Tag Archives: jobs

A potpourri of robot/AI stories: killers , kindergarten teachers, a Balenciaga-inspired AI fashion designer, a conversational android, and more

Following on my August 29, 2018 post (Sexbots, sexbot ethics, families, and marriage), I’m following up with a more general piece.

Robots, AI (artificial intelligence), and androids (humanoid robots), the terms can be confusing since there’s a tendency to use them interchangeably. Confession: I do it too, but, not this time. That said, I have multiple news bits.

Killer ‘bots and ethics

The U.S. military is already testing a Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System. Credit: Lance Cpl. Julien Rodarte, U.S. Marine Corps

That is a robot.

For the purposes of this posting, a robot is a piece of hardware which may or may not include an AI system and does not mimic a human or other biological organism such that you might, under circumstances, mistake the robot for a biological organism.

As for what precipitated this feature (in part), it seems there’s been a United Nations meeting in Geneva, Switzerland held from August 27 – 31, 2018 about war and the use of autonomous robots, i.e., robots equipped with AI systems and designed for independent action. BTW, it’s the not first meeting the UN has held on this topic.

Bonnie Docherty, lecturer on law and associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection, international human rights clinic, Harvard Law School, has written an August 21, 2018 essay on The Conversation (also on phys.org) describing the history and the current rules around the conduct of war, as well as, outlining the issues with the military use of autonomous robots (Note: Links have been removed),

When drafting a treaty on the laws of war at the end of the 19th century, diplomats could not foresee the future of weapons development. But they did adopt a legal and moral standard for judging new technology not covered by existing treaty language.

This standard, known as the Martens Clause, has survived generations of international humanitarian law and gained renewed relevance in a world where autonomous weapons are on the brink of making their own determinations about whom to shoot and when. The Martens Clause calls on countries not to use weapons that depart “from the principles of humanity and from the dictates of public conscience.”

I was the lead author of a new report by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic that explains why fully autonomous weapons would run counter to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience. We found that to comply with the Martens Clause, countries should adopt a treaty banning the development, production and use of these weapons.

Representatives of more than 70 nations will gather from August 27 to 31 [2018] at the United Nations in Geneva to debate how to address the problems with what they call lethal autonomous weapon systems. These countries, which are parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, have discussed the issue for five years. My co-authors and I believe it is time they took action and agreed to start negotiating a ban next year.

Docherty elaborates on her points (Note: A link has been removed),

The Martens Clause provides a baseline of protection for civilians and soldiers in the absence of specific treaty law. The clause also sets out a standard for evaluating new situations and technologies that were not previously envisioned.

Fully autonomous weapons, sometimes called “killer robots,” would select and engage targets without meaningful human control. They would be a dangerous step beyond current armed drones because there would be no human in the loop to determine when to fire and at what target. Although fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist, China, Israel, Russia, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States are all working to develop them. They argue that the technology would process information faster and keep soldiers off the battlefield.

The possibility that fully autonomous weapons could soon become a reality makes it imperative for those and other countries to apply the Martens Clause and assess whether the technology would offend basic humanity and the public conscience. Our analysis finds that fully autonomous weapons would fail the test on both counts.

I encourage you to read the essay in its entirety and for anyone who thinks the discussion about ethics and killer ‘bots is new or limited to military use, there’s my July 25, 2016 posting about police use of a robot in Dallas, Texas. (I imagine the discussion predates 2016 but that’s the earliest instance I have here.)

Teacher bots

Robots come in many forms and this one is on the humanoid end of the spectum,

Children watch a Keeko robot at the Yiswind Institute of Multicultural Education in Beijing, where the intelligent machines are telling stories and challenging kids with logic problems  [donwloaded from https://phys.org/news/2018-08-robot-teachers-invade-chinese-kindergartens.html]

Don’t those ‘eyes’ look almost heart-shaped? No wonder the kids love these robots, if an August  29, 2018 news item on phys.org can be believed,

The Chinese kindergarten children giggled as they worked to solve puzzles assigned by their new teaching assistant: a roundish, short educator with a screen for a face.

Just under 60 centimetres (two feet) high, the autonomous robot named Keeko has been a hit in several kindergartens, telling stories and challenging children with logic problems.

Round and white with a tubby body, the armless robot zips around on tiny wheels, its inbuilt cameras doubling up both as navigational sensors and a front-facing camera allowing users to record video journals.

In China, robots are being developed to deliver groceries, provide companionship to the elderly, dispense legal advice and now, as Keeko’s creators hope, join the ranks of educators.

At the Yiswind Institute of Multicultural Education on the outskirts of Beijing, the children have been tasked to help a prince find his way through a desert—by putting together square mats that represent a path taken by the robot—part storytelling and part problem-solving.

Each time they get an answer right, the device reacts with delight, its face flashing heart-shaped eyes.

“Education today is no longer a one-way street, where the teacher teaches and students just learn,” said Candy Xiong, a teacher trained in early childhood education who now works with Keeko Robot Xiamen Technology as a trainer.

“When children see Keeko with its round head and body, it looks adorable and children love it. So when they see Keeko, they almost instantly take to it,” she added.

Keeko robots have entered more than 600 kindergartens across the country with its makers hoping to expand into Greater China and Southeast Asia.

Beijing has invested money and manpower in developing artificial intelligence as part of its “Made in China 2025” plan, with a Chinese firm last year unveiling the country’s first human-like robot that can hold simple conversations and make facial expressions.

According to the International Federation of Robots, China has the world’s top industrial robot stock, with some 340,000 units in factories across the country engaged in manufacturing and the automotive industry.

Moving on from hardware/software to a software only story.

AI fashion designer better than Balenciaga?

Despite the title for Katharine Schwab’s August 22, 2018 article for Fast Company, I don’t think this AI designer is better than Balenciaga but from the pictures I’ve seen the designs are as good and it does present some intriguing possibilities courtesy of its neural network (Note: Links have been removed),

The AI, created by researcher Robbie Barat, has created an entire collection based on Balenciaga’s previous styles. There’s a fabulous pink and red gradient jumpsuit that wraps all the way around the model’s feet–like a onesie for fashionistas–paired with a dark slouchy coat. There’s a textural color-blocked dress, paired with aqua-green tights. And for menswear, there’s a multi-colored, shimmery button-up with skinny jeans and mismatched shoes. None of these looks would be out of place on the runway.

To create the styles, Barat collected images of Balenciaga’s designs via the designer’s lookbooks, ad campaigns, runway shows, and online catalog over the last two months, and then used them to train the pix2pix neural net. While some of the images closely resemble humans wearing fashionable clothes, many others are a bit off–some models are missing distinct limbs, and don’t get me started on how creepy [emphasis mine] their faces are. Even if the outfits aren’t quite ready to be fabricated, Barat thinks that designers could potentially use a tool like this to find inspiration. Because it’s not constrained by human taste, style, and history, the AI comes up with designs that may never occur to a person. “I love how the network doesn’t really understand or care about symmetry,” Barat writes on Twitter.

You can see the ‘creepy’ faces and some of the designs here,

Image: Robbie Barat

In contrast to the previous two stories, this all about algorithms, no machinery with independent movement (robot hardware) needed.

Conversational android: Erica

Hiroshi Ishiguro and his lifelike (definitely humanoid) robots have featured here many, many times before. The most recent posting is a March 27, 2017 posting about his and his android’s participation at the 2017 SXSW festival.

His latest work is featured in an August 21, 2018 news news item on ScienceDaily,

We’ve all tried talking with devices, and in some cases they talk back. But, it’s a far cry from having a conversation with a real person.

Now a research team from Kyoto University, Osaka University, and the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute, or ATR, have significantly upgraded the interaction system for conversational android ERICA, giving her even greater dialog skills.

ERICA is an android created by Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University and ATR, specifically designed for natural conversation through incorporation of human-like facial expressions and gestures. The research team demonstrated the updates during a symposium at the National Museum of Emerging Science in Tokyo.

Here’s the latest conversational android, Erica

Caption: The experimental set up when the subject (left) talks with ERICA (right) Credit: Kyoto University / Kawahara lab

An August 20, 2018 Kyoto University press release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, offers more details,

When we talk to one another, it’s never a simple back and forward progression of information,” states Tatsuya Kawahara of Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Informatics, and an expert in speech and audio processing.

“Listening is active. We express agreement by nodding or saying ‘uh-huh’ to maintain the momentum of conversation. This is called ‘backchanneling’, and is something we wanted to implement with ERICA.”

The team also focused on developing a system for ‘attentive listening’. This is when a listener asks elaborating questions, or repeats the last word of the speaker’s sentence, allowing for more engaging dialogue.

Deploying a series of distance sensors, facial recognition cameras, and microphone arrays, the team began collecting data on parameters necessary for a fluid dialog between ERICA and a human subject.

“We looked at three qualities when studying backchanneling,” continues Kawahara. “These were: timing — when a response happens; lexical form — what is being said; and prosody, or how the response happens.”

Responses were generated through machine learning using a counseling dialogue corpus, resulting in dramatically improved dialog engagement. Testing in five-minute sessions with a human subject, ERICA demonstrated significantly more dynamic speaking skill, including the use of backchanneling, partial repeats, and statement assessments.

“Making a human-like conversational robot is a major challenge,” states Kawahara. “This project reveals how much complexity there is in listening, which we might consider mundane. We are getting closer to a day where a robot can pass a Total Turing Test.”

Erica seems to have been first introduced publicly in Spring 2017, from an April 2017 Erica: Man Made webpage on The Guardian website,

Erica is 23. She has a beautiful, neutral face and speaks with a synthesised voice. She has a degree of autonomy – but can’t move her hands yet. Hiroshi Ishiguro is her ‘father’ and the bad boy of Japanese robotics. Together they will redefine what it means to be human and reveal that the future is closer than we might think.

Hiroshi Ishiguro and his colleague Dylan Glas are interested in what makes a human. Erica is their latest creation – a semi-autonomous android, the product of the most funded scientific project in Japan. But these men regard themselves as artists more than scientists, and the Erica project – the result of a collaboration between Osaka and Kyoto universities and the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International – is a philosophical one as much as technological one.

Erica is interviewed about her hope and dreams – to be able to leave her room and to be able to move her arms and legs. She likes to chat with visitors and has one of the most advanced speech synthesis systems yet developed. Can she be regarded as being alive or as a comparable being to ourselves? Will she help us to understand ourselves and our interactions as humans better?

Erica and her creators are interviewed in the science fiction atmosphere of Ishiguro’s laboratory, and this film asks how we might form close relationships with robots in the future. Ishiguro thinks that for Japanese people especially, everything has a soul, whether human or not. If we don’t understand how human hearts, minds and personalities work, can we truly claim that humans have authenticity that machines don’t?

Ishiguro and Glas want to release Erica and her fellow robots into human society. Soon, Erica may be an essential part of our everyday life, as one of the new children of humanity.

Key credits

  • Director/Editor: Ilinca Calugareanu
  • Producer: Mara Adina
  • Executive producers for the Guardian: Charlie Phillips and Laurence Topham
  • This video is produced in collaboration with the Sundance Institute Short Documentary Fund supported by the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation

You can also view the 14 min. film here.

Artworks generated by an AI system are to be sold at Christie’s auction house

KC Ifeanyi’s August 22, 2018 article for Fast Company may send a chill down some artists’ spines,

For the first time in its 252-year history, Christie’s will auction artwork generated by artificial intelligence.

Created by the French art collective Obvious, “Portrait of Edmond de Belamy” is part of a series of paintings of the fictional Belamy family that was created using a two-part algorithm. …

The portrait is estimated to sell anywhere between $7,000-$10,000, and Obvious says the proceeds will go toward furthering its algorithm.

… Famed collector Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre bought one of Obvious’s Belamy works in February, which could’ve been written off as a novel purchase where the story behind it is worth more than the piece itself. However, with validation from a storied auction house like Christie’s, AI art could shake the contemporary art scene.

“Edmond de Belamy” goes up for auction from October 23-25 [2018].

Jobs safe from automation? Are there any?

Michael Grothaus expresses more optimism about future job markets than I’m feeling in an August 30, 2018 article for Fast Company,

A 2017 McKinsey Global Institute study of 800 occupations across 46 countries found that by 2030, 800 million people will lose their jobs to automation. That’s one-fifth of the global workforce. A further one-third of the global workforce will need to retrain if they want to keep their current jobs as well. And looking at the effects of automation on American jobs alone, researchers from Oxford University found that “47 percent of U.S. workers have a high probability of seeing their jobs automated over the next 20 years.”

The good news is that while the above stats are rightly cause for concern, they also reveal that 53% of American jobs and four-fifths of global jobs are unlikely to be affected by advances in artificial intelligence and robotics. But just what are those fields? I spoke to three experts in artificial intelligence, robotics, and human productivity to get their automation-proof career advice.

Creatives

“Although I believe every single job can, and will, benefit from a level of AI or robotic influence, there are some roles that, in my view, will never be replaced by technology,” says Tom Pickersgill, …

Maintenance foreman

When running a production line, problems and bottlenecks are inevitable–and usually that’s a bad thing. But in this case, those unavoidable issues will save human jobs because their solutions will require human ingenuity, says Mark Williams, head of product at People First, …

Hairdressers

Mat Hunter, director of the Central Research Laboratory, a tech-focused co-working space and accelerator for tech startups, have seen startups trying to create all kinds of new technologies, which has given him insight into just what machines can and can’t pull off. It’s lead him to believe that jobs like the humble hairdresser are safer from automation than those of, says, accountancy.

Therapists and social workers

Another automation-proof career is likely to be one involved in helping people heal the mind, says Pickersgill. “People visit therapists because there is a need for emotional support and guidance. This can only be provided through real human interaction–by someone who can empathize and understand, and who can offer advice based on shared experiences, rather than just data-driven logic.”

Teachers

Teachers are so often the unsung heroes of our society. They are overworked and underpaid–yet charged with one of the most important tasks anyone can have: nurturing the growth of young people. The good news for teachers is that their jobs won’t be going anywhere.

Healthcare workers

Doctors and nurses will also likely never see their jobs taken by automation, says Williams. While automation will no doubt better enhance the treatments provided by doctors and nurses the fact of the matter is that robots aren’t going to outdo healthcare workers’ ability to connect with patients and make them feel understood the way a human can.

Caretakers

While humans might be fine with robots flipping their burgers and artificial intelligence managing their finances, being comfortable with a robot nannying your children or looking after your elderly mother is a much bigger ask. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that even today’s most advanced robots don’t have the physical dexterity to perform the movements and actions carers do every day.

Grothaus does offer a proviso in his conclusion: certain types of jobs are relatively safe until developers learn to replicate qualities such as empathy in robots/AI.

It’s very confusing

There’s so much news about robots, artificial intelligence, androids, and cyborgs that it’s hard to keep up with it let alone attempt to get a feeling for where all this might be headed. When you add the fact that the term robots/artificial inteligence are often used interchangeably and that the distinction between robots/androids/cyborgs is not always clear any attempts to peer into the future become even more challenging.

At this point I content myself with tracking the situation and finding definitions so I can better understand what I’m tracking. Carmen Wong’s August 23, 2018 posting on the Signals blog published by Canada’s Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) offers some useful definitions in the context of an article about the use of artificial intelligence in the life sciences, particularly in Canada (Note: Links have been removed),

Artificial intelligence (AI). Machine learning. To most people, these are just buzzwords and synonymous. Whether or not we fully understand what both are, they are slowly integrating into our everyday lives. Virtual assistants such as Siri? AI is at work. The personalized ads you see when you are browsing on the web or movie recommendations provided on Netflix? Thank AI for that too.

AI is defined as machines having intelligence that imitates human behaviour such as learning, planning and problem solving. A process used to achieve AI is called machine learning, where a computer uses lots of data to “train” or “teach” itself, without human intervention, to accomplish a pre-determined task. Essentially, the computer keeps on modifying its algorithm based on the information provided to get to the desired goal.

Another term you may have heard of is deep learning. Deep learning is a particular type of machine learning where algorithms are set up like the structure and function of human brains. It is similar to a network of brain cells interconnecting with each other.

Toronto has seen its fair share of media-worthy AI activity. The Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, industry and multiple universities came together in March 2018 to launch the Vector Institute, with the goal of using AI to promote economic growth and improve the lives of Canadians. In May, Samsung opened its AI Centre in the MaRS Discovery District, joining a network of Samsung centres located in California, United Kingdom and Russia.

There has been a boom in AI companies over the past few years, which span a variety of industries. This year’s ranking of the top 100 most promising private AI companies covers 25 fields with cybersecurity, enterprise and robotics being the hot focus areas.

Wong goes on to explore AI deployment in the life sciences and concludes that human scientists and doctors will still be needed although she does note this in closing (Note: A link has been removed),

More importantly, empathy and support from a fellow human being could never be fully replaced by a machine (could it?), but maybe this will change in the future. We will just have to wait and see.

Artificial empathy is the term used in Lisa Morgan’s April 25, 2018 article for Information Week which unfortunately does not include any links to actual projects or researchers working on artificial empathy. Instead, the article is focused on how business interests and marketers would like to see it employed. FWIW, I have found a few references: (1) Artificial empathy Wikipedia essay (look for the references at the end of the essay for more) and (2) this open access article: Towards Artificial Empathy; How Can Artificial Empathy Follow the Developmental Pathway of Natural Empathy? by Minoru Asada.

Please let me know in the comments if you should have an insights on the matter in the comments section of this blog.

Is technology taking our jobs? (a Women in Communications and Technology, BC Chapter event) and Brave New Work in Vancouver (Canada)

Awkwardly named as it is, the Women in Communications and Technology BC Chapter (WCTBC) has been reinvigorated after a moribund period (from a Feb. 21, 2018 posting by Rebecca Bollwitt for the Miss 604 blog),

There’s an exciting new organization and event series coming to Vancouver, which will aim to connect, inspire, and advance women in the communications and technology industries. I’m honoured to be on the Board of Directors for the newly rebooted Women in Communications and Technology, BC Chapter (“WCTBC”) and we’re ready to announce our first event!

Women in Debate: Is Technology Taking Our Jobs?

When: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 5:30pm
Where: BLG – 200 Burrard, 1200 Waterfront Centre, Vancouver
Tickets: Register online today. The cost is $25 for WCT members and $35 for non-members.

Automation, driven by technological progress, has been expanding for the past several decades. As the pace of development increases, so has the urgency in the debate about the potential effects of automation on jobs, employment, and human activity. Will new technology spawn mass unemployment, as the robots take jobs away from humans? Or is this part of a cycle that predates even the Industrial Revolution in which some jobs will become obsolete, while new jobs will be created?

Debaters:
Christin Wiedemann – Co-CEO, PQA Testing
Kathy Gibson – President, Catchy Consulting
Laura Sukorokoff – Senior Trainer & Communications, Hyperwallet
Sally Whitehead – Global Director, Sophos

Based on the Oxford style debates popularized by the podcast ‘Intelligence Squared’, the BC chapter of Women in Communications and Technology brings you Women in Debate: Is Technology Taking Our Jobs?

For anyone not familiar with “Intelligence Squared,”  there’s this from their About webpage,

ntelligence Squared is the world’s premier forum for debate and intelligent discussion. Live and online we take you to the heart of the issues that matter, in the company of some of the world’s sharpest minds and most exciting orators.

Intelligence Squared Live

Our events have captured the imagination of public audiences for more than a decade, welcoming the biggest names in politics, journalism and the arts. Our celebrated list of speakers includes President Jimmy Carter, Stephen Fry, Patti Smith, Richard Dawkins, Sean Penn, Marina Abramovic, Werner Herzog, Terry Gilliam, Anne Marie Slaughter, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Mary Beard, Yuval Noah Harari, Jonathan Franzen, Salman Rushdie, Eric Schmidt, Richard Branson, Professor Brian Cox, Nate Silver, Umberto Eco, Martin Amis and Grayson Perry.

Further digging into WCTBC unearthed this story about the reasons for its ‘reboot’, from the Who we are / Regional Chapters / British Columbia webpage,

“Earlier this month [October 2017?], Christin Wiedemann and Briana Sim, co-Chairs of the BC Chapter of WCT, attended a Women in IoT [Internet of Things] event in Vancouver. The event was organized by the GE Women’s Network and TELUS Connections, with WCT as an event partner. The event sold out after only two days, and close to 200 women attended.

Five female panelists representing different backgrounds and industries talked about the impact IoT is having on our lives today, and how they think IoT fits into the future of the technology landscape. Christin facilitated the Q&A portion of the event, and had an opportunity to share that the BC chapter is rebooting and hopes to launch a kickoff event later in November”

You can find a summary of the event here (http://gereports.ca/theres-lots-room-us-top-insights-five-canadas-top-women-business-leaders-iot/#), and you can also check out the Storify (https://storify.com/cwiedemann/women-in-iot​).”

– October 6th, 2017

Simon Fraser University’s Brave New Work

Coincidentally or not, there’s a major series of events being offered by Simon Fraser University’s (SFU; located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) Public Square Programme in their 2018 Community Summit Series titled: Brave New Work; How can we thrive in the changing world of work? which takes place February 26, 2018 to March 7, 2018.

There’s not a single mention (!!!!!) of Brave New World (by Aldous Huxley) in what is clearly word play based on this man’s book.

From the 2018 Community Summit: Brave New Work webpage on the SFU website (Note: Links have been removed),

How can we thrive in the changing world of work?

The 2018 Community Summit, Brave New Work, invites us to consider how we can all thrive in the changing world of work.

Technological growth is happening at an unprecedented rate and scale, and it is fundamentally altering the way we organize and value work. The work we do (and how we do it) is changing. One of the biggest challenges in effectively responding to this new world of work is creating a shared understanding of the issues at play and how they intersect. Individuals, businesses, governments, educational institutions, and civil society must collaborate to construct the future we want.

The future of work is here, but it’s still ours to define. From February 26th to March 7th, we will convene diverse communities through a range of events and activities to provoke thinking and encourage solution-finding. We hope you’ll join us.

The New World of Work: Thriving or Surviving?

As part of its 2018 Community Summit, Brave New Work, SFU Public Square is proud to present, in partnership with Vancity, an evening with Van Jones and Anne-Marie Slaughter, moderated by CBC’s Laura Lynch at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Van Jones and Anne-Marie Slaughter, two leading commentators on the American economy, will discuss the role that citizens, governments and civil society can play in shaping the future of work. They will explore the challenges ahead, as well as how these challenges might be addressed through green jobs, emergent industries, education and public policy.

Join us for an important conversation about how the future of work can be made to work for all of us.

Are you a member of Vancity? As one of the many perks of being a Vancity member, you have access to a free ticket to attend the event. For your free ticket, please visit Vancity for more information. There are a limited number of seats reserved for Vancity members, so we encourage you to register early.

Tickets are now on sale, get yours today!

Future of Work in Canada: Emerging Trends and Opportunities

What are some of the trends currently defining the new world of work in Canada, and what does our future look like? What opportunities can be seized to build more competitive, prosperous, and inclusive organizations? This mini-conference, presented in partnership with Deloitte Canada, will feature panel discussions and presentations by representatives from Deloitte, Brookfield Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Vancity, Futurpreneur, and many more.

Work in the 21st Century: Innovations in Research

Research doesn’t just live in libraries and academic papers; it has a profound impact on our day to day lives. Work in the 21st Century is a dynamic evening that showcases the SFU researchers and entrepreneurs who are leading the way in making innovative impacts in the new world of work.

Basic Income

This lecture will examine the question of basic income (BI). A neoliberal version of BI is being considered and even developed by a number of governments and institutions of global capitalism. This form of BI could enhance the supply of low wage precarious workers, by offering a public subsidy to employers, paid for by cuts to others areas of social provision.

ReframeWork

ReframeWork is a national gathering of leading thinkers and innovators on the topic of Future of Work. We will explore how Canada can lead in forming new systems for good work and identify the richest areas of opportunity for solution-building that affects broader change.

The Urban Worker Project Skillshare

The Urban Worker Project Skillshare is a day-long gathering, bringing together over 150 independent workers to lean on each other, learn from each other, get valuable expert advice, and build community. Join us!

SFU City Conversations: Making Visible the Invisible

Are outdated and stereotypical gender roles contributing to the invisible workload? What is the invisible workload anyway? Don’t miss this special edition of SFU City Conversations on intersectionality and invisible labour, presented in partnership with the Simon Fraser Student Society Women’s Centre.

Climate of Work: How Does Climate Change Affect the Future of Work

What does our changing climate have to do with the future of work? Join Embark as they explore the ways our climate impacts different industries such as planning, communications or entrepreneurship.

Symposium: Art, Labour, and the Future of Work

One of the key distinguishing features of Western modernity is that the activity of labour has always been at the heart of our self-understanding. Work defines who we are. But what might we do in a world without work? Join SFU’s Institute for the Humanities for a symposium on art, aesthetics, and self-understanding.

Worker Writers and the Poetics of Labour

If you gave a worker a pen, what would they write? What stories would they tell, and what experiences might they share? Hear poetry about what it is to work in the 21st century directly from participants of the Worker Writers School at this free public poetry reading.

Creating a Diverse and Resilient Economy in Metro Vancouver

This panel conversation event will focus on the future of employment in Metro Vancouver, and planning for the employment lands that support the regional economy. What are the trends and issues related to employment in various sectors in Metro Vancouver, and how does land use planning, regulation, and market demand affect the future of work regionally?

Preparing Students for the Future World of Work

This event, hosted by CACEE Canada West and SFU Career and Volunteer Services, will feature presentations and discussions on how post-secondary institutions can prepare students for the future of work.

Work and Purpose Later in Life

How is the changing world of work affecting older adults? And what role should work play in our lives, anyway? This special Philosophers’ Cafe will address questions of retirement, purpose, and work for older adults.

Beyond Bitcoin: Blockchain and the Future of Work

Blockchain technology is making headlines. Enthusiastic or skeptic, the focus of this dialogue will be to better understand key concepts and to explore the wide-ranging applications of distributed ledgers and the implications for business here in BC and in the global economy.

Building Your Resilience

Being a university student can be stressful. This interactive event will share key strategies for enhancing your resilience and well-being, that will support your success now and in your future career.

We may not be working because of robots (no mention of automation in the SFU descriptions?) but we sure will talk about work-related topics. Sarcasm aside, it’s good to see this interest in work and in public discussion although I’m deeply puzzled by SFU’s decision to seemingly ignore technology, except for blockchain. Thank goodness for WCTBC. At any rate, I’m often somewhat envious of what goes on elsewhere so it’s nice to see this level of excitement and effort here in Vancouver.

Become a press and communications officer for the UK’s Society of Biology

The application deadline for the job is Monday, June 23, 2014 5 pm (London, UK time). Should you be living on the West Coast of Canada or the US (not sure about Mexico as that country curves east the further south you travel) move the time back 8 hours for a 9 am deadline.

Here’s more about the job (h/t Rebecca N) from the Press & Communications Officer posting on the Society of Biology’s Job Board,

Job title: Press & Communications Officer

Reports to: Director of Membership, Marketing & Communications

Overall purpose: To ensure, through proactive media & PR activity, that the Society has the profile and level of publicity to support the organisation’s vision and brand. To co-ordinate Biology Week and use it as a way to raise the profile of the Society of Biology and of the biosciences.

Contract: Permanent

Hours: Full-time

Salary: £25,000 to £29,000 (depending on experience)

Key responsibilities:

1.    Develop and lead a proactive and effective media strategy; build relationships with journalists, and act as the main point of contact for journalist enquiries; write press releases and news articles for the website; produce background briefings and prepare spokespeople for interviews, co-ordinating media interviews and requests; arrange media interviews and develop a public profile for key staff; monitor current issues and public opinion to inform the media strategy; work with Member Organisations and the Science Media Centre; ensure that all media communications comply with the Society’s brand identity and guidelines

2.    Develop a PR strategy; identify and exploit PR opportunities to maximise the Society’s policy work, to promote the Society as the unifying voice of biology, to promote the benefits of membership, and to promote key events; evaluate all PR activity

3.    Work with the Society’s branches and special interest groups to support and/or deliver regional/specialist press work

4.    Monitor the Society’s press and broadcast coverage, feeding this information back to staff and volunteers

5.    Assist in managing the media in a potential crisis situation, including availability outside normal office hours: ensure any negative coverage is swiftly and effectively responded to, including production of position statements prior to any media interest

6.    Maintain the media database with key contacts

7.    Co-ordinate Biology Week, including liaising with teachers and increasing the number of external events, and managing an intern

8.    Organise Biology Week events, including a reception in the House of Commons, and use the events to raise the Society’s profile

9.    Manage the Society’s social media outlets, including a blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and increase its online following

10.    Work with team to produce photographs, videos and podcasts

11.    Co-ordinate citizen science projects, including the flying ant survey

12.    Carrying out such other duties as may be required, including occasional UK travel and stays overnight

This looks like it could be fun, ‘co-ordinate a citizen science flying ant survey’. And, seeing one of the other duties involves organizing a reception at the House of Commons, the requirement “Able to get on with people at all levels” seems more important than it might ordinarily. Although how one would evaluate the quality mystifies me. The rest of the requirements and more application details are available here.

Here’s more about the Society of Biology from its About us page (Note: Links have been removed),

The Society of Biology is a single unified voice for biology: advising Government and influencing policy; advancing education and professional development; supporting our members, and engaging and encouraging public interest in the life sciences. The Society represents a diverse membership of individuals, learned societies and other organisations.

Individual members include practising scientists, students at all levels, professionals in academia, industry and education, and non-professionals with an interest in biology.
Our vision is of a world that understands the true value of biology and how it can contribute to improving life for all.

Our mission is to be the unifying voice for biology, to facilitate the promotion of new discoveries in biological science for national and international benefit, and to engage the wider public with our work.

Good luck!

Two jobs (paid internships) at Sense about Science

I got this notice today (Feb.  12, 2014) and given the organization’s time frame (deadline: Feb. 20, 2014) for these competitions, I advise haste, From the Sense about 2014 announcement,

We want to recruit two people to join us for one year, a person to support campaigns work and a project support officer. If you know any people who would be interested, would you forward them this note?

Campaigns support:
Our main campaigns are AllTrials and Ask for Evidence. Since the Defamation Act 2013, we also continue to collaborate on extending libel reform to other jurisdictions. The campaigns team coordinates Sense About Science’s daily responsive work. This supporting role will include experience across all the work of the campaigns team but will be predominantly supporting the AllTrials campaign. It includes developing the campaign websites; monitoring social media, publicity and policy issues related to the campaigns; and organising meetings, supporter communications and policy activities. Responsive work will include being the first line of response to phone and email enquiries, initiating responses to new issues and linking our body of work to new discussions.

Project support:
The project team works with researchers and the public to address recurring themes, improve the communication of evidence and draw out underlying assumptions on difficult issues. This role will support the projects team and will involve research, writing, coordinating meetings with many different kinds of people, and dissemination. Upcoming projects include allergies, nuclear energy and forensic genetics. We also coordinate Sense About Science events and help other organisations, such as running workshops to develop ways to help people make sense of evidence. Our events programme includes the Peer Review Matters and Voice of Young Science (VoYS) media workshops, our annual lecture and reception.

At Sense About Science, no two days are the same and the post holders are likely to be involved in plenty of other activities going on in the busy office: representing Sense About Science at meetings, giving talks and writing blogs and articles. These two opportunities are ideal for graduates with a research PhD but would suit very different personalities and interests. The posts were initially conceived as paid internships, reflecting the funds available (£15k pa for each). However, the opportunities for extensive experience, taking a lead and responsibility (something we encourage at all levels) will leave the post holders well equipped for an entry into a good level post in related areas. We will also be reviewing the possibility of longer term posts as our organisation develops over 2014. They are therefore being offered as a fixed term employment. We can be a little bit flexible with hours, if the person is finishing writing up their thesis for example. There will be an interview late February, with a start date ideally in March. We want the people who join us to know about our work already so prior involvement in our activities is a bonus and familiarity with our website and campaigns is essential.

Please send a CV and cover letter to Síle Lane for the campaigns role slane@senseaboutscience.org or Emily Jesper for the project support role ejesper@senseaboutscience.org by 9am Thursday 20th February or give Síle or Emily a call at 020 7490 9590 [someone calling from outside the UK may want to check if adjustments are needed for that telephone number].

I could not find these job postings on the Sense about Science website but if you’re not familiar with the organization and wish to apply, you may want to check the site. I’m guessing that applicants need to be based in the UK but you may want to ask about that as the organization does have a presence in the US according to the website’s International webpage.

Two science communications jobs at Cambridge for the British Antarctic Survey

The deadline is coming up pretty sharply (Oct. 28, 2012 at midnight GMT) for both science communications positions on the Cambridge-based communications team of the British Antarctic Survey. As far as I can determine, you are not required to be British to apply for the either position.

The first position is for a Communications Officer, (from the job vacancy page on the British Antarctic Survey website),

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS), part of the Natural Environment Research Council [NERC], aims to undertake a world-class programme of scientific research, and to sustain for the UK an active and influential regional presence and a leadership role in Antarctic affairs.

We are now looking to recruit a Communications Officer to be responsible for delivering ‘Communications, Knowledge Exchange and Engagement’ plans for NERC  and EU-funded [European Union] high profile science programmes.

Qualifications: University degree or equivalent in relevant subjects.

Duration: One year fixed term appointment – maternity cover

Salary: Salary will be in the range of £26,180 to £29,410 per annum. We offer a generous benefits package including a defined salary pension scheme, free car parking, flexible working hours and 30 days annual leave.

The other position is for a Press and PR (public relations) Manager offers a remarkably similar description to the Communications Officer position (from the job vacancy page on the British Antarctic Survey website),

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS), part of the Natural Environment Research Council, aims to undertake a world-class programme of scientific research, and to sustain for the UK an active and influential regional presence and a leadership role in Antarctic affairs.

The Press & PR Manager will be responsible for contributing to and implementing British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) communications strategy to explain and engage a range of target audiences in its world-leading science and operational activity. British Antarctic Survey is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Qualifications: University degree or equivalent in relevant subjects.

Duration: 2-year fixed term appointment

Salary: Salary will be in the range of £26,180 to £29,410 per annum. We offer a generous benefits package including a defined salary pension scheme, free car parking, flexible working hours and 30 days annual leave.

There are more formal job descriptions, information about specific skills needed, and instructions on how to apply on the job vacancy pages (look for the tabs below the job title and application reference number)  for each position, respectively.

Thank you to Heather Martin, Polar Communications Specialist for the BAS, who listed the jobs in the Science Public Relations discussion group on LinkedIn.

Three sciencetype jobs: two in Canada and one in Australia

The Situating Science Cluster (an academic project connecting social scientists and humanists focused on the study of science and technology mentioned in my Aug. 16, 2011 posting) has a couple of announcements for postdoctoral positions.

The first science job is at the University of Saskatchewan,

Post-doctoral Fellowship in the Philosophy and History of Science and Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan

The Departments of Philosophy and History at the University of Saskatchewan invite candidates for a one-year (renewable for a second year) post-doctoral fellowship. This award is associated with the SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster grant, “Situating Science”, a national cluster promoting communication and networking between humanists and social scientists studying science and technology.

The successful candidate should have completed a PhD in History, Philosophy or Science, Technology and Studies by September 2011. (ETA Feb. 7, 2010: The qualifications have been changed so that candidates are required to complete a PhD in History, Philosophy or Science, Technology and Studies by September 2012 and not by September 2011.) Applicants exploring sub-themes of epistemology and/or history of experimentation are preferred.

The successful candidate will work closely with faculty and graduate students at the University of Saskatchewan associated with the Situating Science Cluster.  In particular, the post-doctoral fellow will help coordinate an international conference and a smaller workshop associated with the Cluster’s activities.  Salary and benefits to $35,000 with the possibility of teaching opportunities that may be negotiated.  Office space will be provided.

More information on the objectives and themes of the Situating Science Cluster can be found on the website: www.situsci.ca/project-summary

More information on the University of Saskatchewan Node can be found here: http://www.situsci.ca/node/university-saskatchewan-0

More details about the job such as the deadline for applications (April 1, 2012) and who to contact are here.

The other job is in Halifax,

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Science and Technology Studies/History and Philosophy of Science at the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University, Halifax.

King’s and Dalhousie announce a postdoctoral fellowship award in science and technology studies(STS)/history and philosophy of science, technology and medicine (HPS), associated with the SSHRC Cluster Grant, “Situating Science,” a national research cluster promoting communication between humanists and social scientists studying science and technology. The award provides a base salary (stipend) equivalent to $35,000, with the possibility of augmenting the salary through teaching or other awards, depending on the host department.

The successful applicant is expected to have completed a Ph.D. in an STS/HPS-related field, within the last five years and before taking up the fellowship. The candidate will be associated with the University of King’s College and housed in one of the departments associated with STS/HPS. In addition to carrying out independent or collaborative research under the supervision of one or more faculty members on campus, the successful candidate will be expected to take a leadership role in the Cluster, to actively participate in the development of Situating Science activities held on campus, supporting the networking and outreach activities of the local Node.

While the research topic is entirely open, we are particularly interested in projects concerning the history and philosophy of scientific instruments. A candidate with this interest could participate in the collection of an important number of instruments found around Halifax with the long-term goal of establishing a small museum in the new Life Sciences building on campus.

Full applications will contain a cover letter that includes a description of current research projects, an academic CV, a writing sample, and the names and contact information of three referees. Applicants must articulate how their research projects fit within one or more of the four themes of the cluster (these themes can be found at www.situsci.ca/en/aboutus.html), and should indicate which faculty members and departments they intend to work with at Dal/Kings. Applications (hardcopies only please) should be sent to:

A detailed description of the Cluster grant behind “Situating Science” can be found here: http://www.situsci.ca/project-summary.

Faculty members and activities in the “Atlantic Node” of Situating Science can be found at http://www.situsci.ca/node/university-kings-college-0.

More details such as the deadline for applications (Feb. 15, 2012) and who to contact are here.

The next job is in Australia (I assume) with the Friends of the Earth (FoE) who are looking for a Nanotechnology Project Coordinator. Here is more information from the posting on the Pro Bono Australia website,

Are you an environment or social justice campaigner who’s passionate about science and technology issues? Friends of the Earth is looking for a new Coordinator for our nanotechnology work.

Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) is a decentralised, volunteer-driven organisation committed to achieving ecological sustainability and social justice. The FoEA Nanotechnology Project has existed since 2005. Its aim is to achieve precautionary management of nanotechnology’s environment and health risks, just oversight of social and economic dimensions, and to ensure that public participation guides nanotechnology decision making (see http://nano.foe.org.au).

The Nanotechnology Project coordinator’s primary responsibility is to facilitate the development, and ensure implementation, of the strategic plan agreed on an annual basis by the Nanotechnology Project collective. The coordinator maintains an overarching view of the political, commercial and scientific landscapes, and supports other members of the collective to contribute effectively to achieve the project’s aims.

Details such as salary and the deadline for applications (Feb. 14, 2012) are in the Pro Bono Australia posting or here on the FoE website.