Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
Pew Research Center “Code-Dependent: Pros and cons of the algorithm age”
As businesses and governments leverage algorithms to make use of massive amounts of data, Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a large-scale canvassing of technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners, and government leaders to consider what’s next for algorithms – 38% of experts predicted that the positive impacts of algorithms will outweigh negatives for individuals and society in general, while 37% said negatives will outweigh positives; and 25% said the overall impact of algorithms will be about 50-50, positive-negative.
The Verge “New Google Brain research brings the ‘zoom and enhance’ trope to reality”
New research from Google Brain could use a pair of neural networks to process a 8 pixel x 8 pixel image and generate an approximation of the original – the first network is a “conditioning network,” which maps the pixels of the low-resolution picture to a similar high-resolution one that gets used as a rough skeleton of how the face or room should look, while the second is a “prior network” that analyzes the pixelated image and tries to add details based on existing images with similar pixel locations. See also Engadget.
Books and Publishing
Slate “Is my novel offensive?”
Sensitivity readers may help writers develop more diverse characters in fiction, navigating the complexities of representation and avoiding the prospect of backlash, by leveraging this new part of the editorial process.
KidScreen “Scholastic: Kids are seeking out more diverse stories”
Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report finds that more children and their parents are interested in reading stories about different races, cultures and faiths, though access to these books are still scarce – kids are seeking out stories that portray characters that are “differently-abled” (13%), “culturally or ethnically diverse” (11%), and “who break stereotypes” (11%).
Cities and Government
The New York Times “First amendment support climbing among high school students”
A Knight Foundation survey of nearly 12,000 students finds that support among American high school students for the First Amendment is stronger today than it has been in the last 12 years – 91% of high school students say they believe that individuals should be allowed to express unpopular opinions, but only 45% support that right when the speech in question is offensive to others and made in public.
Governing “Millennials let their grandparents decide local elections”
A Portland State University study tallied voter turnout in the most recent mayoral elections in the 30 largest cities and found that residents 65 years and older were a median of seven times more likely to vote than those ages 18 to 34 – this lowered youth participation in local elections could be due to young people moving more frequently, renting in higher numbers, or viewing local races as less competitive and consequential.
The Economist “Millennials across the rich world are failing to vote”
Voter turnout across the rich world has been declining and has fallen fastest among the young, with the gap in turnout between young and old in many places resembling the racial gap in the American South in the early 1960s, when state governments routinely suppressed the black vote – if voting habits are formed early, this low turnout could have significant consequences, even weakening the perceived legitimacy of elected governments.
The Atlantic “Red state, blue city”
Still more about the growing divide between cities and states, with cities turning to local ordinances as their best hope on issues ranging from gun control to the minimum wage to transgender rights, while state legislatures work to limit cities’ regulation efforts.
The Guardian “Statisticians fear Trump White House will manipulate figures to fit narrative”
In a series of interviews with the Guardian, statisticians who had recently left high-level positions at federal statistical agencies expressed worry that the administration may stop collecting and publishing data on politicized subjects such as abortion, racial inequality, and poverty.
The Daily Dot “Increased ICE raids across the U.S. spark protests in New York, Los Angeles, Texas”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in six states sparked protests – despite the increased reporting of the raids, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security told the Washington Post that the confirmed raids were part of “routine” immigration enforcement.
The Conversation “Immigration and crime: What does the research say?”
An interesting compilation of research related to immigration’s effect on crime – generally, immigration-crime research over the past 20 years has found no backing for the immigration-crime connection, with the literature demonstrating that immigrants commit fewer crimes on average than native-born Americans, and cities and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have lower rates of crime and violence when all other factors are equal. See also The Daily Dot.
Wired “The secret to a happy, healthy city? Places for people to protest”
Recent protests highlight an important element of successful cities – open public spaces and streets where people gather naturally to socialize and, in a politicized time, to protest.
The Daily Dot “23 states have laws that harm or exclude the trans community”
In 2016, there were nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills introduced in more than 20 states and 23 states have laws that actively harm, limit, or exclude the trans community specifically, including limiting access to an ID that matches their gender identity, employment discrimination, denials of service or harassment, housing discrimination, and limits on family.
The Daily Dot “Parents can do one thing to lower trans kids’ depression: Support them”
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that with supportive families – those families that referred to children by the correct pronouns and supported wearing clothing that aligned with their gender identity – trans kids were no more likely to suffer from depression than cisgender kids in their age group.
CityLab “Why did Americans stop moving?”
The mobility of Americans has reached record lows, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census – with just 11.2% of Americans moving between 2015 and 2016, almost half the 20.2% rate in 1948, and just 6.9% of Americans making shorter moves within the same county, down from 13.6% in 1948.
The New York Times “A secret of many urban 20-somethings: Their parents help with the rent”
According to surveys that track young people through their first decade of adulthood, nearly 40% of 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds receive some financial assistance from their parents for living expenses, with an average amount of $3,000 a year – a stark reminder that social and economic mobility continues even past college and economic advantages continue well into the opening chapters of adulthood.
The New York Times “More women in their 60s and 70s are having ‘way too much fun’ to retire”
According to two new analyses of census, earnings, and retirement data that provide the most comprehensive look yet at women’s career paths, women’s working lives are changing with more women working in their 20s and 30s when they had previously been home with children, delaying family breaks until their late 30s or early 40s, returning to the labor force far more frequently after having children, and becoming significantly more likely to work into their 60s and even 70s, often full time.
Pew Research Center “20 metro areas are home to six-in-ten unauthorized immigrants in U.S.”
New Pew Research Center analysis of government data estimates that most of the United States’ 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants live in just 20 major metropolitan areas, with the largest populations in New York, Los Angeles and Houston. See also CityLab.
ArsTechnica “Amazon tells Super Bowl viewers to look for Prime Air drone delivery “soon””
The last of Amazon’s three Super Bowl commercials featured an Amazon delivery drone, described to viewers as a “Prime Air” delivery – though at the bottom of the screen Amazon offered a fine-print disclaimer: “Prime Air is not available in some states (or any really). Yet.” See also GeekWire.
Vocativ “Drone journalism school takes flight with three-day courses”
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit journalism school, will launch a drone journalism school later this year to help students learn how to fly a DJI drone, navigate state and federal regulations, understand legal and privacy issues, and ethical use of a camera-mounted flying robot – the three day course will be available in four separate locations: University of Georgia, Syracuse University, University of Wisconsin, and University of Oregon.
ReCode “Trump’s freeze on new regulation means that we won’t get drone delivery anytime soon”
U.S. President Trump’s executive order requiring two federal regulations to be rescinded for every new one passed could prove problematic for expanding drone usage – in 2014 the National Transportation Safety Board classified drones as aircraft, which means drones need to abide by FAA regulations in order to fly, and the FAA will have a hard time killing existing rules to make room for new ones.
Scientific American “Robo-bees could aid insects with pollination duties”
Researchers from Japan believe that mini drones sporting horsehair coated in a sticky gel could support declining bee populations by transporting pollen from plant to plant. See also Gizmodo, New Scientist, and The Verge.
The Guardian “Sex doesn’t sell any more, activism does. And don’t the big brands know it”
Companies are now attempting to outdo each other with major acts of generosity, as long as they can make sure their customers know about it – while these brands are showcasing social responsibility, ultimately they are likely most concerned with customer growth and loyalty.
Wired “The next big blue-collar job is coding”
Programming and coding could be the next blue-collar jobs if the focus could shift from expensive four-year computer science degrees to more coding at the vocational level in high school or community college to create competent programmers that could tackle a wealth of opportunities that will be available in the coming years.
Des Moines Register “‘Sanctuary schools’ could be coming to Des Moines”
Des Moines Public Schools will act as “sanctuaries” for undocumented students, barring staff from asking about their immigration status and funneling federal inquiries through the superintendent’s office and district attorney, but stopping short of blocking the district from working with immigration officials.
The New York Times “Yale will drop John Calhoun’s name from building”
After protests, Yale president Peter Salovey announced that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun to honor Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale – the decision was a reversal of the university’s previous decision to maintain the name.
ReCode “Twitter says it’s going to start pushing more abusive tweets out of sight”
Twitter unveiled three new updates to address abusive tweets – new efforts to keep banned users from rejoining the service via new accounts; an optional “safe search” feature that removes tweets with inappropriate words, phrases, or images from search results; and an algorithm-powered feature to hide inappropriate responses to tweets so they don’t appear in user conversations. See also Advertising Age, CNET, and GeekWire.
Engadget “Facebook says it can’t police all posts for racism”
In the course of a German lawsuit over misuse of photos in fake news, a lawyer for Facebook said it wasn’t possible for Facebook to watch for racist language in every post since there are “billions” of posts every day and it would require a “wonder machine” to catch every possible instance of abuse. See also Advertising Age and Consumerist.
Nieman Lab “As a presidential election looms in France, Google and Facebook team up with news outlets to factcheck”
In the lead up to elections in France, Google will partner with media outlets including Agence France-Presse, BuzzFeed News, and Le Monde on a countrywide factchecking initiative calling CrossCheck, which will also see Facebook working with news organizations to reduce the amount of misinformation and hoax stories from appearing on its platform. See also TechCrunch, The Verge, and Vocativ.
CNET “Facebook will help you find food and shelter in emergencies”
Facebook added a Community Help feature to the Safety Check crisis response tool, referring users to a page where they can find help or provide for those in need following a natural disaster or other catastrophe and allowing them to search posts by location and categories, which include food, water, shelter, transportation, baby supplies, and equipment. See also Consumerist, The Drum, Engadget, GeekWire, Mashable, ReCode, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Vocativ.
The Verge “The Met has released more than 375,000 images that you can use for free”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has made high-resolution scans of its entire collection of art in the public domain — more than 375,000 images — available to the public under Creative Commons Zero, allowing the public to use the images in any way they see fit. See also CNET, Mashable, and TechCrunch.
Journalism and News
The Guardian “Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as ‘unreliable’ source”
Wikipedia, which rarely puts in place a blanket ban on publications, has placed a ban on the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group “generally unreliable” with a “reputation for poor fact checking and sensationalism.” See also The Drum and Nieman Lab.
Bloomberg “New York Times offers free Spotify service to boost subscribers”
The New York Times is working with Spotify to give new digital subscribers free access to the music-streaming service, part of the newspaper’s growing strategy to reach younger readers through new partnerships. See also CNET, Consumerist, Engadget, GeekWire, Nieman Lab, and TechCrunch.
Digiday “News publisher Attn is crowdsourcing Facebook Live coverage”
Two-year-old news site Attn: is using Facebook Live to cover protest events, using content recorded by pre-selected protesters already planning to attend events and working with a producer from Attn’s Facebook Live team managing the camera feeds for each live stream remotely.
Nieman Lab “With “Burst Your Bubble,” The Guardian pushes readers beyond their political news boundaries”
The Guardian has launched a Burst Your Bubble column that lists “five conservative articles worth reading to expand your thinking each week.”
Mashable “D.C. police demand Facebook hand over data on Trump protesters”
The D.C. police department subpoenaed Facebook for information about the social data for several protesters arrested while demonstrating against the inauguration of President Donald Trump. See also Engadget.
The Verge “Republicans are reportedly using a self-destructing message app to avoid leaks”
News analysis site Axios reports that Trump administration members and other Republicans are using the encrypted, self-destructing messaging app Confide in the wake of hacks and leaks, including of the Democratic National Committee.
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
Racked “Abercrombie’s new store doesn’t look (or smell) like the Abercrombie you know”
Abercrombie & Fitch’s new concept store features fitting rooms designed as two small rooms within a larger suite so that friends can try on clothing and show each other privately, along with light and music controls, a phone charging station, spaces for seasonal capsule collections, a fragrance “apothecary,” multiple checkout counters, and the option to pick up online orders and place online orders while in the store.
CNET “YouTube takes on Facebook Live with mobile live streaming”
YouTube will soon introduce a mobile live streaming feature, available first to YouTube channels with more than 10,000 subscribers. See also The Drum.
Advertising Age “A&E networks becomes latest TV brand to create shows for Snapchat”
A&E Networks has struck a deal with Snapchat to develop shows that involve talent and brands from its networks like History, Lifetime, and FYI, including a reality show called Second Chance that will be the first reality series being developed for Snapchat that is not based on an existing TV brand or franchise.
TechCrunch “BBC jumps into Snapchat Shows with Planet Earth II; Snap expands Snapcodes”
Snapchat announced a new deal with the UK’s BBC Worldwide to produce a six-episode Snapchat Show for North America based on the popular Planet Earth II documentary series.
The Verge “Prince’s discography reportedly set to hit more streaming services this weekend”
Part of Prince’s music catalog, which had previously been excluded from streaming services, will become available on services like Spotify, Apple Music, and others – Warner Music, which owns the licensing rights to all of Prince’s recordings released before 1996, has made the content available. See also ArsTechnica, The Daily Dot, Mashable, and TechCrunch.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Mashable “Google brings virtual reality directly to your web browser”
Google announced that it would use WebVR to make virtual reality more widely available in the Chrome browser, allowing VR experiences to be hosted on websites so that users can use Daydream-ready phones and a Daydream View headset to browse to a VR experience, select the VR option, and put the phone into the headset.
Business Insider “Facebook is closing hundreds of its Oculus VR pop-ups in Best Buys after some stores went days without a single demo”
Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus virtual reality demo stations at Best Buy locations – many Best Buy employees noted that the Oculus pop-ups could go days without giving a single demonstration. See also MIT Technology Review.