Read for Later - “There's a potential for a big shift right now”

This week’s headline quotes Alexandr Wang, the co-founder and CEO of Scale AI, a startup that helps people train computer vision. Wang says that Scale could hire up to 10 gap-year interns from the growing number of students struggling with the return to colleges and universities during the pandemic. (Bloomberg "Startups tap a new talent pool: Pandemic-weary college students").

You can always check out the Center's trend collection – including our Coronavirus page – 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.

Five Highlights

Politico "Silicon Valley game plans for election night"
Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other major social media companies are working together to scenario-plan for the last three months before election day in the United States —among dozens of scenarios being contemplated by the companies for election night in particular are a "hack and leak" operation where stolen materials are quickly spread through online networks and the distribution of manipulated videos. See also The New York Times "Facebook braces itself for Trump to cast doubt on election results" and The Verge "Facebook is preparing for an ugly Election Day" and Wired "Nanoinfluencers are slyly barnstorming the 2020 Election"

The Washington Post "UNC-Chapel Hill pivots to remote teaching after coronavirus spreads among students during first week of class"
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of the largest schools in the country to bring students to campus for in-person teaching, said that it will pivot to all-remote instruction for undergraduates after testing showed a pattern of rapid spread of the novel coronavirus – the shift signals the enormous challenges ahead for those in higher education who are pushing for professors and students to be able to meet on campus. See also NPR "Michigan State and Notre Dame suspend in-person learning over COVID-19 concerns"

Bloomberg "Startups tap a new talent pool: Pandemic-weary college students"
More and more companies are promoting remote internships as alternatives for young people reluctant to engage in what will be a unique school year – a list assembled by startup accelerator Y Combinator details opportunities from Silicon Valley firms for students interested in pursuing a gap year during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wall Street Journal "Amazon and mall operator look at turning Sears, J.C. Penney stores into fulfillment centers"
Simon Property Group, the largest mall owner in the U.S., is reportedly exploring the possibility of turning some of the property owner’s anchor department stores into Amazon distribution hubs – it’s not clear how many stores are under consideration for Amazon and it is possible that the two sides could fail to reach an agreement, people briefed on the matter said. See also Modern Retail "How turning malls into fulfillment centers could reshape towns"

Wired "The race to collect the pandemic's history—as it unfolds"
A look at how archivists, curators, and librarians are assembling the record of how the pandemic is impacting their communities in real time, collecting makeshift masks, journal entries, and protest signs that tell the story of the collective experience of coronavirus and the protests against systemic racism.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

Wired "A move for driverless mass transit hits speed bumps"
In the midst of the pandemic, many local leaders continue to announce new deployments for self-driving mass transit systems, even as the benefits of autonomous transit remain unproven and the idea faces skepticism from riders and hostility from unions. See also The Washington Post "‘This is our future’: Fairfax tests region’s first self-driving shuttle for public transit"

Books and Publishing

TechCrunch "The journey of a kids book startup that tackles topics like racism, cancer and divorce"
A look at Jelani Memory and his A Kids Book About series, a book publishing platform to help parents tackle tough topics and conversations with their kids – the first book in the series, A Kids Book About Racism, has seen considerable interest over the past several months as protests have focused attention on systemic racism in the U.S.

Cities and Government

Bloomberg "American cities brace for a future with even greater inequality"
As many experts debate the fate of cities after the pandemic, there is growing concern about the fate of the people that make those cities and the economic slump that will likely worsen inequality, leaving the rich largely unscathed while crushing the poor and working classes of America’s big and midsize cities. See also The New York Times "The recession is about to slam cities. Not just the Blue-State ones.”

Communities and Demographics

The New York Times "Young adults report rising levels of anxiety and depression in pandemic"
Young adults, as well as Black and Latino people of all ages, describe rising levels of anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts, and increased substance abuse, according to findings reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – researchers argue that the results point to an urgent need for expanded and culturally sensitive services for mental health and substance abuse, including telehealth counseling. See also The Washington Post "‘The volume has been turned up on everything’: Pandemic places alarming pressure on transgender mental health"

Economics and the Workplace

GeekWire "Amazon to add 3,500 tech jobs in cities across U.S., spreading key roles further from Seattle HQ"
Amazon will spend $1.4 billion on nearly 1 million square feet of new physical office space and add 3,500 tech jobs in Dallas, Denver, Detroit, New York City, Phoenix, and San Diego, as the tech giant spreads its corporate footprint beyond Seattle and continues growing despite the ongoing economic crisis – Amazon, which employs more than 50,000 people in and around its Seattle headquarters, has been at odds with the Seattle City Council for years over its impact on the community and efforts by the city to impose new taxes on big businesses.

The New York Times "Big tech’s domination of business reaches new heights"
A rally in technology stocks elevated the S&P 500 stock index to a record high, with the stocks of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Facebook, the five largest publicly traded companies in the U.S., rising 37% in the first seven months of the year, while all the other stocks in the S&P 500 fell a combined 6%, according to Credit Suisse – those five companies now constitute 20% of the stock market’s total worth, a level not seen from a single industry in at least 70 years.


NPR "Colleges that keep small isolated towns vibrant now pose public health threat"
Small colleges, many already struggling, will have their distinctive, personal, and high-touch college experiences challenged by public health guidelines – these challenges cut both ways for the towns and communities around small colleges, threatening to cut off an influx of students that bring in economic opportunities or introducing the possibility of new virus outbreaks in communities that had previously been spared.

The Associated Press "Rural families without internet face tough choice on school"
Dramatically limited internet access in communities across the country means that kids could fall seriously behind if the pandemic keeps them home during the upcoming school year – many districts have been scrambling to set up paper-based alternatives to online instruction, create WiFi hot spots in school parking lots and other public areas, or use USB drives to submit homework and telephone calls for teacher check-ins. See also NPR "Need a laptop? Colleges boost loaner programs amid pandemic"

The Internet

Business Insider "Google plans to test 6Ghz, next-generation WiFi in dozens of US cities"
Google has requested government approval to test next-generation 6GHz WiFi in dozens of cities, according to Federal Communications Commission filings seen by Business Insider – Google’s request calls for tests across 17 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

The Verge "AMC plans to reopen more than 100 theaters in the US starting August 20th"
After repeatedly delaying its reopening, AMC plans to open more than 100 theaters and it says it will continue opening locations “such that about two-thirds of our theaters across the country should be open no later than September 3.”

Streaming Media

TechCrunch "Netflix test puts a ‘Shuffle Play’ button right on your home screen"
Netflix is currently testing a feature that puts a “Shuffle Play” button on the Netflix home screen, beneath a user’s profile icon, which will randomly play content the platform’s algorithm thinks a user will like – the idea behind the feature is to help members quickly and easily find content that’s tailored to their tastes.

Engadget "A new Broadway musical will premiere on Netflix due to COVID-19"
Scheduled to open on Broadway on March 31st, but delayed due to the pandemic, Diana: A New Musical will premiere on Netflix ahead of its new 2021 Broadway opening – live theatrical events like Hamilton, which streamed on Disney+, or Springsteen on Broadway, which streamed on Netflix, may be a new scramble for exclusives for streaming services.