Why you will one day have a chip in your brain

Bryan JohnsonImplanting a microchip inside the brain to augment its mental powers has long been a science fiction trope. Now, the brain computer interface is suddenly the hot new thing in tech. This spring, Elon Musk started a new company, Neuralink, to do it. Facebook, at its F8 developer’s conference, showed a video of an ALS patient typing with her brain. But earlier to the game was Bryan Johnson, an entrepreneur who in 2013 made a bundle by selling his company, Braintree, to Paypal for $800 million. Last year, he used $100 million of that to start Kernel, a company that is exploring how to build and implant chips into the skulls of those with some form of neurological disease and dysfunction, to reprogram their neural networks to restore some of their lost abilities.

But helping to restore a damaged brain is only an entry point for Kernel. Johnson, a 39-year-old from Utah, is looking forward—with almost unseemly enthusiasm—to the day that healthy people can get neural augmentation. He has emerged as one of the most eloquent evangelists of reinventing the human brain. Needless to say, this effort raises lots of questions—the very questions I raised to him in a conversation recently. (It’s been edited for clarity and brevity.) Will his answers make you sign up for a brain computer interface? (Warning: it’s kind of invasive, but Johnson hopes that we might figure out how to do it without major noggin demolition.) Read it and make your own decision—albeit with your obsolete, unmodified brain.

Read more in Wired.

Image courtesy of Wired.

Twitter may introduce feature to let users flag ‘fake news’

Twitter is considering a feature that would let users flag tweets that are false or inaccurate, in an attempt to combat the spread of disinformation on the platform.

The new feature, reported by the Washington Post, would allow Twitter users to report a post as misleading, in the same way they can currently report individual tweets as spam, or abusive or harmful.

The move would follow Facebook, which introduced a way for users to report “fake news” in December last year. That tool allows US users of the site to report “purposefully fake or deceitful news” to the site’s moderators. In the UK, however, the same option only allows users to block or message the poster, offering no way to bring the posts to the attention of the administrators.

Read more at The Guardian.

Image courtesy of The Guardian.

Can a MediaWise campaign help kids see through the advertising world?

Saying that your eight-year-old knows more about technology than you do is one of those humblebrags that’s rarely true – but it at least reflects the reality that children are growing up in a media-saturated world. And while they have no cash, they have something nearly as valuable – pester power – which is why they’ve been in the crosshairs of marketing budgets for decades.

The Irish Heart Foundation pulls no punches in its current “Stop Junk Brands Targeting Kids” campaign, saying that brands “use underhand and unregulated marketing tactics. Their influence has spread into children’s homes, digital devices and even their schools.”

It urges visitors to its site – where cleverly engaging content explains how advertisers sell to children – to sign a petition. The campaign, set against a backdrop of one-in-four Irish children being overweight or obese, is hoping to get 30,000 sign-ups to back its call for Government intervention to protect children’s health through strict controls on digital marketing.

“It is really worrying that seven- to 16-year-olds are spending about three hours a day online, vulnerable to slick marketing that’s pushing foods and drinks that are causing obesity,” said the Irish Heart Foundation’s head of advocacy Chris Macey.

Read more at The Irish Times.

Image courtesy of The Irish Times.

China’s Tencent to limit play time of top-grossing game for children

Tencent Holdings, China’s biggest gaming and social media firm by revenue, said it will limit play time for some young users of “Honour of Kings”, responding to complaints that children were getting addicted to the popular mobile game.

Parents and teachers have complained that children were becoming addicted to the multiplayer online battle game, which, according to the company, has more than 200 million users, mostly in China, and is the top-grossing mobile game in the world.

From Tuesday, users below 12 years of age will be limited to one hour of play time each day, while those aged between 12 years and 18 years will be limited to two hours a day, Tencent said. Tencent did not say whether the limits will be imposed only in China or elsewhere too.

The firm also plans to ban users under 12 years from logging in after 9 p.m. (1300 GMT) and will impose further restrictions on how much money younger users spend on the game, it added.

Read more at Reuters.

Image courtesy of Reuters.

Sony will start making vinyl records again in Japan, after a nearly 30-year hiatus

Sony Music is preparing to make its own vinyl records again in Japan, in another sign that albums are back from the brink of being obsolete. The company says it’s installing record-cutting equipment and enlisting the help of older engineers who know how to reproduce the best sound.

Vinyl sales have seen a resurgence since around 2008. And while records are still a small part of the market, the fact that in 2016, “a format nearly a century old generated 3.6 percent of total global revenues is remarkable,” as NPR’s Andrew Flanagan has reported.

Years of double-digit growth in record sales have left vinyl press plants in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere struggling to meet demand. Sony’s plan reportedly includes the possibility that it will press records on contract.

Read more at NPR.

Image courtesy of NPR.

Full transcript: Defense Secretary James Mattis’ interview with The Islander

In a great show of initiative and student journalism, a local high school newspaper, The Islander, published by Mercer Island High School, managed to get an interview with the U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Read the full feature below:

After obtaining his contact information through its accidental exposure by the Washington Post, The MIHS Islander contacted Secretary of Defense James Mattis for an interview. Two companion pieces to this article, a description and reflection on the experience of getting and conducting the interview as well as a feature on the connection between education and radicalization according to Mattis, have been published online.

Mattis is a retired four-star Marine Corps general who additionally spent time as the NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Transformation and commander of the United States Central Command responsible for operations in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, and Central Asia, from 2010 to 2013.

TEDDY: What subject areas do you think students should be studying in high school and beyond to better prepare themselves to be politically active and aware adults?

MATTIS: Actually, I’ve thought a lot about that question. I would tell you that no matter what you’re going to go into, whether it be business or politics or international relations or domestic politics, I don’t think you can go wrong if you maintain an avid interest in history. The reason I say that is you’ll find that really, there’s nothing new under the sun, other than some of the technology we use.

The human condition, the aspirations, the dreams, the problems that are associated with being social animals, not being a hermit and living alone, but having to interact with others, whether it be your local school district, your community, your state, your county, your national, your international relations, history will show you not all the answers, but it’ll tell you a lot of the questions to ask and furthermore, it will show you how other people have dealt successfully or unsuccessfully with similar type issues. I wish now looking back on it, if I’d known what waited for me in life, I would have put a lot more attention into history.

Read more at The Islander.

Image courtesy of The Islander.

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They built the first phone you loved. Where in the world is Nokia now?

Nokia has arguably been in the communications technology business for a century and a half. “Arguably” because, for that to be true, one needs to consider the company’s original product, paper pulp, a communications technology. Also, one has to know that Nokia Corp. is still in business.

To those who think nostalgically of mobile phones when they hear Nokia, that may not be obvious. For 14 years the tech giant reigned as the world’s biggest handset maker and, while it was at it, a primary engine of Finland’s economy. The company’s fall, however, was swift. In 2012 it lost $4 billion. In 2013 it agreed to sell off its phone business, which employed 32,000, to Microsoft Corp. “It’s evident Nokia doesn’t have the resources to fund the required acceleration across mobile phones and smart devices,” said the company’s chairman, Risto Siilasmaa, in announcing the sale.

But while Nokia has gotten smaller, it remains a big company, with net sales of $26.1 billion last year. It’s a very different company, though, than it was in the heyday of its simple, durable, adorably chunky phones. By and large, it no longer makes things consumers can buy. Today, its familiar all-caps logo is mostly found on network processors, routers, base station radio access units, and other components of the largely invisible infrastructure that undergirds the mobile internet.

Read more at Bloomberg Businessweek.

Image courtesy of Bloomberg Businessweek.

How do you pronounce “GIF”?

Some questions will be pondered for all eternity. What is the meaning of life? Where do you go when you die? And even more puzzlingly, what is the right way to pronounce “GIF”? The Graphics Interchange Format, a file type commonly associated with web animations, is older than the world wide web itself. Debates over whether it begins with a hard “g”, as in “gift”, or a soft one, as in “giraffe”, can make discussions about religion or politics look civil by comparison. Well aware of the risk that taking a side could lead to protests, boycotts or worse, the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster have maintained strict neutrality. They proclaim that both pronunciations are acceptable, betraying nary a hint of favouritism.

With the lexicographical authorities resigned to a “descriptivist” approach, following words and pronunciations wherever the unwashed masses go, those determined to resolve the question once and for all are taking matters into their own hands. In a recent survey Stack Overflow, a forum for computer programmers, asked over 50,000 users in nearly 200 countries a battery of questions. The study began with softball inquiries, such as what respondents had studied and how long they had been coding. Only once they felt at ease and were likely to share their true sentiments, rather than providing whatever they believed was the “politically correct” answer, did the poll segue to its highly sensitive aim: the pronunciation of GIF.

Read more at The Economist.

Image courtesy of The Economist.

Brain drain: The mere presence of one’s own smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity

A new study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, by the University of Chicago, shares how simply using a smartphone impacts and greatly diminishes our abilities to process, analyze and evaluate information.

Our smartphones enable—and encourage—constant connection to information, entertainment, and each other. They put the world at our fingertips, and rarely leave our sides. Although these devices have immense potential to improve welfare, their persistent presence may come at a cognitive cost.

In this research, we test the “brain drain” hypothesis that the mere presence of one’s own smartphone may occupy limited-capacity cognitive resources, thereby leaving fewer resources available for other tasks and undercutting cognitive performance. Results from two experiments indicate that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention—as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones—the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity. Moreover, these cognitive costs are highest for those highest in smartphone dependence. We conclude by discussing the practical implications of this smartphone-induced brain drain for consumer decision-making and consumer welfare.

Read more at the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.

Watch how Apple’s iPhone changed the world, in 10 charts

It’s been 10 years since the iPhone launched on June 29, 2007. It wasn’t the first smartphone, but it did raise the bar for smartphones considerably, putting the internet in everyone’s pockets and launching the mobile revolution. In its wake, few things remain unchanged.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary, here are 10 charts that show how the iPhone has changed the world.

Read more at Recode.

Image courtesy of Recode.

Net Neutrality Day, today July 12

On July 12, 2017, thousands of us are protesting to defend Internet freedom.

Cable companies are famous for high prices and poor service. Several rank as the most hated companies in America. Now, they’re lobbying the FCC and Congress to end net neutrality. Why?

It’s simple: if they win the power to slow sites down, they can bully any site into paying millions to escape the “slow lane.”

This would amount to a tax on every sector of the American economy. Every site would cost more, since they’d all have to pay big cable.

Worse, it would extinguish the startups and independent voices who can’t afford to pay. If we lose net neutrality, the Internet will never be the same.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet providers like Comcast & Verizon should not control what we see and do online.

In 2015, startups, Internet freedom groups, and 3.7 million commenters won strong net neutrality rules from the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The rules prohibit Internet providers from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization—”fast lanes” for sites that pay, and slow lanes for everyone else.

Don’t let that happen. Support Net Neutrality and freedom of speech.

Join the protest and make your voice heard today! Visit www.battleforthenet.com to contact the FCC, learn more information and get involved!

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An agoraphobic photographer’s virtual travels, on Google Street View

Last year, amid the stress of shutting down a company she’d co-founded nearly ten years before, Jacqui Kenny, a New Zealander living in London, began exploring the world on Google Street View. At first, she would pick locales more or less at random, poking around the streets of faraway towns and taking screenshots whenever she stumbled upon a striking image. After a while, she began seeking out certain kinds of views: arid regions with clear horizons; latitudes where she found that the sunlight fell at a dramatic slant. She was soon spending many hours on the project, which became a kind of retreat.

“I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life,” she told me. “I wasn’t in the mood to face the world yet, and this absorbed a lot of my focus.” When she looked back after a year of taking screenshots, she had accumulated an archive of around twenty-six thousand photos.

Kenny now posts photos from the collection on an Instagram account called Agoraphobic Traveller, a reference to another impetus behind the project: Kenny, who is friendly and witty in conversation, suffers from anxiety that, on a bad day, can make it difficult to leave the house. Contrary to a common misconception, agoraphobia is often less a fear of open spaces than it is a fear of losing control.

Read more from The New Yorker.

Image courtesy of The New Yorker.

Amazon isn’t the only retailer celebrating Amazon Prime Day

Call it a glorified ad campaign. Call it a quasi-holiday. Call it whatever you want, but Amazon’s third annual Prime Day is here.

And this year, Amazon isn’t the only one celebrating.

Amazon introduced its first Prime Day in 2015 as a super sale exclusive to Prime members. Last year’s installment increased global sales more than 60% compared with the first year. Unlike past iterations, which ran 24 hours, this year promises an extra six hours of savings, stretching from 6 p.m. Pacific Time Monday until the end of the day Tuesday.

Thanks to the success of previous Prime Days, and Amazon’s growing dominance in the retail market, competitors — including Target, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney — are hoping to cash in on deal-seeking shoppers by holding their own concurrent sales.

Read more in the LA Times.

Image courtesy of the LA Times.

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Looking for a coal job? Better work on those PlayStation skills

While on the campaign trail in West Virginia last year, Donald Trump donned a hardhat and pantomimed digging coal with a shovel. The coal miners in the audience would soon be back to work, he promised: “Get ready, because you are going to be working your asses off.”

The only problem: Coal miners no longer swing a pickax or wield a shovel. While coal companies are hiring again, executives are starting to search for workers who can crunch gigabytes of data or use a joystick to maneuver mining vehicles hundreds of miles away.

“If you do PlayStation, you can run a 300-ton truck,” said Douglas Blackburn, a fourth-generation miner himself who runs the industry consultancy Blackacre LLC. For an industry once notorious for its risks, “the worst that can happen is you sprain a thumb.”

Read more at Bloomberg.

Image courtesy of Bloomberg.

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The opioid epidemic is so bad that librarians are learning how to treat overdoses

librarianA crowd hovered over the man lying on the grass as his skin turned purple. Chera Kowalski crouched next to his limp body, a small syringe in her gloved hand.

Squeeze.

The antidote filled the man’s nostril. The purple faded. Then it came back. Kowalski’s heart raced.

“We only gave him one, and he needs another!” she called to a security guard in McPherson Square Park, a tranquil patch of green in one of this city’s roughest neighborhoods.

“He’s dying,” said a bystander, piling on as tension mounted around lunchtime one recent weekday.

“Where is the ambulance?” a woman begged.

Squeeze. Kowalski dropped the second syringe and put her palm on the man’s sternum.

Knead. Knead. Knead. Nothing. She switched to knuckles. Knead. Knead. Knead.

Then a sound, like a breath. The heroin and methamphetamine overdose that had gripped the man’s body started to succumb to Kowalski’s double hit of Narcan.

With help, the man, named Jay, sat up. Paramedics arrived with oxygen and more meds.

Death, held at bay, again.

Kowalski headed back across the park, toward the century-old, cream-colored building where she works.

“She’s not a paramedic,” the guard, Sterling Davis, said later. “She’s just a teen-adult librarian — and saved six people since April. That’s a lot for a librarian.”

Read more at CNN.

A leading Silicon Valley engineer explains why every tech worker needs a humanities education

In 2005, the late writer David Foster Wallace delivered a now-famous commencement address. It starts with the story of the fish in water, who spend their lives not even knowing what water is. They are naively unaware of the ocean that permits their existence, and the currents that carry them.

The most important education we can receive, Wallace goes on to explain, “isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about.” He talks about finding appreciation for the richness of humanity and society. But it is the core concept of meta-cognition, of examining and editing what it is that we choose to contemplate, that has fixated me as someone who works in the tech industry.

Read more at Quartz.

Image courtesy of Quartz.

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Facebook now has two billion monthly users

mark zuck facebookIt’s official: Facebook now has two billion monthly users. In other words, more than 25 percent of the entire world’s population uses Facebook every month.

Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg are no doubt already thinking about hitting three billion users, but the path to that number promises to be much, much harder.

For starters, much of the world still doesn’t have the internet, which is why Facebook is building things like internet-beaming drones and laying fiber cable in Africa. That’s going to take some time.

The second big obstacle is China, where Facebook is banned from reaching the county’s more than 700 million internet users. If Facebook ever gets into China, three billion could be here much quicker than expected.

Read more at Recode.

Shoutout to our media literacy partners down under! Australian updates

Australian updatesHere are just a few of the programs being held by our media literacy partners down in Australia, the Australian Children’s Television Foundation.

New Education Package: Indigenous Perspectives ​Ahead of 2017 NAIDOC Week, the ACTF has compiled a range of engaging educational content and support materials which represent the diverse experiences of Indigenous Australian children. Read more.

Jeffrey Walker Webinar: Child Actor to International Director In our latest webinar for upper primary and secondary schools, students had the opportunity to ask Australian director Jeffrey Walker about his inspirational career. Read more.

Comedy Scriptwriting Workshops Update Presented in partnership with the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), our entertaining series of virtual comedy scriptwriting workshops for Year 5 and 6 students wrapped up this week. ​​Read more.

Little Lunch App Competition: Start Planning for Term 3! Following the success of last year’s competition, we will be running our Little Lunch App Competition again in Term 3 this year. Entries can be submitted between 4 September – 27 October 2017. Read more.

Visit the ACTF website for more information, or sign up for their newsletter!

New ideas to fight fake news – and Knight money to do so

Three months ago, the Knight Foundation asked people to submit their ideas for ways to battle fake news and bolster factual journalism.

And boy, did they.

More than 800 responded.

On Thursday, the foundation and two partners announced 20 winners, each to receive a $50,000 grant to further their work.

They include Baltimore-based Veracity.ai, which wants to curb the financial incentive for creating fake news via automatically updated lists of misleading websites.

Another winner is Who Said What, based in San Francisco, which aims to help people more easily fact-check audio and video news clips through a search tool that annotates millions of those clips.

Read more at Philly.

Image courtesy of Philly.

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Humans can’t expect AI to just fight fake news for them

Here’s some news that’s not fake: Not everything you can read on the internet is true. Trouble is, it can be hard to know truths from untruths, and there’s evidence untruths travel faster. Many hands have been wrung in recent months over what to do about made-up news stories created to convert social media shares into page views, ad dollars, and perhaps even political traction. The modest first results from an effort to crowdsource machine learning technology to help stem the flood of falsity are a reminder that machines may help us grapple with fake news—but only if humans take the lead.

Late last year, Facebook’s director of AI research Yann LeCun told journalists that machine learning technology that could squash fake news “either exists or can be developed.” The company has since said it tweaked the News Feed to suppress fake news, although it’s unclear to what effect. Not long after LeCun’s comment, a group of academics, tech industry insiders, and journalists launched their own project called the Fake News Challenge to try and get fake news-detecting algorithms built out in the open.

The first results from that effort were released this morning. The algorithms the winning teams created might help rein in online misinformation, but as tools to speed up humans working on the problem, not autonomous fake news killbots.

Read more at Wired.

Image courtesy of Wired.

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How battling brands online has gained urgency, and impact

Until last week, Travis Kalanick, a founder of Uber and its chief executive, ruled his company absolutely. That was the Silicon Valley way; ever since Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple in the 1980s, tech founders have demanded, and been awarded, enormous deference by investors and corporate boards. So even as successive waves of scandal have hit Uber, Mr. Kalanick’s position looked safe.

Then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t. Amid many reforms, Mr. Kalanick announced a leave of absence last week and late Tuesday said he was resigning as Uber C.E.O.

It is the swiftness of the fall that’s interesting here. In another time, Mr. Kalanick might have been able to hang on. But we live in an era dominated by the unyielding influence of social feeds. Every new Uber revelation ignited a massive campaign against the company on Twitter and Facebook. A swirl of negative branding took on a life of its own — and ultimately could not be ignored.

The story is bigger than Uber.

Read more at The New York Times.

Image courtesy of The New York Times.

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Amazon granted a patent that prevents in-store shoppers from online price checking

Amazon’s long been a go-to for people to online price compare while shopping at brick-and-mortars. Now, a new patent granted to the company could prevent people from doing just that inside Amazon’s own stores.

The patent, titled “Physical Store Online Shopping Control,” details a mechanism where a retailer can intercept network requests like URLs and search terms that happen on its in-store Wi-Fi, then act upon them in various ways.

The document details in great length how a retailer like Amazon would use this information to its benefit. If, for example, the retailer sees you’re trying to access a competitor’s website to price check an item, it could compare the requested content to what’s offered in-store and then send price comparison information or a coupon to your browser instead. Or it could suggest a complementary item, or even block content outright.

Read more at The Verge.

Image courtesy of The Verge.

Why Amazon bought Whole Foods

amazon whole foodAmazon announced Friday, June 16 that it’s buying Whole Foods for just under $14 billion, the retailer’s largest acquisition ever. The purchase holds implications for the future of groceries, the entire food industry, and—as hyperbolic as this might sound—the future of shopping for just about anything.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. At the simplest level, the deal represents a straightforward confluence of interests. Amazon needs food and urban real estate, and Whole Foods needs help.

The e-commerce giant has been expanding into groceries and physical locations, including bookstores, ironically working itself back into the brick-and-mortar business that it’s also disrupting. Whole Foods, meanwhile, offers the biggest name in yuppie groceries and a fleet of urban locations, which can double as Amazon warehouses. Meanwhile, the grocer is in a tailspin, its stock price cascading as revenue growth has fallen every year since 2012. Investors had for weeks been pushing the company to sell itself to a larger grocer, like Kroger. That Whole Foods ended up with Amazon is poetic justice, considering that, in 2015, CEO John Mackey said Amazon’s move into grocery delivery would be “Amazon’s Waterloo.” Doubters of Amazon’s strategy can point to the fact that groceries are a terrible, low-margin business. That’s true—almost as terrible and low-margin as e-commerce, where Amazon has already demonstrated that it can hypnotize Wall Street’s myopic financiers, while it spends tens of billions of dollars building a global warehousing and delivery infrastructure for a shopping future that is moving online. In short, Whole Foods was in a free fall, and Amazon is the perfect net to catch it.

Read more at The Atlantic.

Image courtesy of The Atlantic.

And just like that, Google becomes the world’s largest job board

Monster. CareerBuilder. GlassDoor. LinkedIn. When you’re looking for a new job, you’re required to dig through countless job boards, managing logins and apps. Or it did. Now you can just google it.

Starting today, when you search something like “jobs near me” or “restaurant jobs in Chicago,” you’ll be ushered to a new part of Google Search that falls under the umbrella Google for Jobs. Here, you can further specify the opportunity you’re looking for, and Google will list opportunities from some of the largest employer databases on the web (including every site mentioned at the top of this article).

Read more at Fast Co Design.

Video courtesy of Fast Co Design.

Watch the newest ads on TV from Samsung, Apple, Audible and more

Every weekday, we bring you the Ad Age/iSpot Hot Spots, new and trending TV commercials tracked by iSpot.tv, the real-time TV ad measurement company with attention and conversion analytics from 10 million smart TVs. The New Releases here ran on TV for the first time yesterday. The Most Engaging ads are ranked by digital activity (including online views and social shares) over the past week.

Among the new releases, Samsung shows how a wannabe astronaut — a little girl in full space suit — can live out her dreams of exploration, fueled by blue “rocketsicles,” thanks to the help of the household Family Hub refrigerator. Apple brings us two spots, with the first for its iPhone: a touching tale of an archivist carefully curating a family’s memories (cue baby laughing) using old-school techniques to create a modern piece of technology — an iPhone Memories video. (Creativity has the backstory on the spot.) The second, for Apple Music, spotlights 19-year-old R&B artist Khalid and his song “Location” as part of Apple’s monthly Up Next program introducing new artists.

View them here at Ad Age.

Video courtesy of Ad Age.

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