This week’s headline comes from Martin Moore, director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication, and Power at King’s College, London, as quoted in The Guardian’s fascinating article, “Google, democracy and the truth about internet search.”
This week also saw a new report from the Pew Research Center about information overload – a perfect reminder that this newsletter can sometimes run a little long. So just a note that it’s perfectly fine to skim, pick, and choose what you read from it. I even hear from some colleagues who split the articles up and then talk about them over coffee – it’s always better to work together.
- We recently opened a call for a Future of Libraries Fellowship - $10,000 for an individual or group to advance new ideas and perspectives for the future of libraries. Take a look at this opportunity for yourself or to share with colleagues who may be interested. We’re hoping to receive lots of good ideas for looking at the future.
- If you are attending the 2017 ALA Midwinter Meeting, please consider joining us for the Symposium on the Future of Libraries. The three days of sessions are included with full registration and will feature plenary sessions with civic, education, and social innovators as well as a growing schedule of concurrent sessions exploring the many futures for academic, public, school, and special libraries.
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. And if you have a chance, drop me a line to let me know if any of the articles we’ve featured in this newsletter have really grabbed your attention, made you think, or inspired a great conversation at work.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
Apple will allow its artificial intelligence teams to publish research papers, reversing an earlier strategy to keep their research in-house and helping its current research to feed off wider advances in the field. See also CNET, Engadget, Quartz, and The Verge.
Books, Media, and Publishing
A new Pew Research Center survey finds that a large majority of Americans do not feel that information overload is a problem for them, with 77% reporting that they like having so much information available to them and 67% reporting that it actually helps with decision making – those numbers are especially true among individual who own more devices, while those who are more likely to feel information overload have less technology and are poorer, less well-educated, and older. See also The Guardian, Gizmodo, and Vocativ.
The Mylingo app provides Spanish-language audio dubs of movies in real time, synching studio-recorded Spanish tracks through a smartphone application, part of a partnership with major studios and movie theaters that will expand access for non-English speakers.
Cities and Government
US intelligence agencies have indicated that the Russian Government intervened in the 2016 US presidential election through the provision of leaked documents and hacked emails in an effort to boost Donald Trump’s and hurt Hilary Clinton’s chances in the election – President Obama ordered a “full review” of Russian hacking during the election campaign, as pressure from Congress has grown for greater public understanding of exactly what Russia did to influence the electoral process. See also The Daily Dot, Engadget and again, Fast Company, Geekwire, Gizmodo and again, Mashable and again, NPR, Reuters, TechCrunch, and The Verge
Just in time for the holidays, 18 privacy groups are filing complaints with both the US' Federal Trade Commission and the European Union alleging that toys i-Que and My Friend Cayla not only capture kids' voices without adequate notice or permission, but also transmit recordings with few safeguards over how that information is handled. See also The Verge and Vocativ.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that life expectancy in the US fell in 2015, a decline of 0.1 years from the year before – the first time that has happened since 1993.
The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) reveals some deeply concerning patterns of mistreatment and discrimination experienced by transgender people as well as disparities in employment, home ownership, access to medical and healthcare, and support networks. See also The Daily Dot and Vocativ.
Wal-Mart joined a growing list of more than 500 employers expanding insurance coverage for transgender workers – the retailer has also been among those speaking out against anti-LGBT laws at the state level, including legislation in Arkansas.
Google-owned Boston Dynamics demonstrated some of the progress they have been making with legged machines, including Spot Mini, a four-legged robot that is about the size of a large dog and can navigate more complex homes with stairs, doors, and other barriers.
US President-elect Donald Trump invited technology industry leaders for a conversation with his transition team, likely focusing on improving the US economy even as Trump’s positions on net neutrality and immigration remain concerns for business leaders. See also CNET, Gizmodo, Inc., ReCode, and TechCrunch.
The Economic Security Project — made up of venture capitalists, activists and educators — will invest $10 million in several Universal Basic Income projects by the end of 2018, testing the value of providing a flat payment to citizens in an effort to defeat poverty and improve the economy, health, and education systems.
Focusing on New York City, but likely applicable to other cities across the nation, families experiencing homelessness must contend with many challenges including preserving their children’s school schedule even when they are placed in shelters far from their original schools and while navigating the bureaucratic process that lets them stay in shelters.
Two private universities, the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and Yeshiva University in New York City, will launch two-year college programs for low-income students and for those who couldn't meet the admissions requirements for a bachelor's programs but are still interested in attending the institution.
New data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center points to greater college completion rates for students who started college in the fall of 2010 – 54.8% of them graduated within six years, up nearly 2 percentage points from the class that started in the fall of 2009, but still short of the cohort that started in 2008.
More than 2,500 teachers completed the syllabus submission process to offer Computer Science Principles, an Advanced Placement course from the College Board, making it the largest AP course launch since AP World History debuted in 2002.
A five-page internal document lays out 65 questions from the Trump transition team for the US Department of Energy, including a request to list employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate meetings, along with those who helped develop the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon metrics. See also Grist and Mashable.
As Google and other platforms leverage algorithms and data-driven tools to provide predictive search results, these systems can fall prey to hateful and false information – as exemplified by this look at Google’s search results and autocomplete suggestions for searches on religious groups, women, and ethnic minorities. Google’s response to the article has helped remove some of the most offensive autocomplete suggestions. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, and The Guardian.
Some of the biggest technology platforms are working together to build a database of photos and videos used to recruit people into terrorism, making it easier for the platforms to identify and remove the imagery after review. See also CNET, Fortune, Mashable, and The Verge.
Facebook launched a test service that surveyed users about “misleading language” in posts, part of an attempt to address the platform’s fake news problem. See also The Daily Dot, Engadget, and Mashable.
Speaking of fake news, a new survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for BuzzFeed News finds that fake news headlines can mislead American adults, especially among those who cite Facebook as a major source of news versus those who rely less on the platform for news – a word of caution, several readers of the survey have noted that it relies on respondents being able to recall a headline, and many actually could not recall the headline in order to then determine whether it was fake or not. See also Fortune.
A new report from the FCC finds that nearly half of the 102 million fixed connections in the US run at speeds below FCC's standard for broadband (25 megabits per second) – 6 million households are struggling with internet speeds slower than 3 Mbps; 17 million US internet connections were faster than 3 Mbps but slower than 10 Mbps; and another 25 million people have internet speeds faster than 10 Mbps but slower than 25 Mbps.
The Trusted Contacts app lets users add people with whom they may want to share their location, especially in times of crisis or emergencies – a beneficial tool for families, but also a tool that could raise privacy concerns for those who may be compelled into the service. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, Consumerist, and Mashable.
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
Amazon announced Amazon Go, a new retail outlet where consumers swipe the retailer's app and take what they want to buy from shelves, with motion-capturing cameras, beacons, and other technologies tracking purchases and eliminating the need for lines, registers, and traditional check-out. See also CNET, Consumerist, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Fortune, Geekwire and again and again, Gizmodo, Mashable and again, MIT Technology Review, Next Big Future, Next City, Quartz, ReCode, TechCrunch, The Verge and again, Vocativ, and Wired.
Starbucks announced plans to open nearly 12,000 new outlets by 2021 while expanding their menu to feature new and higher-priced products and new technology features like speech- or text-to-order functionality on their mobile app. See also Advertising Age, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Consumerist and again, Inc., Mashable, and The Wall Street Journal.
A Target store in Pennsylvania will set aside early shopping hours for autistic customers to shop with minimal sensory stimulants, including turning off the music, dimming the bright lights, and keeping the staff activity to a minimum – another interesting thing, when contacted about the story, Target spokespeople noted that while this would not be rolling out to all stores, customers can contact their local store’s manager or team leader for hosting a similar shopping day or feature.
Netflix will invest in original content in 2017, more than doubling its original programming from 2016 to include over 1,000 hours with at least 20 new unscripted shows alone. See also ArsTechnica, Polygon, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
Apple may be pressing Hollywood studios for earlier access to movies to help bolster iTunes business with high-priced, home-video rentals of new movies shortly after they open in theaters. See also Engadget and The Verge.
Google's "Window Wonderland" app stitches together hundreds of high-resolution photos to let users tour New York City’s holiday store window displays.