This week’s headline quotes Christine Knapp, director of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability, on the city’s new plan for dealing with the impact of climate change on its neighborhoods, especially those that experience a heat-island effect from a lack of trees, less green space, more exposed asphalt, and many black roofs, all of which decrease shade while increasing temperature (The Philadelphia Inquirer "Climate change makes some Philadelphia neighborhoods extra steamy. The city has a plan.").
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The Verge "HBO launches ‘Recommended by Humans’ tool to help you escape algorithm nightmares"
HBO’s new website, Recommended by Humans, pulls from video suggestions and fan tweets to recommend different series or documentaries that people should watch – while clearly a marketing tool designed to lure new HBO subscribers, the site also serves as a response to streaming services’ growing dependence on algorithms to serve up shows based on data collected from viewers.
NPR "Bringing together young and old to ease the isolation of rural life"
Concern for social isolation as a public health issue extends across generations and the divide between rural and urban – Minnesota’s AGE to age program works to build social connection by having younger and older generations work together on projects like reading clubs, building and maintaining a community garden, helping local food pantries, and working on art projects.
The Philadelphia Inquirer "Climate change makes some Philadelphia neighborhoods extra steamy. The city has a plan."
Philadelphia has released its first plan for dealing with the impact of climate change on its neighborhoods, focusing on Hunting Park, a section of Philadelphia that experiences a heat-island effect that can run 22 degrees warmer than some other areas of the city during a heat wave – the plan has identified sites to create a potential heat relief network that would include churches, libraries, schools, recreation centers, and other locations; seeks to increase the number of shaded bus shelters for residents awaiting transportation; and will increase the number of trees planted, create more green spaces, and look to where roofs can be painted white or a lighter color to reflect the sun.
The Washington Post "As summer camps turn on facial recognition, parents demand: More smiles, please"
Facial recognition has found its way to hundreds of youth summer camps across the United States, allowing parents an increasingly omniscient view into their kids’ home away from home – while the technology immediately inspires privacy concerns, its application in summer camps raises additional concern over how children can freely navigate spaces meant to develop their identity and independence.
The Wall Street Journal "Facebook offers news outlets millions of dollars a year to license content"
Facebook is reportedly offering news outlets as much as $3 million a year to license headlines and previews of articles for a news section that the company hopes to launch later this year – the move comes as many internet platforms face criticism for their roles in the news industry’s struggles by sucking up much of the advertising revenue that used to go to newspapers.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
Vox "Facebook is building tech to read your mind. The ethical implications are staggering."
Facebook is funding research on brain-machine interfaces that can pick up thoughts directly from neurons and translate them into words, the company announced in a blog post – the Facebook-financed research is taking place at the University of California San Francisco and has a short-term goal to help patients with paralysis.
TechCrunch "Amazon Scout autonomous delivery robots begin deliveries in California"
Amazon’s six-wheeled, sidewalk-driving delivery robot, Scout, has begun making deliveries to customers in Irvine, California – while the robots can drive themselves around, they will be accompanied by an Amazon Scout Ambassador meant to answer questions from people in the neighborhood and take note of their reactions. See also The Verge "San Francisco gives Postmates permit to test sidewalk delivery robots"
The Verge "The Trump administration killed a self-driving car committee — and didn’t tell members"
The Trump administration quietly terminated the Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation, an Obama-era federal committee on automation in transportation – the committee’s dissolution comes at a critical moment in the development of automated vehicles as companies continue to roll out small commercial fleets of automated vehicles.
Communities and Demographics
Vox "22 percent of millennials say they have ‘no friends’"
A recent poll (1,254 adults ages 18 and up) from market research firm YouGov found that 30% of millennials say they feel lonely, the highest percentage of all the generations surveyed – further, 22% said they have zero friends, 27% said they had “no close friends,” and 30% said they have “no best friends.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education "Can Starbucks save the middle class? No. But it might ruin higher education."
As Starbucks, Walmart, and other companies expand college tuitions benefits and partnerships, a look at how these programs could complicate higher education accessibility, creating increased competition for entry-level jobs with tuition benefits, shifting education costs into private negotiations between large companies and partnering universities, and relieving states and the federal government of their commitments to higher education as it shifts to the private sector.
BuzzFeedNews "The future of the mall might be on your college campus"
A growing number of chain retailers, including Target, Trader Joe’s, Urban Outfitters, and Publix, are opening stores on or near college campuses, chasing students who are setting up shopping habits that could last a lifetime – as universities lease more of their space to retailers, some students see benefits in shopping access and availability, but neighboring communities may push back against big box and chain stores.
The New York Times "Climate change threatens the world’s food supply, United Nations warns"
The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself – addressing a looming food crisis would require a major re-evaluation of land use and agriculture worldwide as well as consumer behavior.
Politico "White House drafting executive order to tackle Silicon Valley’s alleged anti-conservative bias"
The Trump administration is circulating drafts of a proposed executive order that would address allegations of anti-conservative bias by social media companies, according to a White House official and two other people familiar with the matter — the order is still in the early drafting stages and is not expected to be issued immediately. See also CNN "White House proposal would have FCC and FTC police alleged social media censorship"
TechCrunch "Disney will bundle Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+ for a monthly price of $12.99"
Disney’s upcoming streaming service Disney+ will be available as a $12.99 monthly bundle with ESPN+ and ad-supported Hulu, placing it at the same price point as Netflix’s standard U.S. plan. See also The Verge "Amazon Prime Student members can now get Amazon Music Unlimited for $0.99 per month" and The Verge "Google is giving students three months of YouTube Premium for free"
Transportation and Mobility
The Economist "Streets ahead"
For all of the concern and potential annoyance of electric scooters and e-bicycles in cities, the micromobility trend may be accelerating the growing movement for car-free city spaces – a growing number of European municipal governments are lowering speed limits, introducing car bans and car-free days, investing in pedestrian-friendly streets, and replacing car parks with bike parks. See also CityLab "Why speed kills cities" and Vox "Uber and Lyft have admitted to making traffic worse in some US cities"