Higher education digs its own grave.
West Virginia University is planning to cut 9% of its majors, all foreign language programs, and 16% of its full-time faculty members to address a $45 million budget deficit. WVU President Gordon Gee announced the cuts, rebuffing critics by claiming that he’s merely fulfilling a promise: “In 2020 I said that we needed to make these [cuts] in order to be a competitive university on the national stage.” Critics say the move is a failing of institutional leadership and the result of financial mismanagement; confusingly, Gee’s plan proposes to eliminate even profitable programs from the university’s offerings. This move fits into a self-defeating pattern of higher education management in the U.S., where institutional leaders see declining enrollment in humanities programming as justification for deep cuts (as opposed to, say, an existential threat to our country’s ability to foster curiosity and innovation, but I digress). For an extended discussion of this story, you can check out the most recent episode of my education podcast, 16:1.
404 Media emerges from the ashes of Motherboard.
A group of expats from bankrupted Vice Media’s tech brand Motherboard have started 404 Media, a journalist-owned venture that “[explores] the ways technology is shaping–and is shaped by–our world.” The move follows a trend where journalist-owned digital media publications are operating low-overhead, subscription-based websites, a refreshing alternative to the ad-driven, venture capital-backed, AI-infiltrating digital publishing hellscape that has become synonymous with mass media in the U.S.. And speaking of AI…
Maybe the machines aren’t coming for us after all.
Humans won a victory over machines last week when a federal judge ruled that AI-generated artwork is not copyrightable, stating “human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright.” Judge Beryl A. Howell’s ruling envisions a future wherein resolving copyright questions will become more difficult, as artists, writers, coders, and AI enthusiasts will more readily employ AI tools for the creation of new works. As the courts contemplate human inputs to AI systems, artists and writers are fighting back against their work being used for commercial AI training. Researchers are beginning to notice the declining quality of commercial generative AI output, and even the average consumer is becoming more hesitant to jump on the AI hype train. Capriciousness of consumer sentiment aside, I am eager to see educators and legislators start to address a woeful lack of tech literacy that may cause AI to destroy the Internet.
Odds, Ends, Bits, & Bytes
- The Digital Public Library of America has launched Banned Book Club, a tool that provides readers access to books that are banned by their local libraries.
- The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing has alerted state Medicaid recipients and other impacted individuals of a massive data breach attributed to its use of IBM software that incorporates the MOVEit Transfer application. Full names, social security numbers, addresses, and additional records were compromised in the breach.
- The Library of Congress will hold its annual public meeting on legislative information services on September 13th. Register to attend if you wish to shape the future of Congress.gov and other federally-controlled data repositories and APIs.