This week’s headline quotes Nic Newman, lead author for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism's new Digital News Report, which explores how people access news around the world – and Newman points out that while this shift gives people more control over where and how they engage with news, it could also make public debate and news distribution even more fragmented (BBC “'Fewer people' are using Facebook for news”).
You can always check out the Center's trend collection 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 New York Times / Times Open “How The New York Times uses software to recognize members of Congress”
A fascinating look at the development of Who The Hill, The New York Times’ facial recognition service for members of Congress, which uses the Amazon Rekognition API’s “RecognizeCelebrity” tool to have reporters take a picture of a congress member, text it to an app, and receive an annotated version of the photograph identifying any members and giving a confidence score.
The New York Times “Maybe the gig economy isn’t reshaping work after all”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements Summary finds that roughly 10% of American workers in 2017 were employed in some form of “alternative work arrangements” – the numbers do not include people who do gig or freelance work in addition to traditional jobs and separate data from the Federal Reserve found that nearly a third of adults engaged in some form of gig work, either as a primary job or to supplement other sources of income.
BBC “'Fewer people' are using Facebook for news”
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism’s seventh annual Digital News Report finds that fewer people are using Facebook to discover and discuss news, as messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat become more popular and allow users to discuss news in relative privacy. See also Nieman Lab.
Reuters “Exclusive: Microsoft takes aim at Amazon with push for checkout-free retail”
Microsoft is reportedly working on technology that would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores, in a nascent challenge to Amazon’s automated Amazon Go stores – it is not clear how soon Microsoft would bring an automated checkout service to market, if at all. See also Fast Company and Mashable.
TechCrunch “Netflix and Alphabet will need to become ISPs, fast”
Two events will have serious implications for the future of video and streaming services. First, a district court’s decision to approve the merger of AT&T and Time Warner will create one of the largest content creation and distribution companies in the world and encourage Comcast to make a similar bid for 21st Century Fox, further consolidating the market. And second, the final repeal of the FCC’s net neutrality rules will allow telecom companies like AT&T to prioritize their own content (which with the addition of Time Warner now includes Warner Bros., TBS, TNT, HBO and CNN) over that of competitors, leaving several major players (YouTube, Netflix) worried that they will have to pay a premium to deliver their content to their own subscribers.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
The Verge "Inside Amazon’s $3.5 million competition to make Alexa chat like a human"
Amazon’s Alexa Prize, a competition that has researchers create a chatbot using Alexa that can talk to a human for 20 minutes without messing up, reveals some of the limits of current technology as participants struggle to teach computers about the human experience – teams at this year’s prize competition used either machine learning (deep learning, specifically) to analyze large amounts of data and slowly sift out the patterns of a normal conversation, or “handcrafting” or “hardcoding,” the more laborious process of writing specific rules and templates for a chatbot to follow.
Wired “Self-driving cars likely won’t steal your job (until 2040)”
A new study commissioned by advocacy group Securing America’s Future Energy suggests that self-driving vehicles probably won’t displace gig economy workers and may eventually feed the economy, accruing an estimated $800 billion in annual benefits by 2050 – most of the disruptive technologies, like trucks that can drive themselves, won’t arrive until the mid-2030s at the earliest.
Cities and Government
Pew Research Center "Younger generations make up a majority of the electorate, but may not be a majority of voters this November"
Generation X, Millennials, and the post-Millennial generation make up a clear majority (59%) of voting-eligible adults in the United States, but younger adults are less likely to participate in midterm elections and have a track record of low turnout in midterms compared with older generations when they were the same age.
ArsTechnica "Chicago selects Elon Musk’s Boring Company to build express line from O‘Hare"
The Boring Company and Chicago's Mayor's Office will work together to negotiate a contract to present to the Chicago City Council for an express line between O'Hare International Airport and Block 37 in the city's downtown area – one of the initial stipulations is that the build will not be taxpayer funded and that the Boring Company will have to finance the build itself and operate and maintain the express line after it's completed. See also Engadget, Gizmodo, Mashable, TechCrunch, and The Verge and again.
Demographics and Communities
CNN “IQ scores are falling and have been for decades, new study finds”
New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of United States of America ($) shows a decline in IQ scores over the past few decades and suggests that environmental factors, including changes in the education system and media environment, nutrition, reading less, and being online more, play an important role – researchers have long preferred to use genes to explain variations in intelligence over environmental factors, however this new study turns this thinking on its head.
The Chronicle of Higher Education "Facebook plans to team up with 15 community colleges. What will that entail?"
Facebook announced plans for a new partnership with as many as 15 community colleges by the end of 2018 as part of its “Community Boost” program, which is designed to train more than one million people in 50 cities in digital skills – while each partnership will look different, the partnership at Central New Mexico Community College, whose collaboration with Facebook is furthest along, is developing a new certificate, and perhaps eventually a full degree, that combines digital media and marketing.
The Chicago Tribune “University of Chicago to stop requiring ACT and SAT scores for prospective undergraduates”
The University of Chicago announced that it would no longer require applicants for the undergraduate college to submit standardized SAT or ACT test scores, becoming the first top-ranked, highly selective school to do away with requiring test scores.
Motherboard “The Antarctic ice sheet has lost 3 trillion tons of ice since 1992”
In a study published in Nature ($), an international team of more than 70 scientists studied two dozen estimates for ice loss in Antarctica collected from satellites and concluded that the ice sheet lost three trillion tons of ice between 1992 and 2017 with the rate of loss continuing to accelerate. See also ArsTechnica and Wired.
The Guardian “McDonald's to switch to paper straws in UK after customer concerns”
McDonald’s will end the use of plastic straws in its British restaurants by 2019, after nearly half a million people responded to a petition calling for the change. See also Mashable.
TechCrunch “U.S. podcast ad revenues hit record $314 million in 2017”
U.S. podcast ad revenues reached $314 million in 2017, up 86% from $169 million in 2016, according to new study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).
Kid screen “Netflix to bow interactive Minecraft series”
Netflix will expand its interactive story content for kids with a new installment featuring Minecraft – Minecraft: Story Mode is a five-episode interactive narrative series set to premiere this fall. See also The Daily Dot, Motherboard, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
ReCode “Oprah will make stuff for Apple’s big, ambitious TV plans. But what are Apple’s TV plans?”
Apple announced a “unique, multi-year content partnership” with Oprah Winfrey to create original programs – Apple has made similar announcements about video projects involving Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, and other well-known creators even as it remains unlclear how this content will be released. See also Advertising Age, ArsTechnica, CNET, The Daily Dot, Fast Company, Gizmodo, Mashable, TechCrunch, and The Verge.