The New York Times “The new 30-something”
While previous surveys have pointed to the various forms of financial assistance (rent, health insurance, cellphone) Americans ages 21 to 37 receive from parents, guardians, or family members, this piece goes further to look at the range of free services (child care, errands) that parents provide their adult children as well as the large scale gifts (down payments) that families of means provide.
The Christian Science Monitor “Zuckerberg promises privacy-friendly Facebook, critics still wary”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg proposed a shift in the way users message and directly communicate with each other, proposing truly private exchanges shielded by encryption in ways that Facebook itself can't read – the proposed changes did not address Facebook's core newsfeed and groups-based service, which provide the company with valuable opportunities for targeted advertising.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
The Wall Street Journal “Philadelphia is first U.S. city to ban cashless stores”
Philadelphia is the first major U.S. city to ban cashless stores, placing it at the forefront of a debate that pits retail innovation against lawmakers trying to protect all citizens’ access to the marketplace – businesses that have gone cashless point to greater efficiency and safety for employees as well as increased opportunities for technological innovation, but backers of measures forcing stores to accept cash express concerns for people who don’t have credit or debit cards or wish to make purchases in cash for privacy reasons. See also Digiday “As the cashless movement grows, retailers grapple with ethical implications”
Vox “Amazon kiosks helped bring foot traffic to struggling malls. Now they’re all closing.”
Amazon is closing all of its 87 “pop-up” stores, mostly located in Kohl’s department stores, Whole Foods locations, or as small kiosks in malls – the kiosks, which sell Amazon-branded tech like Alexa speakers and Kindle e-readers, had been helping to bring foot traffic into declining malls, but Amazon will now focus on its bookstores and “4-star” stores.
Polygon “Disney’s new streaming service will include ‘the entire Disney motion picture library’”
Disney CEO Bob Iger indicated that the company’s forthcoming streaming service, Disney Plus, will contain “the entire Disney motion picture library,” a notable enticement from a company that has previously relied on controlling access to materials from the iconic “Disney Vault.”
Bloomberg “Everybody makes podcasts. Can anyone make them profitable?”
With nearly 73 million Americans listening to podcasts monthly (up from 42 million in 2014), podcasts have become a popular format, but revenue remains elusive for many creators and there is growing concern that content must be diversified to broaden the market of listeners.