This week’s headline quotes The Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s recent statement condemning increased violence and racism towards Black Americans and people of color. As communities confront issues of systemic racism – racism mot recently witnessed in the deadly violence inflicted on George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor – we are reminded that social justice work, including the assertion that Black Lives Matter, is perhaps the most important and prerequisite work for envisioning our futures.
After this difficult week, this summary of trends and changes is likely to take peripheral importance to the work that we are doing as individuals, as organizations, and as members of our communities to confront the biases and prejudices that keep us from each other. Thank you to all of those individuals and organizations that are making time for this important and necessary examination.
Please stay safe and healthy.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
TechCrunch "Nuro’s self-driving vehicles to deliver prescriptions for CVS Pharmacy"
Autonomous robotics startup Nuro said that it will test prescription delivery in Houston through a partnership with CVS Pharmacy, using a fleet of autonomous Toyota Prius vehicles before transitioning to its custom-built R2 delivery bots. See also The Verge "Waymo’s robot minivans are ready to roll in the Bay Area for the first time since COVID-19 outbreak"
Bloomberg "Amazon in talks to buy autonomous vehicle startup Zoox"
Amazon is in talks to buy driverless vehicle startup Zoox, according to people familiar with the matter – while others companies have expressed interest in investing or buying Zoox, the deal with Amazon would help accelerate the retailer’s automation efforts, especially in the area of package delivery, which is one of the biggest costs in the company’s operation.
The Seattle Times "Microsoft is cutting dozens of MSN news production workers and replacing them with artificial intelligence"
Microsoft won’t renew the contracts for fifty news production contractors working at MSN as they make plans for artificial intelligence to replace work identifying trending news stories and helping optimize content by rewriting headlines or adding better accompanying photographs or slide shows.
CNET "Amazon will shut down fashion-focused Echo Look in July"
Amazon is quietly discontinuing the Echo Look, a hands-free camera with the Alexa voice assistant that offered to help keep track of users’ wardrobes and provide guidance on what to wear.
TechCrunch "Zipline begins US medical delivery with UAV program honed in Africa"
A new partnership between Novant Health and drone delivery startup Zipline will work to deliver personal protective gear and medical equipment to healthcare workers – Zipline’s drones will make 32 mile flights on two routes between Novant Health’s emergency drone fulfillment center in Kannapolis to the company’s medical center in Huntersville, North Carolina.
Economics and the Workforce
The Washington Post "The unluckiest generation in U.S. history"
Including the present crisis and resulting economic fallout, millennials have experienced some of the slowest economic growth for any generation in U.S. history – the current recession is particularly damaging as many millennials were just entering their prime working years, with the oldest millennials nearing 40 while the youngest are in their mid-20s.
The New York Times "Pay cuts become a tool for some companies to avoid layoffs"
Even as many employers default to layoffs and staff reductions, some companies are choosing to institute across-the-board salary reductions to avoid layoffs, a reversal of traditional management theory, which held that salaries were sacred and it was better to cut positions and dismiss a limited number of workers than to lower pay for everyone during downturns.
EducationDive "Half of presidents aim to restart classes in-person this fall, survey finds"
A new American Council on Education (ACE) survey of 310 college leaders finds that nearly half of college presidents say it is "very likely" they will resume in-person classes for the coming term; two-thirds of presidents at colleges with on-campus housing say they plan to set up a space to quarantine students; and more than half of all respondents said they will require masks to be worn on campus.
The Wall Street Journal "Coronavirus lockdowns spark boom in online learning for adults, too"
Online education providers say adults are making time to learn during lockdown, with Skillshare, Udemy, and Coursera all reporting sizable growth – but even through this period of popularity and discovery, there is a growing movement to automate learning on these platforms with algorithms and other systems.
Health and Wellness
The Washington Post "A third of Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau finds amid coronavirus pandemic"
Results from a new Household Pulse Survey from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics and Census Bureau suggests that as many as a third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression based on responses to questions normally used to screen patients for mental health problems – the Census Bureau launched an emergency weekly survey of U.S. households at the end of April to measure the pandemic’s effects on employment, housing, finances, education, and health. See also CNET "Google adds anxiety self-assessment to search"
The Verge "Twitter labels Trump tweets as ‘potentially misleading’ for the first time" and Slate "Twitter covers Trump tweet with warning label for ‘glorifying violence’"
Twitter labeled two tweets from President Donald Trump making false statements about mail-in voting as “potentially misleading,” the first time the platform has fact-checked the president – the labeling of the tweets is in line with a new policy introduced earlier this month aimed at limiting “the spread of potentially harmful and misleading content” related to the pandemic. Twitter also acted by attaching a warning label over the top of a tweet from the president about the protests in Minneapolis over the killing of George Floyd by police – the second instance was initiated because the tweet violated the company’s terms of service prohibiting the glorification of violence. See also TechCrunch "Jack Dorsey explains why Twitter fact-checked Trump’s false voting claims"
BBC "Trump signs executive order targeting Twitter after fact-checking row"
U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at removing some of the legal protections granted under a 1996 law that provided website operators some cover from being held responsible for content posted by users – the executive order argues that this immunity should no longer apply if a social network edits posts, such as by adding a warning or a label.
CNET "Google launches website to help people avoid online scams"
In partnership with the Cybercrime Support Network, a nonprofit focused on helping victims of online fraud, Google unveiled a new Scamspotter.org website aimed at teaching people how to spot and avoid online scams – the effort comes as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that Americans have lost more than $40 million because of COVID-19-related scams.
Nature "The epic battle against coronavirus misinformation and conspiracy theories"
COVID-19 has become a perfect storm for fake news and misinformation campaigns, as people spend more time at home searching online for answers to an uncertain and rapidly changing situation – the World Health Organization (WHO) has called the situation an infodemic: “An over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – rendering it difficult to find trustworthy sources of information and reliable guidance.” See also FiveThirtyEight "How bad is the COVID-19 misinformation epidemic?"
Engadget "Facebook's new Venue app is an interactive hub for live events"
Facebook’s New Product Experimentation (NPE) team launched a new app called Venue, designed as an interactive second-screen experience for expert commentators, such as journalists, current or former athletes, and analysts, which fans can enter while an event is ongoing – Venue is the third app the NPE launched in a week, alongside the new CatchUp group calling app and the Collab collaborative music video creation app.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
The Washington Post "How the pandemic is changing shopping"
After spending years devising tactics to get customers to linger, retailers are now reopening with processes that encourage deliberate purchases through a grab-and-go experience – in addition to booking appointments, retailers are introducing “welcome tables” with bottles of hand sanitizer, disposable masks, and sticky blue mats that clean shoe soles; product displays that encourage hands-off browsing; and mobile apps that allow more immersive viewing of available products. See also The Globe and Mail "Industries that provided primarily in-person services may never operate strictly in-person again"
Wired "As WeWorks lie empty, co-working spaces face their day of reckoning"
With the majority of tenants working from home in line with stay at home orders, it would be easy to discount the future of co-working spaces like WeWork, but this moment is showing that the larger co-working space providers are leaning heavily on their relationships with established businesses and corporations, providing self-contained or hybrid offices with longer leases, rather than pure co-working for individuals or small groups hot-desking with short rolling leases. See also GeekWire "The Riveter closes all 9 co-working spaces as questions loom about the future of physical offices"
Sharing and Gig Economies
The Verge "Uber introduces a new hourly rate for longer, multistop trips"
Uber is introducing a new “Hourly” function for riders who need to take longer rides with multiple destinations, allowing them to lock in a flat, hourly rate for the duration of the ride.
Mashable "YouTube rolls out Video Chapters so you can find exactly what you want in a video"
YouTube announced a new Video Chapters feature for creators interested in marking timestamps in their videos and noting specific chapter descriptions for the content – the simple feature could change how creators make videos and how viewers consume them, allowing easier access to multiple topics in long-form videos or podcasts that allow users to jump to the content that interests them.