Category Archives: science communication

Wilson Center and artificial intelligence (a Dec. 3, 2020 event, an internship, and more [including some Canadian content])

The Wilson Center (also known as the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars) in Washington, DC is hosting a live webcast tomorrow on Dec. 3, 2020 and a call for applications for an internship (deadline; Dec. 18, 2020) and all of it concerns artificial intelligence (AI).

Assessing the AI Agenda: a Dec. 3, 2020 event

This looks like there could be some very interesting discussion about policy and AI, which could be applicable to other countries, as well as, the US. From a Dec. 2, 2020 Wilson Center announcements (received via email),

Assessing the AI Agenda: Policy Opportunities and Challenges in the 117th Congress

Thursday
Dec. 3, 2020
11:00am – 12:30pm ET

Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies occupy a growing share of the legislative agenda and pose a number of policy opportunities and challenges. Please join The Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) for a conversation with Senate and House staff from the AI Caucuses, as they discuss current policy proposals on artificial intelligence and what to expect — including oversight measures–in the next Congress. The public event will take place on Thursday, December 3 [2020] from 11am to 12:30pm EDT, and will be hosted virtually on the Wilson Center’s website. RSVP today.

Speakers:

  • Sam Mulopulos, Legislative Assistant, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
  • Sean Duggan, Military Legislative Assistant, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
  • Dahlia Sokolov, Staff Director, Subcommittee on Research and Technology, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
  • Mike Richards, Deputy Chief of Staff, Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX)

Moderator:

Meg King, Director, Science and Technology Innovation Program, The Wilson Center

We hope you will join us for this critical conversation. To watch, please RSVP and bookmark the webpage. Tune in at the start of the event (you may need to refresh once the event begins) on December 3. Questions about this event can be directed to the Science and Technology Program through email at stip@wilsoncenter.org or Twitter @WilsonSTIP using the hashtag #AICaucus.

Wilson Center’s AI Lab

This initiative brings to mind some of the science programmes that the UK government hosts for the members of Parliament. From the Wilson Center’s Artificial Intelligence Lab webpage,

Artificial Intelligence issues occupy a growing share of the Legislative and Executive Branch agendas; every day, Congressional aides advise their Members and Executive Branch staff encounter policy challenges pertaining to the transformative set of technologies collectively known as artificial intelligence. It is critically important that both lawmakers and government officials be well-versed in the complex subjects at hand.

What the Congressional and Executive Branch Labs Offer

Similar to the Wilson Center’s other technology training programs (e.g. the Congressional Cybersecurity Lab and the Foreign Policy Fellowship Program), the core of the Lab is a six-week seminar series that introduces participants to foundational topics in AI: what is machine learning; how do neural networks work; what are the current and future applications of autonomous intelligent systems; who are currently the main players in AI; and what will AI mean for the nation’s national security. Each seminar is led by top technologists and scholars drawn from the private, public, and non-profit sectors and a critical component of the Lab is an interactive exercise, in which participants are given an opportunity to take a hands-on role on computers to work through some of the major questions surrounding artificial intelligence. Due to COVID-19, these sessions are offered virtually. When health guidance permits, these sessions will return in-person at the Wilson Center.

Who Should Apply

The Wilson Center invites mid- to senior-level Congressional and Executive Branch staff to participate in the Lab; the program is also open to exceptional rising leaders with a keen interest in AI. Applicants should possess a strong understanding of the legislative or Executive Branch governing process and aspire to a career shaping national security policy.

….

Side trip: Science Meets (Canadian) Parliament

Briefly, here’s a bit about a programme in Canada, ‘Science Meets Parliament’ from the Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC); a not-for-profit, and the Canadian Office of the Chief Science Advisor (OCSA); a position with the Canadian federal government. Here’s a description of the programme from the Science Meets Parliament application webpage,

The objective of this initiative is to strengthen the connections between Canada’s scientific and political communities, enable a two-way dialogue, and promote mutual understanding. This initiative aims to help scientists become familiar with policy making at the political level, and for parliamentarians to explore using scientific evidence in policy making. [emphases mine] This initiative is not meant to be an advocacy exercise, and will not include any discussion of science funding or other forms of advocacy.

The Science Meets Parliament model is adapted from the successful Australian program held annually since 1999. Similar initiatives exist in the EU, the UK and Spain.

CSPC’s program aims to benefit the parliamentarians, the scientific community and, indirectly, the Canadian public.

This seems to be a training programme designed to teach scientists how to influence policy and to teach politicians to base their decisions on scientific evidence or, perhaps, lean on scientific experts that they met in ‘Science Meets Parliament’?

I hope they add some critical thinking to this programme so that politicians can make assessments of the advice they’re being given. Scientists have their blind spots too.

Here’s more from the Science Meets Parliament application webpage, about the latest edition,

CSPC and OCSA are pleased to offer this program in 2021 to help strengthen the connection between the science and policy communities. The program provides an excellent opportunity for researchers to learn about the inclusion of scientific evidence in policy making in Parliament.

The application deadline is January 4th, 2021

APPLYING FOR SCIENCE MEETS PARLIAMENT 2021 – ENGLISH

APPLYING FOR SCIENCE MEETS PARLIAMENT 2021 – FRENCH

You can find out more about benefits, eligibility, etc. on the application page.

Paid Graduate Research Internship: AI & Facial Recognition

Getting back to the Wilson Center, there’s this opportunity (from a Dec. 1, 2020 notice received by email),

New policy is on the horizon for facial recognition technologies (FRT). Many current proposals, including The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act of 2020 and The Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence Act, either target the use of FRT in areas such as criminal justice or propose general moratoria until guidelines can be put in place. But these approaches are limited by their focus on negative impacts. Effective planning requires a proactive approach that considers broader opportunities as well as limitations and includes consumers, along with federal, state and local government uses.

More research is required to get us there. The Wilson Center seeks to better understand a wide range of opportunities and limitations, with a focus on one critically underrepresented group: consumers. The Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) is seeking an intern for Spring 2021 to support a new research project on understanding FRT from the consumer perspective.

A successful candidate will:

  • Have a demonstrated track record of work on policy and ethical issues related to Artificial Intelligence (AI) generally, Facial Recognition specifically, or other emerging technologies.
  • Be able to work remotely.
  • Be enrolled in a degree program, recently graduated (within the last year) and/or have been accepted to enter an advanced degree program within the next year.

Interested applicants should submit:

  • Cover letter explaining your general interest in STIP and specific interest in this topic, including dates and availability.
  • CV / Resume
  • Two brief writing samples (formal and/or informal), ideally demonstrating your work in science and technology research.

Applications are due Friday, December 18th [2020]. Please email all application materials as a single PDF to Erin Rohn, erin.rohn@wilsoncenter.org. Questions on this role can be directed to Anne Bowser, anne.bowser@wilsoncenter.org.

Good luck!

Telling stories about artificial intelligence (AI) and Chinese science fiction; a Nov. 17, 2020 virtual event

[downloaded from https://www.berggruen.org/events/ai-narratives-in-contemporary-chinese-science-fiction/]

Exciting news: Chris Eldred of the Berggruen Institute sent this notice (from his Nov. 13, 2020 email)

Renowned science fiction novelists Hao Jingfang, Chen Qiufan, and Wang Yao (Xia Jia) will be featured in a virtual event next Tuesday, and I thought their discussion may be of interest to you and your readers. The event will explore how AI is used in contemporary Chinese science fiction, and the writers’ roundtable will address questions such as: How does Chinese sci-fi literature since the Reform and Opening-Up compare to sci-fi writing in the West? How does the Wandering Earth narrative and Chinese perspectives on home influence ideas about the impact of AI on the future?

Berggruen Fellow Hao Jingfang is an economist by training and an award-winning author (Hugo Award for Best Novelette). This event will be co-hosted with the University of Cambridge Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. 

This event will be live streamed on Zoom (agenda and registration link here) on Tuesday, November 17th, from 8:30-11:50 AM GMT / 4:30-7:50 PM CST. Simultaneous English translation will be provided. 

The Berggruen Institute is offering a conversation with authors and researchers about how Chinese science fiction grapples with artificial intelligence (from the Berggruen Institute’s AI Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction event page),

AI Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction

November 17, 2020

Platform & Language:

Zoom (Chinese and English, with simultaneous translation)

Click here to register.

Discussion points:

1. How does Chinese sci-fi literature since the Reform and Opening-Up compare to sci-fi writing in the West?

2. How does the Wandering Earth narrative and Chinese perspectives on home influence ideas about the impact of AI on the future

About the Speakers:

WU Yan is a professor and PhD supervisor at the Humanities Center of Southern University of Science and Technology. He is a science fiction writer, vice chairman of the China Science Writers Association, recipient of the Thomas D Clareson Award of the American Science Fiction Research Association, and co-founder of the Xingyun (Nebula) Awards for Global Chinese Science Fiction. He is the author of science fictions such as Adventure of the Soul and The Sixth Day of Life and Death, academic works such as Outline of Science Fiction Literature, and textbooks such as Science and Fantasy – Training Course for Youth Imagination and Scientific Innovation.

Sanfeng is a science fiction researcher, visiting researcher of the Humanities Center of Southern University of Science and Technology, chief researcher of Shenzhen Science & Fantasy Growth Foundation, honorary assistant professor of the University of Hong Kong, Secretary-General of the World Chinese Science Fiction Association, and editor-in-chief of Nebula Science Fiction Review. His research covers the history of Chinese science fiction, development of science fiction industry, science fiction and urban development, science fiction and technological innovation, etc.

About the Event

Keynote 1 “Chinese AI Science Fiction in the Early Period of Reform and Opening-Up (1978-1983)”

(改革开放早期(1978-1983)的中国AI科幻小说)

Abstract: Science fiction on the themes of computers and robots emerged early but in a scattered manner in China. In the stories, the protagonists are largely humanlike assistants chiefly collecting data or doing daily manual labor, and this does not fall in the category of today’s artificial intelligence. Major changes took place after the reform and opening-up in 1978 in this regard. In 1979, the number of robot-themed works ballooned. By 1980, the quality of works also saw a quantum leap, and stories on the nature of artificial intelligence began to appear. At this stage, the AI works such as Spy Case Outside the Pitch, Dulles and Alice, Professor Shalom’s Misconception, and Riot on the Ziwei Island That Shocked the World describe how intelligent robots respond to activities such as adversarial ball games (note that these are not chess games), fully integrate into the daily life of humans, and launch collective riots beyond legal norms under special circumstances. The ideas that the growth of artificial intelligence requires a suitable environment, stable family relationship, social adaptation, etc. are still of important value.

Keynote 2 “Algorithm of the Soul: Narrative of AI in Recent Chinese Science Fiction”

(灵魂的算法:近期中国科幻小说中的AI叙事)

Abstract: As artificial intelligence has been applied to the fields of technology and daily life in the past decade, the AI narrative in Chinese science fiction has also seen seismic changes. On the one hand, young authors are aware that the “soul” of AI comes, to a large extent, from machine learning algorithms. As a result, their works often highlight the existence and implementation of algorithms, bringing maneuverability and credibility to the AI. On the other hand, the authors prefer to focus on the conflicts and contradictions in emotions, ethics, and morality caused by AI that penetrate into human life. If the previous AI-themed science fiction is like a distant robot fable, the recent AI narrative assumes contemporary and practical significance. This report focuses on exploring the AI-themed science fiction by several young authors (including Hao Jingfang’s [emphasis mine] The Problem of Love and Where Are You, Chen Qiufan’s Image Maker and Algorithm for Life, and Xia Jia’s Let’s Have a Talk and Shejiang, Baoshu’s Little Girl and Shuangchimu’s The Cock Prince, etc.) to delve into the breakthroughs and achievements in AI narratives.

Hao Jingfang, one of the authors mentioned in the abstract, is currently a fellow at the Berggruen Institute and she is scheduled to be a guest according to the co-host’s the University of Cambridge’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) page: Workshop: AI Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction programme description (I’ll try not to include too much repetitive information),

Workshop 2 – November 17, 2020

AI Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction

Programme

16:30-16:40 CST (8:30-8:40 GMT)  Introductions

SONG Bing, Vice President, Co-Director, Berggruen Research Center, Peking University

Kanta Dihal, Postdoctoral Researcher, Project Lead on Global Narratives, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge  

16:40-17:10 CST (8:40-9:10 GMT)  Talk 1 [Chinese AI SciFi and the early period]

17:10-17:40 CST (9:10-9:40 GMT)  Talk 2  [Algorithm of the soul]

17:40-18:10 CST (9:40-10:10 GMT)  Q&A

18:10-18:20 CST (10:10-10:20 GMT) Break

18:20-19:50 CST (10:20-11:50 GMT)  Roundtable Discussion

Host:

HAO Jingfang(郝景芳), author, researcher & Berggruen Fellow

Guests:

Baoshu (宝树), sci-fi and fantasy writer

CHEN Qiufan(陈楸帆), sci-fi writer, screenwriter & translator

Feidao(飞氘), sci-fi writer, Associate Professor in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Tsinghua University

WANG Yao(王瑶,pen name “Xia Jia”), sci-fi writer, Associate Professor of Chinese Literature at Xi’an Jiaotong University

Suggested Readings

ABOUT CHINESE [Science] FICTION

“What Makes Chinese Fiction Chinese?”, by Xia Jia and Ken Liu,

The Worst of All Possible Universes and the Best of All Possible Earths: Three Body and Chinese Science Fiction”, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

Science Fiction in China: 2016 in Review

SHORT NOVELS ABOUT ROBOTS/AI/ALGORITHM:

The Robot Who Liked to Tell Tall Tales”, by Feidao, translated by Ken Liu

Goodnight, Melancholy”, by Xia Jia, translated by Ken Liu

The Reunion”, by Chen Qiufan, translated by Emily Jin and Ken Liu, MIT Technology Review, December 16, 2018

Folding Beijing”, by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu

Let’s have a talk”, by Xia Jia

For those of us on the West Coast of North America the event times are: Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 1430 – 1750 or 2:30 – 5:50 pm. *Added On Nov.16.20 at 11:55 am PT: For anyone who can’t attend the live event, a full recording will be posted to YouTube.*

Kudos to all involved in organizing and participating in this event. It’s important to get as many viewpoints as possible on AI and its potential impacts.

Finally and for the curious, there’s another posting about Chinese science fiction here (May 31, 2019).

Finding Ada (Lovelace) conference on Nov. 9 -11, 2020

The same folks who bring us Ada Lovelace Day in October each year also produce a conference. (For anyone unfamiliar with Ada Lovelace, a 19th century mathematician and computer scientist, there are more details here in my Oct. 13, 2014 posting.)

As for the conference, here’s more about the 2020 edition from the event page on the Finding Ada website,

The Finding Ada Conference is a fully online global conference for women in STEM and advocates for gender equality. It will be held on over 9/10/11 November, depending on your timezone, beginning at 9am on 10 November in Wellington, New Zealand, and ending 29 hours later at 5pm on the West Coast of America. Sign up for your free tickets now!

Join our headline speakers, Caroline Walker from J.P. Morgan, DeLisa Alexander from Red Hat and Chi Onwurah MP [UK], as well as over 45 other speakers from around the globe, for a fabulous day of talks, workshops, Q&As and interviews.

I found a few more details on this Finding Ada Conference (2020) webpage on the HopIn online events platform (Please special note of the times),

The Finding Ada Conference is a fully online global conference for women in STEM and advocates for gender equality. It will be held on Tuesday 10 November, beginning at 9am in Wellington, New Zealand [emphasis mine], and ending 29 hours later at 5pm on the West Coast of America [emphasis mine].

Panel discussions
Indigenous Women in STEM
Featuring:

  • Karlie Noon, astrophysicist
  • Aleisha Amohia, software developer
  • Johnnie Jae, journalist & technologist
  • Shawn Peterson of Native Girls Code
  • Eteroa Lafaele, software engineer

Our panellists will be talking about their experiences as indigenous women, how they got into STEM, the issues specific to their indigenous communities when it comes to encouraging girls into STEM, the role of organisations and institutions in supporting indigenous women in STEM and more.

Can Children’s Books Encourage More Girls into STEM?

Featuring:

  • Miriam Tocino, author Zerus & Ona
  • Kate Wilson, managing director of Nosy Crow
  • Lisa Rajan, author Tara Binns series
  • Dr Sheila Kanani, author of How to Be an Astronaut and Other Space Jobs

Our panellists will be asking what role books play in helping girls build an identity that includes STEM, whether books can really counter gender stereotypes, how we represent multiple axes of diversity, and talk a bit about how they came to write books for children.

I’ve only excerpted a portion of what’s on the page. The times are a bit confusing as this, too, is on the Hopin event webpage (directly under the title): to PST. You could try checking with the organizer here: suw@findingada.com.

The Quantum Physicist as Causal Detective: an Oct. 7, 2020 event

I love mysteries and am quite interested in the nature of reality (you, too?) and that gives us something in common with a couple of Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI; Canada) researchers. From The Quantum Physicist as Causal Detective event page on the insidetheperimeter.ca website (notice received via email),

In their live webcast from Perimeter on October 7 [2020], Robert Spekkens and Elie Wolfe will shed light on the exciting possibilities brought about by applying quantum thinking to the science of cause and effect.

Watch the live webcast on this page on Wednesday, October 7 [2020] at 7 pm ET.

What do data science and the foundations of quantum theory have to do with one another?

A great deal, it turns out. The particular branch of data science known as causal inference focuses on a problem which is central to disciplines ranging from epidemiology to economics: that of disentangling correlation and causation in statistical data.

Meanwhile, in a slightly different guise, this same problem has been pondered by quantum physicists as part of a continuing effort to make sense of various puzzling quantum phenomena. On top of that, the most celebrated result concerning quantum theory’s meaning for the nature of reality – Bell’s theorem – can be seen in retrospect to be built on the solution to a particularly challenging problem in causal inference.

Recent efforts to elaborate upon these connections have led to an exciting flow of techniques and insights across the disciplinary divide.

Perimeter researchers Robert Spekkens and Elie Wolfe have done pioneering work studying relations of cause and effect through a quantum foundational lens, and can be counted among a small number of physicists worldwide with expertise in this field.

In their joint webcast from Perimeter [at 7 pm ET] on October 7 [2020], Spekkens and Wolfe will explore what is happening at the intersection of these two fields and how thinking like a quantum physicist leads to new ways of sussing out cause and effect from correlation patterns in statistical data.

For those of us on the West Coast, that webcast will be at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020 and I believe you can watch it here.

Ingenium increases Canada’s Museum of Science and Technology’s virtual outreach?

Something hopeful was in my email box this morning (August 27, 2020), it’s a survey from Ingenium, the portmanteau for the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Have you ever asked yourself how the Canada Science and Technology Museum might improve its outreach to those of us outside Ottawa and the southern regions of Ontario and Québec? (To be fair, they do have an online presence with some activities and information.)

Well, it seems that now COVID-19 has constrained their attendance numbers, the folks at the museum are looking at livestreaming some of their Curiosity on Stage presentations and making them available for viewing afterwards.

The survey I saw this morning (August 27, 2020) is designed to gauge interest. Here’s more from the August 26, 2020 Ingenium notice,

Calling all museum lovers!

Would you have 3 minutes to help the Canada Science and Technology Museum develop activities, events, and experiences for young and old? You just need to complete a short set of questions in our online survey conducted with Quorus Consulting.

To complete this short survey please click on the following link (if the link is inactive, please copy and paste the URL into your browser to access the survey): Take the Survey

Please complete your survey by August 30, 2020.  

If you have any technical difficulties with the survey, please contact the team at Quorus at discussions@quorusconsulting.com. If you would like to contact someone at Ingenium regarding this study, you can reach Lisa Leblanc by email at: lleblanc@ingeniumcanada.org.

We appreciate your assistance.  

Sincerely,

Christina Tessier
President and CEO of Ingenium

P.S. As a reminder, your participation is voluntary. All your answers will remain completely confidential and anonymous; no individual respondents will be identified as part of the analysis and, in accordance with the Privacy Act, no one will contact you as a result of your answers to this survey without your express consent

—–

Appel aux amateurs de musées!

Auriez-vous trois minutes pour aider le Musée des sciences et de la technologie du Canada à développer des activités, des événements et des expériences pour petits et grands? Vous n’aurez qu’à répondre aux quelques questions de notre sondage en ligne réalisé conjointement avec le groupe-conseil Quorus.

Pour remplir ce court sondage, veuillez cliquer sur le lien suivant (si le lien est inactif, veuillez copier et coller l’URL dans votre navigateur pour accéder au sondage): Participer à l’enquête

Veuillez remplir le sondage d’ici le 30 août 2020

Si vous éprouvez des difficultés techniques avec le sondage, veuillez communiquer avec l’équipe de Quorus à discussions@quorusconsulting.com. Si vous souhaitez parler à quelqu’un chez Ingenium concernant cette étude, vous pouvez communiquer avec Lisa Leblanc par courriel à lleblanc@ingeniumcanada.org.

Votre aide nous est précieuse

Cordialement,

Christina Tessier
Présidente et chef de la direction d’Ingenium

P.S. Nous souhaitons vous rappeler que, votre participation se fait sur une base volontaire. Vos réponses seront entièrement confidentielles et anonymes. Aucune personne interrogée ne sera identifiée dans le cadre de l’analyse et, conformément à la Loi sur la protection des renseignements personnels, personne ne communiquera avec vous à la suite de ce sondage, et ce, sans votre consentement explicite

For anyone not familiar with ‘Curiosity on Stage’, here’s a description of a couple of the presentations and what they’re hoping to do (from the survey, which really did take me about 3 minutes),

email survey

During the 2019-2020 season, the Canada Science and Technology Museum hosted Curiosity on Stage, live evenings of talks and discussions with scientific leaders from private industry, academia and government. Topics were aimed at the future of innovation in science and technology and its applications for building a better society. 

Titles of previous events include:

  • “Can Artificial Intelligence Tackle Climate Change: exploring the potential of AI to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help Canada lead in the clean tech economy”, and
  • “When Your City is Smarter than You: exploring the future of cities in an increasingly algorithmic world”.

Given the challenges of hosting live events during COVID-19, Curiosity on Stage will have a different format this fall, as follows:

  • Digital instead of in-person discussions hosted through an online platform (i.e. YouTube, Zoom, or Crowdcast).
  • Available to anyone at no cost.
  • Recordings of the lectures available to those who cannot attend the virtual events live.
  • Fully bilingual through simultaneous translation.
  • Those who watch the event “live” will have the opportunity to ask questions to the experts through a live chat box and comments section.

Hopefully you can use this link,, Take the Survey or this one, Participer à l’enquête.

BTW, I wasn’t sure how to answer the question later in the survey about what time of day I would like to watch a livestream. Whoever designed the survey doesn’t seem to have taken timezones into account. I answered from the perspective of someone on the West Coast.