This week’s headline quotes Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi at the Uber Elevate summit in Los Angeles, where the company laid out its ambitious plans to develop and commercially deploy its uberAIR air taxis, plans that require extensive partnerships to develop the aerial vehicles, the skyports they will land on, and the electric batteries that will power them (TechCrunch "Uber’s aerial taxi play").
If you've been curious about blockchain technologies, be sure to check out the second Library 2.018 mini-conference, "Blockchain Applied: Impact on the Information Profession" - the free online event is scheduled for Thursday, June 7th, from 12:00 - 3:00 pm US-Pacific Daylight Time (registration information is available at the mini-conference site).
You can always check out the Center's trend collection – including our own entry on blockchain – to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures. The Center's trend cards are also available to help you talk with colleagues and members of the community, map how trends fit together or how they fit into your community, or spark innovation activities.
What have you read lately to help you think about the future? Consider dropping me a line to let me know what articles and reports you're reading that others might find of interest.
The Verge "Google’s AI sounds like a human on the phone — should we be worried?" and "Google now says controversial AI voice calling system will identify itself to humans"
One of the most impressive demonstrations at Google’s I/O conference was a phone call to book a haircut performed by Google Assistant, which did an uncannily good job of asking the right questions, pausing in the right places, and even throwing in the odd “mmhmm” for realism – the AI system behind the call, called Duplex, can only converse in “closed domains” (exchanges that are functional, with strict limits on what is going to be said) and is currently still an “experiment” that will only be available to a limited number of users sometime this summer. Following concern over the ethical dilemmas raised by the Duplex system, Google has clarified that the system will have “disclosure built-in” so that a verbal announcement will be made to the person on the other end of the call. See also ArsTechnica, BBC, CNET and again, Mashable and again and again and again, Motherboard, NPR, and TechCrunch and again.
CBC "Ontario has just issued its first non-binary birth certificate, recipient says"
The Canadian province of Ontario issued its first non-binary birth certificate to Joshua M. Ferguson, who identifies as neither a man nor a woman and uses the gender-neutral pronoun "they" – going forward the province will allow people to choose between "M" for male, "F" for female, and "X" for non-binary with an additional option not to display a sex designation on the birth certificate at all.
The Outline "Google’s got our kids"
A consideration of how Google’s growing influence in the classroom – Chromebooks, G Suite for Education, Google Classroom – provides a brand exposure that will shape children’s current and future attitudes towards the company and its products.
TechCrunch "Uber’s aerial taxi play"
At its Uber Elevate summit in Los Angeles, the company further laid out its ambitious plans to develop and commercially deploy its uberAIR air taxis by 2023 – the realization of the plan will depend on planning and partnership across a range of activities including the development of the aerial vehicles themselves, the skyports for them to land on, and the electric batteries to power the vehicles. See also Bloomberg, Mashable, ReCode, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Wired.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
Engadget "Amazon, Google and Microsoft to attend White House AI summit"
A White House summit on artificial intelligence included representatives from 38 companies (including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Intel) to discuss how the government can fund AI research and alter regulations to advance the technology. See also GeekWire, Gizmodo, MIT Technology Review, Reuters, TechCrunch, and Wired.
NextGov "White House announces Select Committee of federal AI experts"
As part of the White House’s summit of top thinkers in the field of AI, Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the president for technology policy and current head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, announced a new Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence made of up the leading AI researchers in government and charged with advising the White House on governmentwide AI research and development priorities and the establishment of partnerships between government, the private sector, and independent researchers. See also GeekWire and The Verge.
Engadget "US will test expanded drone use in 10 states"
The US Department of Transportation has named the 10 projects that will participate in its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, including projects from the cities of Reno and San Diego, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and Virginia Tech, Memphis' County Airport Authority, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and the Transportation Departments for Kansas, North Carolina, and North Dakota.
Economics and the Workforce
1843 Magazine "Trapped in self-service hell"
The move toward self-service in travel, retail, and food service follows the thinking that more prosperous societies improve productivity by substituting machine labor to redeploy humans to more productive activities, but increasingly it displaces human labor and allows companies to raise profits by turning their customers into unpaid laborers.
Education Dive "Yale, Duke, Colorado State incidents reveal miles to go on inclusion efforts on campus"
Three incidents at public and private institutions – at Yale, a white doctoral student called the police on an African American student who was napping in the common area of a dorm; at Duke, the vice president for student affairs was said to have gotten two contract employees fired over music they played in the coffee shop where they were working; and at Colorado State, a “nervous mom” called the police on two Native American students who joined her admissions tour group, calling them “suspicious” after the 17- and 19-year-old brothers traveled seven hours to visit the campus – underscore the lack of racial sensitivity that is still too prevalent on college campuses.
KOMU "Columbia College is eliminating book costs, fees for adult students"
Columbia College in Missouri is making college more affordable for evening and online undergraduate students, charging a flat $375 per credit hour for classes, including textbooks – the move is meant to give students who are also balancing a job an easier way to afford their education.
CityLab "The metro stations of São Paulo that read your face"
Via Quatro, the concession holder of São Paulo Metro’s Yellow Line, has recently installed a new set of interactive platform doors that display ads and information and use sensors with screens and facial recognition technology to monitor the reaction of viewers to what is being displayed—the doors can count the number of unique viewers, estimate their age and gender, and classify their reaction into four moods (happy, unsatisfied, surprised, or neutral), but do not perform “personal identification of the passengers” or "record, store images, or cross-check data from the individual.”
The Verge "Ticketmaster could replace tickets with facial recognition"
Live Nation and Ticketmaster announced an investment in Blink Identity, a new company that claims to be able to identify people walking by in “half a second,” even if they aren’t looking straight at a camera – the technology could allow attendees to walk into a concert venue without waiting for a ticket to be scanned.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
CityLab "In the Netflix era, a video store becomes a cultural asset"
A look at Seattle’s Scarecrow Video store, which in the face of declining rentals and purchases, reimagined itself as a nonprofit community hub, keeping their extensive video collection in the same space and open to the public, hosting community outreach programs with partners like the neighborhood’s public library, and supplementing rental revenue with support from advocates all over the world who want to see the collection preserved.
Engadget "Spotify pulls R. Kelly from playlists as part of new conduct policy" and "Pandora stops promoting R. Kelly’s music" and "Apple Music has also unplugged R. Kelly from its playlists"
Spotify’s new policy limits the promotion of musicians involved in "hateful conduct," pulling offending artists’ content from Spotify-curated playlists in an effort to limit the endorsement of artists whose behavior is "particularly out of line with [Spotify’s] values" – the move won't censor or remove material, allowing users to search for artists and include their music on personal playlists. Music Services Pandora and Apple Music have enacted similar policies. See also CNET, Gizmodo, and Mashable.
CNBC "Amazon is building a 'health & wellness’ team within Alexa as it aims to upend health care"
According to an internal document obtained by CNBC, Amazon has built a "health & wellness" team within its Alexa voice-assistant division that will focus on making the device more useful in the health-care field, including working through regulations and data privacy requirements laid out by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
The New York Times "Alexa and Siri can hear this hidden command. You can’t."
Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant, activating the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers to have them dial phone numbers or open websites – a new paper from University of California, Berkeley researchers details how they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text.