Read for Later - “What we are seeing now is the luxurification of human engagement”

This week’s headline quotes Milton Pedraza, the chief executive of the Luxury Institute consulting firm, with his advice to companies on how the wealthiest want to live and spend. The Institute’s research points to a shift in spending toward experiences like leisure travel and dining that outpaces spending on physical goods, a re-prioritization of human engagement as a luxury. (The New York Times “Human contact is now a luxury good”)

You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures.

What new information has sparked your interest? Drop me a line to let me know what you're reading or discovering that helps you consider the future of libraries.

Five Highlights

Engadget “Stanford institute aims to improve humanity through AI”
Stanford’s new Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence will draw input from across the university and across disciplines (humanities, business, engineering, and other fields) to help ensure that AI provides a "better future for all of humanity" and addresses "challenges and disruptions" such as the effect of automation on the job market.

Pew Research Center “Looking to the future, public sees an America in decline on many fronts”
A new Pew Research Center survey focused on what Americans think the United States will be like in 2050 finds that majorities of Americans foresee a country with a burgeoning national debt, a wider gap between the rich and the poor, and a workforce threatened by automation – the responses reflect the public’s mood about the current state of the country, where seven-in-ten Americans express dissatisfaction with the way things are going in the country.

The New York Times “Human contact is now a luxury good”
As digital screens – and the services that can be delivered via digital screen – become cheaper, any place that can fit a screen in (classrooms, hospitals, airports, restaurants) will choose to do so, making human contact a luxury for those who can and choose to afford it.

ReCode “Facebook wants to share more local news, but it’s having trouble finding it”
A year into Facebook’s effort to promote local news, the Today In section of its app, the company is finding that many parts of the country don’t have enough local news to sustain the special section – “About one in three users in the U.S. live in places where we cannot find enough local news on Facebook to launch Today In,” Facebook wrote in a blog post.

CityLab “The inequality of America’s parks and green space”
A study from researchers at the University of British Columbia looks at parks and green space across 10 U.S. metro areas, finding that income and higher education (which the study measures as the share of college graduates) are the strongest indicators of access to green spaces.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

GeekWire “White House starts to flesh out its AI research plan — and raises its profile with AI.gov”
The Trump Administration launched a new internet portal about its artificial intelligence policy, AI.gov, seeking to raise the profile of AI research in the federal government – the administration’s budget documents indicate an intention to split $850 million in civilian federal spending on AI research and development between the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Energy Department.

Cities and Government

Quartz “The We Company is launching a ‘smart cities’ project and hired a Google executive to lead it”
The company behind the WeWork real-estate empire is starting a “future cities” initiative, hiring former Waze and Google executive Di-Ann Eisnor to run it – the team of engineers, architects, data scientists, biologists, and economists will create products and partner with local groups around the world to help address problems spurred by globalization, urbanization, and climate change.

Economics and the Workforce

The Verge “Kickstarter’s staff is unionizing”
The staff of Kickstarter announced plans to unionize, saying they want to improve inclusivity and transparency at the company and to safeguard and enrich Kickstarter’s charter commitments to creativity, equity, and a positive impact on society – if employees are successful in their efforts, it would make Kickstarter the first major tech company with union representation in the United States.

Mobility and Transportation

TechCrunch “Ford-owned Spin will bring electric scooters to 100 new cities and college campuses this year”
Spin, the electric scooter startup that Ford bought earlier this year for around $100 million, is gearing up to launch in 100 cities by the end of the year thanks to a new partnership with Zagster, a dockless mobility startup that will help manage the program deployment.

TechCrunch “Optimus Ride brings self-driving cars to private communities in NY and CA”
Autonomous vehicle startup Optimus Ride announced its plans to deploy self-driving vehicles to the 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard development in New York and at Paradise Valley Estates, a private 80-acre gated community in Fairfield, California – both pilots will operate on private roads within a defined, geofenced area. See also Engadget “The UK is testing its first full-sized autonomous bus”.

Play and Toys

Vox “How YouTube is changing toys”
As children spend more time online (an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes for children age 8 and younger), the toy industry is designing and promoting toys with YouTube in mind and earmarking budgets to pay toy influencers for reviews – but online petitions and even some international legislation seek to ban toy channels on YouTube for their negative effects on children

Streaming Media

TechSpot “Streaming subscriptions surpassed cable worldwide in 2018”
The Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) annual Theatrical and Home Entertainment Market Environment (THEME) Report finds that from 2017 to 2018 the number of subscriptions to online video services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu jumped by 27%, increasing by 131.2 million subscriptions for a total of 613.3 million, surpassing cable TV packages for the first time.

The Verge “Netflix is experimenting with different episode orders for its new anthology show”
Netflix will experiment with its new anthology series Love, Death + Robots, testing out different episode orders across viewers to see which performs the best – episodes in the anthology series stand on their own, but how viewers watch might change how they experience the episodes and series.

Voice Control

The Next Web “The world’s first genderless voice assistant is challenging gender stereotypes”
Q, the world’s first genderless voice, hopes to eradicate gender bias in technology and encourage “more inclusivity in voice technology” – the creators, including linguists, technologists, and sound designers, recorded the voices of two dozen people who identify as male, female, transgender, or non-binary in search for a voice that typically “does not fit within male or female binaries.” See also Fast Company “The future of AI is genderless”