Read for Later – “Technology as a tool to promote equity and uplift those that need help the most”

This week’s headline comes from a TechCrunch article announcing the availability of a new smart cities report from the National League of Cities. The report frames smart cities as an investment in equity and justice – a welcome vision and motivation for libraries to continue their involvement in smart city initiatives and equitable access to technology and the internet.

You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our future work. Our latest entries look at Short Reading and Basic Income

And as you scan through these articles, consider dropping me a line to let me know what you've read this week to help prepare for the future.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

Engadget "Alphabet fights 'toxic' comments with machine learning"
Jigsaw, part of Google parent company Alphabet, announced a new machine learning  system, Perspective, designed to combat "toxic" comments – the system was trained by reviewing thousands of comments that were identified as toxic by human reviewers and then scoring them based on similarities, getting smarter and more accurate each time it finds new examples of toxic comments and every time humans guide it and correct things that it may mis-identify. See also The Atlantic, The Daily Dot, and The Verge

New Scientist "AI learns to write its own code by stealing from other programs"
Researchers at Microsoft and the University of Cambridge, have created a machine learning system called DeepCoder that can solve basic coding challenges using a technique called program synthesis, creating new programs by piecing together lines of code taken from existing software to achieve the desired result overall. See also TechCrunch.

Books and Publishing

TechCrunch "Wattpad debuts Tap, an app for reading chat-style short stories"
The social publishing platform Wattpad has introduced a new mobile app called Tap that lets users discover “chat-style” stories that unfold as readers tap to reveal the next part presented in a text messaging-style format – the available stories focus on genres like horror and romance, but Wattpad will phase in a system to let users write stories of their own.

Cities and Government

TechCrunch "Smart cities must be people-centered, equitable cities"
The National League of Cities’ new report analyzes smart city growth and best practices to see how technology can be used as a tool to promote equity and improve the lives of citizens.

Gizmodo "Rescuing government data from Trump has become a national movement"
Scientists, technologists and coders, government employees, and private citizens have engaged in an effort to download and copy U.S. government data to repositories, fearing a new administration will limit use and access.

The New York Times "Sales fall again in Mexico’s second year of taxing soda"
As several U.S. cities consider their own measures for taxing the sale of sugary drinks, a new report from the second year of Mexico’s soda tax finds that sales fell substantially, with the biggest decreases among low-income Mexicans – a positive step for public health advocates, but something to consider for policy makers whose plans to fund programs out of these tax dollars may need to adjust.


The Huffington Post "Depression rates rose 18 percent in the last decade"
New information from the United Nation’s World Health Organization finds that an estimated 322 million people suffered depressive disorders in 2015, a rise of 18.4% in a decade, with women more than 1.5 times more likely to experience depression than men.

Mic. "The rate of overdose deaths in the US has more than doubled since 1999"
A new CDC report finds that the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has more than doubled since 1999, with the highest increases among adults between the ages of 55 and 64 and among the white population.

BBC "Life expectancy to break 90 barrier by 2030"
Researchers at Imperial College London and the World Health Organization analyzed lifespans in 35 industrialized countries leading to predictions that all countries would see people living longer in 2030 and the gap between men and women would start to close in most countries – though countries like the US and Japan may actually fall behind other countries in global rankings due to health and economic policies affecting longevity. See also NextBigFuture, Vocativ, and The Washington Post.  


Wired "A drone-slinging UPS van delivers the future"
UPS trialed a drone delivery program to take packages the final few steps from a neighborhood truck to front-door delivery – the roof of a truck retracting, the drone taking flight to deposit the package, and then returning to the truck to dock with a charging station – demonstrating the potential for logistics to align for such a process and the potential to save hundreds of staff hours of complicated delivery. See also CNET, Consumerist, Engadget, GeekWire, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, and The Verge


CNN "Trump administration withdraws federal protections for transgender students"
The Trump administration withdrew Obama-era protections for transgender students in public schools that let them use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity – the Obama protections had been created through a joint letter from the departments of Education and Justice interpreting Title IX to protect students’ gender identity; the Trump administration’s removal of those protections was also issued through the departments of Education and Justice, but without offering a replacement. See also The Daily Dot, NPR, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

TechCrunch "Apple, Google and more speak out against Trump revoking trans student protections"
Technology companies again found themselves moved to respond to actions by the Trump administration, this time voicing their concern over the changes to trans student protections –many of them have programs that serve educators and schools specifically while others sense a wider issue of symbolic discrimination that affects employees and business alike. See also CNET and again, The Daily Dot, Engadget and again, Inc, Re/Code and again, and The Verge. The American Library Association also issued a statement regarding the issue.  

The Internet

Engadget “FCC lifts transparency requirements for some internet providers”
The Federal Communications Commission voted to remove reporting requirements (to publicly share information about data caps, fees, and network performance and management practices) for internet providers with fewer than 250,000 subscribers, up from a previous 100,000 subscriber level, reducing companies’ transparency requirements to consumers. See also CNET, Gizmodo, Motherboard, TechCrunch, and The Verge.  

Engadget "FCC head puts the brakes on new ISP privacy rules"
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has held a set of rules intended to go into effect on March 2nd that would have required internet service providers to ask for a user's explicit permission before collecting data on browsing habits, app usage, and location or financial information. See also CNET, Consumerist, GeekWire, Gizmodo, Mashable, TechCrunch, and The Verge.

CNET "Microsoft creates Skype Lite especially for India"
Skype Lite is a new version of the popular video and voice-calling app, designed to work well on low-speed, 2G networks, which are still prevalent in India and many developing nations.

Journalism and News

Politico "White House selectively blocks media outlets from briefing with Spicer"
The White House rescheduled what was to be an on-camera gaggle with Press Secretary Sean Spicer to a restricted off-camera gaggle in Spicer’s office, excluding reporters from the BBC, CNN, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and POLITICO. See also The Daily Dot, The Drum, Mashable, Mic., Poynter.

Poynter "President Trump will not attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner"
U.S. President Trump will not attend the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, breaking with more than three decades of tradition – the Association’s dinner will proceed as an opportunity to celebrate the First Amendment and the role it plays in a healthy republic and to recognize political journalism over the past year. See also The Daily Dot, Mashable, and Mic..

Sharing Economy

The New York Times "Inside Uber’s aggressive, unrestrained workplace culture"
Uber faces a new round of negative press, spurred by a recent blog post from a former engineer along with new interviews and reviews of internal emails, chat logs, and tape-recorded meetings, all indicating a competitive culture of discrimination, intimidation, and sexual harassment – the company is working to address the situation internally while also urging users to resist the #DeleteUber revival. See also CNET, Re/Code, TechCrunch, and The Verge.

The Verge "Lyft announces huge Midwest expansion, launching in 54 cities and four new states"
Ride-hailing service Lyft announced an expansion to 34 new cities, many in the Midwest, the company’s largest expansion to date bringing the total number of US cities served by Lyft to 300. See also CNET, Engadget, and TechCrunch.

Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants

Consumerist "JCPenney to close 130 to 140 stores over next few months"
Another retailer responding to online competition, JCPenney will close more than 100 stores representing about 13% to 14% of the company’s physical stores, positioning its remaining locations for customers to complete online order fulfillment, same-day pick up, exchanges, and returns. See also Advertising Age.

Streaming Media

The Atlantic "Why Netflix will release Martin Scorsese’s next film"
Netflix will bankroll Martin Scorsese’s next film to the tune of $100 million, distributing it through its streaming service along with a “limited Oscar-qualifying release” in theaters – a shift in film making for a recognizable director indicating the challenges traditional film studios are having managing project risk and creative control. See also CNET, The Daily Dot, Engadget, GQ, and The Verge.

Mashable "That's it, Netflix just cornered the comedy-special market"
Netflix continues to sign comedy specials, including new agreements with Louis C.K. and Tracy Morgan. See also Mashable.

CNET "Twitter, PBS teaming up to stream Trump's address to Congress"
Twitter and PBS NewsHour will partner to live stream U.S. President Donald Trump's address to a joint session of Congress. See also Engadget.

Reuters "Exclusive: Facebook in talks to live stream one MLB game per week - sources"
Facebook is in talks with Major League Baseball to live stream one game per week during the upcoming season. See also CNET, Consumerist, The Drum, Engadget, and The Hollywood Reporter

Re/Code "Facebook is starting to put ads in the middle of its videos"
Facebook will introduce new ads displayed in the middle of publishers' videos, similar to TV commercials – the new model could help publishers monetize video content with an advertising split of 55% to the publisher and 45% to Facebook. See also TechCrunch