Read for Later – “As they wrestle with the question of responsibility and where to draw the line on certain kinds of content, we should all get ready for a very rough ride.”

This week’s headline quotes Farhad Manjoo’s excellent column exploring how technology platforms have begun to more closely examine what people can say online and how they can say it – and how these approaches to policing content will affect politics, the media, and other aspects of society (The New York Times "Tech companies like Facebook and Twitter are drawing lines. It’ll be messy.").

A reminder that we've opened the call for concurrent session proposals for our 2019 Symposium on the Future of Libraries, part of the ALA Midwinter Meeting, January 25 - 29 in Seattle. We had over 35 sessions at the 2018 Symposium – covering refugee services, blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, library fine policies, linked data, and more – and look forward to another rich discussion of the near- and long-term trends shaping the future of libraries.

You can always check out the Center's trend collection, including our newest entry on Facial Recognition technology, 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. 

Five Highlights

Nature "AI can be sexist and racist — it’s time to make it fair"
A look at how researchers and practitioners might address issues of bias in the large data sets that are used to train artificial intelligence systems – some researchers have curated new image data sets that balance gender and ethnicity to retrain and fine-tune existing face-classification algorithms while data managers are more intentionally labeling and annotating data sets to show how the sets were collected.

CityLab "Vacancy: America’s other housing crisis"
Contrasting with a message of housing scarcity in larger cities, a new report from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy looks at housing vacancy and hyper-vacancy rates, an issue of particular concern for Rust Belt cities, small towns, and rural communities – high rates of vacancy and hyper-vacancy reduce the value of neighboring properties and of entire neighborhoods, can be breeding grounds for drug abuse, crime and violence, and imposes significant costs on local government for additional policing, demolishing buildings, and maintaining lots.

EdTech "Universities partner with cities to boost budgets for technology projects"
Colleges and universities are using public-private partnerships to encourage student exploration of new technological innovations, with several new city government partnerships for technology centers – the  University of California, Davis, and the city of Sacramento announced the establishment of Aggie Square; Atlanta and the Georgia Institute of Technology have invested in Technology Square; and the city of Durham has launched the Chesterfield Building with Duke University.  

The New York Times "Tech companies like Facebook and Twitter are drawing lines. It’ll be messy."
An excellent column from Farhad Manjoo that looks at how technology platforms have begun to radically overhaul their attitudes about what people can say online and how they can say it – and how their approaches to policing content will affect politics, the media, and other aspects of society.

The Atlantic “Teens are debating the news on Instagram”
A growing number of teens are turning to Instagram “flop” accounts – pages that are collectively managed by administrators and highlight photos, videos, and screenshots of articles, memes, and people considered a “flop” or a fail – to discuss political and social issues.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

CNET “Amazon facial recognition mistakenly confused 28 Congressmen with known criminals,”  “Congressmen demand answers after Amazon facial recognition matches them to mugshots,” and “Amazon just quietly invited the government to 'weigh in' on facial recognition”
Demonstrating growing concern over Amazon’s promotion of its Rekognition facial recognition technology to law enforcement, the ACLU used the tool to compare 25,000 criminal mugshots to members of Congress, falsely matching 28 different members with the mugshot database. Amazon contends that the ACLU used the Rekognition software at its default 80% confidence threshold setting, rather than the 95% plus confidence level that Amazon recommends for law enforcement agencies.  Five members of Congress are now seeking an "immediate" meeting with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos regarding the technology. See also Gizmodo, Mashable, The New York Times, TechCrunch and again, The Verge, and Wired.  

Cities and Government

DigitalTrends “Bird electric scooters ruffle city officials’ feathers with surprise launch”
With no advance notice, a fleet of Bird electric scooters appeared on Cincinnati sidewalks as the company continues a “launch-first, permit-later” deployment strategy (Nashville, San Francisco, and Indianapolis experienced similar deployments) that has left city officials to consider permits and scramble to determine the electric scooters’ place in traditional vehicle classifications.

Communities and Demographics

Quartz "Parents who refuse to call their newborns “girls” or “boys” are leading the gender revolution"
A trend among some parents toward gender-neutral parenting embraces the belief that their children’s clothing, behavior, and opportunities should not be determined by whether they are born as a biological boy or a girl – practices can range from avoiding the pink-or-blue binary and upending stereotypical gendered toys and forms of play to refusing to gender their children at all, using gender-neutral pronouns, and allowing children to choose their own gender as they get older.

Economics and the Workplace

NPR “No teen lifeguard on duty: Summer jobs are no longer an attraction”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 35% of teens are currently employed in summer jobs, versus 52% in 2000 – the shift reflects lingering effects of the Great Recession that left few jobs for teens, changes in minimum employment ages and employers’ hiring policies, and growing interest for teens to use their summers to prepare for the next academic year.    

The Internet

CNET "YouTube won't let Alex Jones broadcast live for the next 90 days" and "Facebook bans Infowars' Alex Jones for 30 days - but he's still streaming"
YouTube took action against Alex Jones, the founder and host of conspiracy site Infowars, removing four videos from The Alex Jones Channel that included "violent or graphic content" and imposing a 90 day ban from broadcasting live from YouTube – Jones has since found ways to broadcast live to YouTube by hosting content on other channels. Jones was also suspended by Facebook, banning Jones from using his account for the next 30 days after removing four videos from the network – the ban affects Alex Jones personally, not his fellow Infowars page admins, meaning his The Alex Jones Channel and Infowars will stay on Facebook and his colleagues can continue to post unless they break the rules as well. For YouTube, see also Advertising Age and Ars Technica; for Facebook, see also Ars Technica, Engadget, Mashable, Motherboard, ReCode, and The Verge.

Bloomberg “A global guide to state-sponsored trolling”
A new report from the Institute for the Future, a non-partisan, foresight research and public policy group, examines state-sponsored trolling, wherein “states are using the same tools they once perceived as a threat to deploy information technology as a means for power consolidation and social control, fueling disinformation operations and disseminating government propaganda at a greater scale than ever before.”

Journalism and News

Digiday “For news publishers, smart speakers are the hot new platform”
A growing number of news publishers are investing in content and editorial teams specifically targeting the home voice assistant or smart speaker market – NPR has six people dedicated to voice assistants;  The New York Times is advertising for a voice editor; Al Jazeera just appointed a senior producer in editorial to decide what of its existing news to put on the devices; and The Washington Post has a six-person audio team focusing on home assistants along with podcasts and other kinds of audio storytelling.

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

Chicago Sun Times "Emanuel to let aspiring chefs, retailers to test concepts in vacant storefronts"
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will introduce an ordinance that will allow restaurants and retailers to purchase an operating license for as short as five days as well as pop-up licenses for 30, 90, 180, or 365 days that allow license holders to “roam” during the length of the license and operate all around the city – the new policies could help struggling neighborhoods fill vacant storefronts and allow small business owners to experiment and build capacity.