Happy New Year! This week’s quote could be a good resolution for 2017 - it comes from Rob Austin, a professor at Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario and an advocate for recruiting neurodiverse employees, as shared in The Atlantic’s article on companies that are trying to hire more people on the autism spectrum.
Since we’re starting a New Year with some new readers, a quick note that this newsletter is our attempt to keep an eye on the signals that might point to the future of our profession. The news stories below can point to trends and changes in our society, helping us think more broadly about our current and future work and initiate new conversations with our patrons and partners (administrators, funders, community groups, faculty and students). Not everything will be news to everyone and some things may not have an immediate implication for libraries, but hopefully it can help us start to think in new ways about how our work fits into an ever-changing world.
And because we’re better when we contribute together, please let me know what you're reading this week to help think about the future. Phillippa Brown from the Greater Victoria Public Library shared “16 Things We Learned in 2016” from the World Economic Forum’s Agenda Weekly – a great look at some big news from 2016 that will likely continue to influence 2017.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
ArsTechnica “Federal report: AI could threaten up to 47 percent of jobs in two decades”
A White House report on artificial intelligence considers the effects of automation on the US job market and economy, noting significant potential for wealth gains from increased productivity along with threats to existing jobs and an exacerbation of the wage inequality between lower-skilled, less-educated workers and those with higher skills. See also Consumerist, Geekwire, Mashable, Quartz, TechCrunch, Vocativ, and Wired.
Inc. “IBM is building a robot that can care for seniors at home”
IBM’s "Aging in Place" research lab is developing technology to help aging seniors stay in their homes, including the Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant (or MERA) which is able to read vital signs by observing a person's face, use accelerometers to determine if someone has fallen, atmospheric sensors to determine if a stove has been left on, and Watson-powered speech recognition to converse with people and answer questions. See also Consumerist.
The Verge “Artificial intelligence is going to make it easier than ever to fake images and video”
Artificial intelligence will be able tocreate 3D face models from a single 2D image; manipulate facial expressions on video in real time using a human “puppet”; change the light source and shadows in any picture; generate sound effects based on mute video; and resurrect characters using old clips.
Books, Media, and Publishing
Slate “Starting in 2019, if your film isn’t diverse, it won’t be eligible for a BAFTA Award”
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced new inclusivity requirements for films eligible for the Outstanding British Film or Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer awards at the annual BAFTAs – eligible projects must showcase inclusivity in screen characters and themes, senior roles and crew, industry training and career progression, or audience access and appeal to underrepresented audiences.
Wired “How photos fuel the spread of fake news”
Because people tend to accept photographs as truthful representations, fake news has been driven by photos used out of context, digitally altered, or combined with text to manipulate readers.
Digiday “The Boston Globe uses Facebook groups to create direct connections with readers”
The Boston Globe has started a private Facebook group for subscribers to discuss the news with each other and Globe staffers, a new tool to drive engagement and member loyalty.
Cities and Government
Engadget “Republicans propose banning livestreams on the House floor”
The Republican party has proposed measures that would fine members of Congress up to $2,500 if they record or livestream images and audio on the House floor, an act meant to "ensure that order and decorum are preserved" so that politicians can "do the people's work,” while opponents of the measure note that it would shut down attempts to draw attention to issues that might otherwise be ignored. See also Mashable, Variety, and Vocativ.
The New York Times “Changes coming to White House press room: Who, where, when and how”
U.S. President-Elect Trump’s advisers, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, have indicated that some of the conventions of White House coverage including the daily televised press briefings and seating assignments could change, raising concern among journalists who say small changes to the system could lead to the diminishing of other traditions and alter the principles of a historical record and access to information.
Wired “The year in housing: The middle class can’t afford to live in cities anymore”
Rent increases and the rising cost of buying a home have pushed middle class residents out of cities like Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Austin, leaving a divided population of those that can afford the high-cost of living and lower income people who qualify for subsidized housing.
Mashable “8-year-old transgender boy kicked out of Cub Scouts because of his identity”
The family of an 8-year-old New Jersey boy says he was kicked out of Cub Scouts because he is transgender, possibly re-opening a new front in the debate over discrimination in Scouting, though the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement that the organization considers transgender children as a separate issue from previous issues with sexual orientation within Scouting. See also The Guardian.
The Atlantic “Why some companies are trying to hire more people on the autism spectrum”
While a recent study by Drexel University found that 58% of young adults with autism are unemployed, companies like EY (Ernst & Young) and Microsoft are exploring the benefits from having "neurodiverse" colleagues – employing people with autism in areas in areas where they might excel like data analysis, mathematical concepts, attention to detail, the ability to focus over long periods of time, and looking at large bodies of information and spotting anomalies.
City Lab “The rise of the Sun Belt”
U.S. population growth is at its lowest point since the Depression, but Western states like Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Arizona have experienced an over 1.6% growth rate spurred by new economic growth.
The New York Times “How social isolation is killing us”
Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20% to 40% and nearly one-third of Americans older than 65 and half of those over 85 live alone.
Vocativ “The changing face of death in the U.S.”
While deaths from diseases like cancer, diabetes, and HIV are down in much of the United States, in the poorest counties and regions in the country the rates have doubled or even tripled since 1980.
Motherboard “France becomes first federal postal service to use drones to deliver mail”
The French postal service will begin an experimental drone delivery program to deliver parcels on a nine-mile route once a week. See also ArsTechnica, Engadget, and ReCode.
TechCrunch “7-Eleven delivers 77 packages via drone in first month of routine service”
Convenience chain 7-Eleven has completed 77 drone deliveries during the first month of its commercial service in Reno, Nevada. See also CNET, Engadget, and ReCode
The New York Times “Free cash in Finland. Must be jobless.”
The Finnish government is initiating an experiment in social welfare, providing 2,000 unemployed people with a universal basic income and observing how recipients pursue jobs, start businesses, stop working, pursue education, or spend the money in other ways.
City Lab “Why co-working is moving to the suburbs”
The co-working magazine Deskmag anticipates the number of co-working spaces to increase by 22% in 2017, including growth in suburban markets and use by remote employees, not just entrepreneurs.
MarketWatch “These American workers are least likely to take their paid vacation”
A Bankrate.com survey of 1,000 adults finds that one quarter of younger millennial Americans (aged 18 to 25) say they have used none of their paid vacation days for 2016, compared to just 9% of older millennials (aged 26 to 35), 6% of Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and 7% of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).
Mashable “France's new ‘right to disconnect’ law rolls out”
France’s new law clarifies that workers are not obligated to read or send work-related emails outside of office hours and that companies must negotiate with workers' guidelines to set when employees are not required to read or answer work-related emails.
Slate “Student journalists are under threat”
A new report from the American Association of University Professors and three nonpartisan free-speech advocacy organizations warns of a trend of administrative censorship of student-run media, including more than 20 previously unreported cases of media advisers “suffering some degree of administrative pressure to control, edit, or censor student journalistic content.”
The Hechinger Report “College and university enrollment is down for fifth straight year”
College and university enrollment fell during the most recently completed semester, the fifth straight year of decline, with enrollment in all of higher education down 1.4% from the previous fall and for-profit institutions down 15% and community colleges down 2.6%.
The Daily Dot “The 8 most important fandoms of 2016”
Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Pokémon were among the obvious popular fandoms for 2016, but communities also grew around Overwatch, a first-person shooting game, and Yuri on Ice, a Japanese anime series about figure skating.
Popular Science “The 100 Greatest Innovations of 2016”
Virtual reality, televisions, drones, translators, encryption tools, and other breakthroughs that will shape the future make the list for the 100 greatest new innovations in science and technology.
The Daily Dot “Canada is about to give all its residents access to high-speed internet”
Canada's telecommunications regulator has ruled that all residents are entitled to broadband Internet services at home and unlimited data plans on their phones, leading to new investments to expand broadband across rural and remote areas over the next five years. See also The Verge.
ReCode “Twitter’s Jack Dorsey is ‘thinking a lot about’ an edit-tweet button”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asked users what the company can do to “improve or create in 2017” and among the top requests was an edit button for tweets, a feature that has been often requested but never introduced in part because the company was concerned that tweets might be changed after a long period of time and after they’d already been embedded or used on other parts of the web. See also Consumerist, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Inc., and The Verge.
Play and Toys
CNET “Talking toys can become your kid's digital friend”
Several new toys integrate listening and interaction features to engage with kids during playtime – Nickelodeon's Paw Patrol Marshall toy comes programmed with 80 missions and 150 Paw Patrol sounds and phrases; the Zoomer Chimp can respond to basic voice commands such as "Do a flip" and be controlled with hand motions by gesturing in front of the toy's face; and CogniToys Dino connects to Wi-Fi and can listen to a child's responses to provide information and play games.
The Guardian “Gendered toys could deter girls from career in engineering, report says”
Research by the Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET) found that toys with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focus were three times as likely to be targeted at boys than girls, despite high-profile campaigns that have had some success.
CNBC “Millennials are driving the board games revival”
Board games’ popularity is growing among families, kids, and even child-less millennials looking for a new way to socialize with friends in cafes and bars focused on gaming.
MIT Technology Review “Should an Amazon Echo help solve a murder?”
Police have asked Amazon for data that may have been recorded on its Echo device while a murder was taking place - the device typically remains idle awaiting an activation word like “Alexa” before it begins recording and sending data to Amazon’s servers, but it can also wake up by mistake and grab snippets of audio that people may not have known was being recorded. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, Consumerist, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Geekwire, Inc. and again, Mashable, Slate, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Vocativ.
The Guardian “Amazon refuses to let police access US murder suspect's Echo recordings”
Amazon has refused to hand over the Echo’s data, twice declining to provide the police with the information they requested from the device, although it did provide account information and purchase history. See also The Washington Post.
Politico “U.S. government begins asking foreign travelers about social media”
The U.S. government has begun asking select foreign visitors to complete an “optional” request for “information associated with your online presence” including Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts – a move designed to spot potential terrorist threats, but that has raised the concern of privacy and free speech advocates. See also The Verge and Vocativ.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
Fast Company “Sweetgreen is going fully cashless in 2017”
Salad chain Sweetgreen will go fully cashless in all 64 of its stores after testing the concept over the past year. See also Engadget and Mashable.
The Sharing Economy
Engadget “Uber turns your friends into destinations”
Uber will update its app with the option of making destinations out of individuals in a user’s contact list once the contact volunteers their current static location – the contact can also receive the passenger’s estimated time of arrival. See also Consumerist, Mashable, and TechCrunch.
TechCrunch “Senator Al Franken asks Uber for more clarity on new location data sharing”
U.S. Senator Al Franken issued an open letter to Uber’s CEO asking for more transparency around its recent changes to user location data collection, seeking more direct control over users’ personal data and clearer understanding of how and when their data is being used. See also Consumerist.
TechCrunch “In light of discrimination concerns, Uber and Lyft defend their policies to show rider names and photos”
Responding to an inquiry from U.S. Senator Al Franken regarding potential racial discrimination against passengers and the necessity of including names and photos of passengers requesting rides, ridesharing providers Uber and Lyft defended their respective policies clarifying that drivers only see the first names of passengers in order “to ensure a smooth and safe pick-up process.” See also The Daily Dot and Engadget.
The Daily Dot “Facebook's Live Audio goes after booming podcast industry”
Facebook’s Live Audio feature provides an audio-only option for the Live broadcasting platform, responding to requests for new live formats that allow content providers and users to tell stories through words instead of video and also providing content with decreased dependency on network stability and speeds. See also Mashable, ReCode, and TechCrunch.
TechCrunch “Twitter will live stream the Golden Globes’ red carpet pre-show”
Twitter will collaborate with the Hollywood Foreign Press to stream the pre-show for the Golden Globes, including the red carpet and exclusive interviews with celebrities. See also CNET and Mashable.
CNET “Twitter releases 360-degree video streaming on Periscope”
Twitter is launching live 360-degree video streams on Periscope, starting with a group of "select partners." See also Engadget and The Verge.
Variety “Hulu gets ‘Mulan,’ ‘Pocahontas’ in new Disney catalog licensing deal”
Hulu’s new licensing deal with Disney will provide exclusive subscription streaming rights to movies like Pocahontas, Mulan, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, the biggest movie licensing deal for the service to date. See also CNET, The Daily Dot, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
Reuters “Disney will create shows for Snapchat”
The Walt Disney Company’s U.S. television division will create shows for Snapchat, reaching out to the platform’s younger viewers. See also Engadget, Mashable, PC Magazine, TechCrunch, and The Verge.