Read for Later - “As the pervasiveness, complexity, and scale of these systems grow, the lack of meaningful accountability and oversight is an increasingly urgent concern.”

This week’s headline quotes the AI Now Institute’s new report exploring how artificial intelligence-based tools are being deployed with little regard for potential ill effects in places where they can deeply affect thousands or millions of people (TechCrunch “AI desperately needs regulation and public accountability, experts say”).

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 have you read lately to help you think about the future? Drop me a line to let me know what articles and reports you're reading that others might find of interest.

Five Highlights

TechCrunch “AI desperately needs regulation and public accountability, experts say”
Artificial intelligence systems and creators are in dire need of direct intervention by governments and human rights watchdogs, according to a new report from AI Now, a New York University-based organization with Microsoft Research and Google-associated members. See also Gizmodo “The five most worrying trends in artificial intelligence right now” and The Verge “The AI boom is happening all over the world, and it’s accelerating quickly”.

Mashable “Postmates reveals its cute, automated delivery robot”
Serve, Postmates' new automated delivery robot, will ride along sidewalks and can carry up to 50 lbs for up to 25 miles on a single charge – the robots will launch first in the Los Angeles area, and will gradually roll out to other U.S. cities over the next 12 months.

The Atlantic “Millennials didn’t kill the economy. The economy killed Millennials.”
A new report by economists at the Federal Reserve compares the spending habits of Millennials with those of young people from past years, such as the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, concluding that “Millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ significantly from those of earlier generations,” but “are less well off than members of earlier generations when they were young, with lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth.”

CNET “Alphabet's Wing drones set to land in Europe”
Wing, a drone delivery business owned by Google's parent company, said it will launch in Europe in the spring of 2019, with the introduction of service in the Helsinki area of Finland – the company is seeking input on its service from people who live in the Helsinki area.

The New York Times “Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret”
A look at the extent of data collection by companies that receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news, weather, or other information.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

Nature “AI peer reviewers unleashed to ease publishing grind”
Several artificial intelligence systems (StatReviewer, ScholarOne, Penelope.ai) are seeking to improve the academic peer review process and boost the quality of published papers by using technology to do everything from selecting reviewers to checking statistics and summarizing a paper’s findings.

TechCrunch “Amazon opens its internal machine learning courses to all for free”
Amazon announced that it would make the machine learning courses that it uses to train its own engineers available for free – there are more than 45 hours across 30 different courses that developers, data scientists, data platform engineers, and business professionals can use.

Reuters “Amazon targets airports for checkout-free store expansion” and “Amazon aims at office workers with compact cashier-less food store” and The Wall Street Journal “Amazon tests its cashierless technology for bigger stores”
Amazon is looking to expand the reach of its checkout-free Amazon Go store format, exploring options in airports to win business from time-pressed travelers; in smaller spaces in office lobbies, communal floors inside tall buildings, or hospitals; and as bigger stores closer in size to traditional grocery stores.

Facial Recognition

CNET “Amazon's Ring takes heat for considering facial recognition for its video doorbells”
Ring, Amazon's video doorbell company, filed two facial recognition-related patent applications that consider ways of using Ring's devices to recognize "suspicious" people in a neighborhood and then automatically alert law enforcement – like other companies, Amazon regularly files forward-looking patent applications that consider new, potential technologies that don't necessarily reflect development plans, but the applications have raised new concerns about tech companies' early use of facial recognition software. See also ACLU “Amazon’s disturbing plan to add face surveillance to your front door”.

The Internet

The Verge “Tumblr will ban all adult content on December 17th” and “Tumblr’s adult content ban means the death of unique blogs that explore sexuality”
Tumblr will permanently ban adult content from its platform, including explicit sexual content and nudity with a few exceptions. The change in policy has raised concern for some creators and readers who don’t believe there’s another platform that fosters the same kind of sex-positive and body-positive spaces that Tumblr has.

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

The Atlantic “How restaurants got so loud”
Restaurants have become louder as a result of a shift in design to conform to changing conceptions of what makes a space seem upscale or luxurious - current trends in high-end surfaces like slate and wood connote luxury, while soft goods like curtains, upholstery, or carpets have fallen out of fashion.

Fast Company “Exclusive: Airbnb will start designing houses in 2019”
Samara, a futures division of Airbnb charged with developing new products and services for the company, announced a new initiative called Backyard “to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes,” which could include small prefabricated dwellings, green building materials, standalone houses, and multi-unit complexes.

BBC “Japanese cafe uses robots controlled by paralysed people”
The Dawn Ver café in Tokyo is staffed by robot waiters controlled remotely by people experiencing some form of paralysis – it is hoped the project will give more independence to people with disabilities.

Streaming Media

The Hollywood Reporter “YouTube to pull back on scripted in 2020 amid ad-supported push (Exclusive)”
Three years after YouTube launched a subscription streaming service aimed at making it a destination for premium programming, the Google-owned platform is expected to scale back its scripted output beginning in 2020 and shift to an ad-supported business model by making all future originals free to its 2 billion users, regardless of whether they pay $12 each month for subscription service YouTube Premium.

Voice Control

GeekWire “Amazon is crowdsourcing Alexa’s ability to answer questions, says safeguards will keep out offensive content”
Amazon announced a new invite-only program called Alexa Answers that will allow some customers to input answers to questions that Alexa isn’t able to comprehend today so that when users ask the question of their Alexa-powered device in the future, the voice assistant will respond with the customer-supplied answer – Amazon has automated filters to weed out offensive questions from appearing on the Alexa Answers website and prevent profanity and other offensive language from showing up in answers.