Read for Later - “What we’re seeing is not necessarily good for society, but it is rational behavior by these companies”

This week’s headline quotes Andrew Moore, dean of the school of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, about the movement of A.I. and robotics researchers from faculty and research position in higher education to private labs run by big internet companies (The New York Times “Facebook adds A.I. labs in Seattle and Pittsburgh, pressuring local universities”).

It's the final countdown for the 2018 Future of Libraries Fellowship. The fellowship offers $10,000 to advance new ideas and perspectives for the future of libraries through the creation of a public product that will help library professionals envision the future. We look forward to many exciting project proposals - the deadline is May 15th.  

And 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. 

Five Highlights

The New York Times “Facebook adds A.I. labs in Seattle and Pittsburgh, pressuring local universities”
Facebook’s new A.I. labs in Seattle and Pittsburgh, staffed with professors hired from the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University, add pressure to universities and nonprofit research operations which are already struggling to retain talent – there is growing concern that as academics are recruited to technology companies, there will be fewer faculty available to prepare the next generation of AI and robotics researchers. See also GeekWire.

TechCrunch “Amazon launches Prime Book Box, a $23 kids’ book selection, in its first physical Prime book service”
Amazon’s new Prime Book Box is a subscription service for children’s hardback books, selected by Amazon editors, sold as part of its Prime tier – boxes can be scheduled for delivery in one-, two- or three-month intervals and are for ages baby-two years, three-five years, six-eight years, and nine-12 years. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, GeekWire, KidScreen, and The Verge.

NPR "Americans are a lonely lot, and young people bear the heaviest burden"
A nationwide survey by the health insurer Cigna finds that loneliness is widespread in America, with nearly 50% of respondents reporting that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes and younger generations (Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s) appearing lonelier than older generations (Millennials, Baby Boomers, and The Greatest Generation).

TechCrunch “Subscription hell”
Bloomberg announced that it would be adding a comprehensive paywall to its news service and television channel, joining a growing list of publishers placing their content behind a paywall – while the move can help publishers find sustainable models for their services, it also adds to a growing list of subscription costs (streaming media services, cloud storage costs, delivery services, and internet and cell phone service) that individuals must manage. See also The Drum and Nieman Lab

The Drum “Lego rolls out storytelling skill on Alexa”
Lego’s new Amazon Alexa skill provides 10 stories kids can listen to and interact with while playing with the brand’s Lego Duplo bricks – each story is interactive and is meant to help children learn through play. See also CNET, Engadget, Fast Company, and Mashable

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

The Guardian "First robot delivery drivers start work at Silicon Valley campus"
Starship Technologies will use their six-wheeled robots to deliver food and coffee across a Silicon Valley office park in the first commercial use of the technology – as it prepares to take on larger tests in cities, the company is also exploring university campus deliveries.

Engadget “Lyft puts 30 self-driving cars to work in Las Vegas”
Ride-hailing service Lyft will test 30 autonomous vehicles in Las Vegas, expanding on a pilot it had initiated for the city’s Computer Electronics Show (CES) in January – the cars will be available through Lyft’s app for riders who opt in to participating in the test and can only take riders to and from high-demand locations.

Fast Company “Facebook used billions of Instagram photos to set a new record in image recognition accuracy”
Facebook is leveraging billions of Instagram photos and thousands of user-added hashtags to improve state of the art of image recognition, pioneering a new form of artificial intelligence research using public photo sets to train image recognition networks better than traditional, manually annotated images. See also CNET and TechCrunch.

Cities and Government

CityLab "France plans an extreme makeover for struggling small cities"
France’s €5 billion ($6.1 billion) Action Coeur de Ville (Action: Heart of the City) plan will invest in 222 city cores over the next five years with new stores, offices, co-working spaces, and renovated housing – the initiative will be especially helpful for what the French call Villes Moyennes (“average cities”) with populations between 15,000 and 100,000, which report poverty and vacancy rates higher than the national average, lower rates of young graduates, and an unemployment rate that’s a worrying 82% higher than France’s as a whole.

The Wall Street Journal "How bad is the labor shortage? Cities will pay you to move there"
Smaller communities, facing a shortage of workers, an aging population, and an exodus of younger people, are providing incentives to new residents – assistance to pay student loans or grants towards purchasing a home – to stave off the more dramatic loss of businesses and employers. 

Bloomberg “NYC renters paid extra $616 million thanks to Airbnb, study says”
A new report from the New York City Comptroller finds that Airbnb had a $616 million impact on  housing affordability from 2009 to 2016, comparing the growth in what rents would have been without listings on the site to what they actually were – Airbnb disputed the study’s findings, calling them “wrong on the facts” and arguing that most Airbnb hosts share the homes in which they live and don’t permanently remove housing from the market. See also CNET, Fast Company, Motherboard, and TechCrunch

Communities and Demographics

Wired “The NIH launches its ambitious million-person genetic survey”
The National Institutes of Health is formally launching its massive precision health initiative, All of Us, aimed at compiling detailed health data from a representative sample of one million Americans so scientists can better understand the mechanisms of disease and move more quickly toward personalized treatments.

The Internet

Bloomberg “Facebook weighs ad-free subscription option”
While explored in the past, Facebook is reportedly ramping up market research to determine whether an ad-free version paid by subscriptions would spur more people to join the social network.

The Verge “Facebook to introduce Clear History privacy tool in coming months”
Facebook is adding a new feature called Clear History as a way to increase users’ privacy controls – users will be able to see information about the apps and websites they’ve interacted with and clear this information from their account, though doing so may make some of their experiences on the social network more cumbersome or less personalized. See also Consumer Reports, The Daily Dot, and ReCode.

The Daily Dot “Facebook introduces dating feature to match you with non-friends”
Facebook is building new dating features into the Facebook app that will be “totally optional” for users – the move is packaged as another step toward promoting meaningful relationships, but comes at a time when many skeptics see this as another opportunity for data collection. See also ArsTechnica, Business Insider, CNET and again, Engadget, Gizmodo, Mashable, ReCode and again, TechCrunch, and The Verge.

TechCrunch “Facebook shrinks fake news after warnings backfire”
At its Fighting Abuse @Scale event, Facebook announced strategies to combat fake news stories, including shrinking the size of fake news stories posted in the News Feed and using machine learning to look at newly published articles and scan them for signs of falsehood. See also Gizmodo and Wired.  

News and Publishing

Advertising Age “Google is revamping Google News with more video and higher speed”
Google is reportedly revamping Google News with a new design that will incorporate elements of the Newsstand app and YouTube, and the technology behind Accelerated Mobile Pages, the standard that publishers use to make sure their articles load quickly on Google's platform. See also ArsTechnica and The Verge.

Streaming Media

Fast Company “Hulu reveals 20 million subscribers in its appeal to advertisers”
Streaming service Hulu has added 3 million subscribers since January and now has more than 20 million users in the United States, still well behind Netflix (55 million paid U.S. subscribers in April), but with planned enhancements (offline downloads, more original programming, and exclusive feature films) to continue to add viewers. See also CNET and TechCrunch.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

The Washington Post "Disney unveils a prototype virtual reality jacket to simulate hugs, punches, and a snake gas powered vibrations"
In collaboration with researchers at MIT Media Lab and Carnegie Melon University, Disney researchers developed a prototype force jacket that contains 26 inflatable compartments which can reproduce more than a dozen "feel affects," such as a hug, a punch, or a snake slithering across your body – the jacket might enhance VR experiences typically limited to visual displays seen through headset and simple hand vibrations felt through joysticks. See also CNET.