This week’s headline quotes Helena Foulkes, the chief executive of Hudson’s Bay, which owns retailers Saks and Lord & Taylor, speaking at An Evening With Code Commerce during the Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas. Foulkes and other retail leaders expect more stores and brands to incorporate the kind of digital data collection that has powered online retail. (The New York Times “Stores see a future without ‘May I help you?’ (They’ll already have your data)”)
One more reminder that recordings from the Midwinter Meeting, including sessions from the Symposium on the Future of Libraries and the News You Can Use series, are now available. To access available recordings, you will need to visit the Midwinter Scheduler and sign in using an ALA login (free to create as a member or non-member), select the session, and choose the audio or video tabs where available. The Symposium and News You Can Use pages list all sessions with hyperlinks to the Scheduler.
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.
Popular Mechanics “The state of American trade schools”
Through outreach to K-12 schools and partnerships with business and Higher Education, postsecondary trade and tech schools are responding to workforce needs and shaking off the stigma that has dogged their students, instructors, and administrators for so long.
YaleEnvironment360 “Piling up: How China’s ban on importing waste has stalled global recycling”
It has been a year since a China policy banned the import of most plastics and other materials headed for that nation’s recycling processors, which had handled nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste for the past quarter century – across the United States, local governments and recycling processors are scrambling to find new markets, with some curtailing collections or halting their recycling programs entirely. See also The New York Times “As costs skyrocket, more U.S. cities stop recycling”
The New York Times “Stores see a future without ‘May I help you?’ (They’ll already have your data)”
A nice snapshot of the technologies and innovations retailers will use to transform the in-person shopping experience, borrowing heavily from the data collection strategies of online retailers like Amazon.
Wired “Corporations are co-opting right-to-repair”
Companies use a variety of tactics to block access to repair, including not selling replacement parts, not making repair information publicly available, manipulating software to lock if users get unauthorized repairs done – now some companies and manufacturers are making limited concessions, allowing some dealers to make limited repairs or authorizing certain repair providers, but still restricting users’ abilities to repair their own products.
Bloomberg “Amazon’s Alexa has 80,000 apps—and no runaway hit”
Almost four years after inviting outside developers to write apps for Alexa (Amazon now counts some 80,000 “skills”), Amazon’s voice system has yet to offer a transformative new experience – most users use their smart speakers to listen to music or make relatively simple request (“Alexa, set a timer for 30 minutes”) but tackle more complicated tasks via their smartphone.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
GeekWire “Can a robot spice up the retail banking experience? HSBC’s ‘Pepper’ is now on the job at Seattle branch”
HSBC Bank announced the expansion of its pilot featuring Pepper, the social humanoid robot, to include a Seattle branch of the bank – the robot will help educate customers on basic product information and the availability of self-service banking options.
Quanta Magazine “How artificial intelligence is changing science”
Some of today’s physics and astronomy experiments produce terabytes of data every day, leaving many scientists to turn to artificial intelligence to work through mountains of data, highlighting anomalies and detecting patterns that humans could never have spotted – scientists view these latest techniques in machine learning and AI as a fundamentally new way of doing science and one that will only grow.
Economics and the Workplace
U.S. Census “Rise in self-employed challenges the common wisdom”
The latest data show that more than three-fourths of U.S. businesses may be run out of someone’s home and have zero employees – according to the Nonemployer Statistics program, there were almost 25 million nonemployer businesses in 2016, accounting for more than 76.2% of all businesses. Special thanks to Elizabeth Iaukea, Workforce Development Librarian at the Washington State Library, for sending this story along.
The Christian Science Monitor “Global students' strike demands action on climate change”
Thousands of school students walked out of classes in a global student strike to protest against government inaction on climate change – the worldwide student strike movement started in August 2018, when 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg began protesting outside her parliament on school days.
Slate “Manhattan transfer”
New York’s mayor reiterated the city’s intent to preserve its core by reclaiming a slice of New York Harbor between the Brooklyn Bridge and the southern tip of Manhattan Island, planting as many as 20 new blocks into the silt to keep the rising Atlantic Ocean at arm’s length – the plan is an example of the type of investment many cities will have to make as climate scientists’ predictions come true.
Wired “The World Wide Web turns 30. Where does it go from here?”
Sir Tim Berners-Lee reflects thirty years on from his original proposal and considers three sources of dysfunction affecting today’s web - deliberate, malicious intent, such as state-sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behavior, and online harassment; system design that creates perverse incentives where user value is sacrificed, such as ad-based revenue models that commercially reward clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation; and unintended negative consequences of benevolent design, such as the outraged and polarized tone and quality of online discourse. See also TechCrunch “The responsibility for a sustainable digital future”
The Verge “The mass shooting in New Zealand was designed to spread on social media”
The tragic and horrific shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was designed from the start to get attention, leveraging social media to make sure as many people as possible would hear about the deaths and the hate underpinning them. See also CNET “Facebook has removed 1.5M videos of New Zealand mosque massacre” and Advertising Age “Facebook, YouTube blindsided by mosque shooter's live video”
Internet of Things and Wearables
IEEE Spectrum “A peek into the future of wearables”
From mind-reading smart glasses that pick up signals from eye movement and brain waves to know where you are looking and what you are thinking when you look there to a device that translates someone’s heartbeat, as tracked by the user’s wearable of choice, into music, a look at the future possibilities for wearable devices.
Journalism and News
Poynter “These projects are using AI to fight misinformation”
The Ethics and Governance in AI Initiative, a joint initiative of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has awarded $750,000 to projects that aim to study how artificial intelligence can be used to improve news and information, including fact-checking – Tattle Civic Technologies seeks to connect WhatsApp users to fact checks in real time; the Rochester Institute of Technology will work to build approaches for automatically detecting “deepfake” videos; and Argentina-based fact-checking outlet Chequeado will partner with journalists around Latin America to produce a series of investigative articles about the ethical considerations of AI in the region.
Variety “Netflix ‘doubling down’ on interactive series after ‘Bandersnatch’ success”
Netflix will expand its interactive storytelling offerings after the global success of Black Mirror spinoff Bandersnatch.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Variety “Google shuts down its Spotlight Stories VR film studio”
Google is shutting down its Spotlight Stories immersive entertainment unit, which produced a number of 360-degree videos and VR experiences.