As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, this week’s headline quotes Dr. King from a speech delivered in 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City. While Dr. King spoke of the urgency of civil rights and social change in the 1960s, his words remind us that we must confront changes today in our preparation for tomorrow – and that our values can guide our responses.
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TechSpot “Stop & Shop's pilot program brings the grocery store to your door”
Grocery chain Stop & Shop announced that it would begin testing autonomous mobile grocery vendors sometime this Spring, using Robomart driverless vehicles to bring fresh produce, convenience items, and meal kits to customers.
Wired “Cities are tucking climate change fixes into new laws”
As cities rethink their policies on home building (lifting limits on multifamily housing) and transportation (ending minimums for parking spaces), they have introduced practices that may have environmental benefits.
Poynter “Facebook is putting $300 million toward stabilizing local news”
Facebook announced $300 million for several organizations and initiatives devoted to the health and sustainability of local news, with an initial $36 million announced for the Pulitzer Center, Report for America, the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, the American Journalism Project, and more. See also Columbia Journalism Review “No, tech companies shouldn’t fund journalism”.
Bloomberg “New York, Los Angeles, other major cities are new privacy cops”
Major U.S. cities are leading privacy enforcement, as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., have led privacy lawsuits against Uber, Equifax, and Facebook, among others, for their alleged mishandling of personal data.
TechCrunch “Uber is exploring autonomous bikes and scooters”
Uber is looking to integrate autonomous technology into its bike- and scooter-share programs, with a new Micromobility Robotics division that will live inside the company’s JUMP group – the autonomous scooters and bikes would be able to drive themselves to be charged or drive themselves to locations where riders need them.
Cities and Government
The New York Times “Microsoft pledges $500 million for affordable housing in Seattle area”
Microsoft, recognizing that the technology industry has an interest and responsibility to help people left behind in communities transformed by their economic boom, announced a $500 million investment to help address the housing crisis in Seattle – the investment will fund the construction of affordable homes for middle- and low-income residents.
Economics and the Workforce
The Atlantic “The truth about the gig economy”
Two influential labor economists, Lawrence Katz of Harvard and Alan Krueger of Princeton, revised their much-cited 2016 estimate of the size of the alternative or “gig” workforce, revising their estimates for the sectors’ growth from 1995- 2015 from 5% down to 1-2%.
TechCrunch “Facebook is secretly building LOL, a cringey teen meme hub”
Multiple sources confirm that Facebook has spent months building LOL, a special feed of funny videos and GIF-like clips, currently in private beta with around 100 high school students who signed non-disclosure agreements with parental consent to do focus groups and one-on-one testing with Facebook staff.
Gizmodo “ACLU is suing the federal government for information about social media surveillance practices”
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation’s lawsuit, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, accuses seven federal agencies—including the Justice Department, several immigration agencies, and the FBI—of failing to produce information about their social media monitoring tools and practices specifically relating to the Trump administration’s controversial immigration policy known as “extreme vetting.”
The Verge “Google, Amazon, and Microsoft face new pressure over facial recognition contracts”
A group of 90 advocacy groups, led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), penned a letter to Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, requesting that the companies pledge not to sell facial recognition technology to the government.
Engadget “NBCUniversal to launch ad-supported TV streaming service in 2020”
NBCUniversal unveiled plans for an ad-supported streaming service that will launch sometime in early 2020.
CNET “Disability rights group sues scooter companies over clogged sidewalks”
Advocacy group Disability Rights California is suing electric scooter companies Bird and Lime in federal court in San Diego for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by obstructing public sidewalks, making them unsafe for people with mobility and sight disabilities.
The Verge “Alexa’s news-reading voice just got a lot more professional”
Alexa will now read out the news in a much more natural, human-like way by selectively emphasizing certain words in a sentence in the same way a real newscaster would – Amazon created the new voice by using machine learning to analyze audio clips from actual news channels to identify patterns in the way newscasters speak.