Category Archives: Vancouver

March 6, 2024 Simon Fraser University (SFU) event “The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future” in Vancouver, Canada

This is not a free event; they’ve changed the information about fees/no fees and how the fees are being assessed enough times for me to lose track; check the eventbrite registration page for the latest. Also, there will not be a publicly available recording of the event. (For folks who can’t afford the fees, there’s a contact listed later in this posting.)

First, here’s the “The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future” event information (from a January 10, 2024 Simon Fraser University (SFU) Public Square notice received via email),

The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future

Wednesday, March 6 [2024] | 7:00pm | In-person | Free [Note: This was an error.]

Generative AI has dominated headlines in 2023, but these new technologies rely on a dramatic increase in the extraction of data, human labor, and natural resources. With increasing media manipulation, polarizing discourse, and deep fakes, regulators are struggling to manage new AI.

On March 6th [2024], join renowned author and digital scholar Kate Crawford, as she sits in conversation with SFU’s Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. Together, they will discuss the planetary politics of AI, how we got here, and where it might be going.

A January 11, 2024 SFU Public Square notice (received via email) updates the information about how this isn’t a free event and offers an option for folks who can’t afford the price of a ticket, Note Links have been removed,

The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future

Wednesday, March 6 | 7:00pm | In-person | Paid

Good morning,

We’ve been made aware that yesterday’s newsletter had a mistake, and we thank those who brought it to our attention. The March 6th [2024] event, The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future, is not a free event and has an admission fee for attendance. We apologize for the confusion.

Whenever possible, SFU Public Square’s events are free and open to all, to ensure that the event is as accessible as possible. For this event, there is a paid admission, with a General and Student/Senior Admission option. That being said, if the admission fees are a barrier to access, please email us at psqevent@sfu.ca. Exceptions can be made. [emphasis mine]

Thank you for your understanding!

“The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future” registration webpage on eventbrite offers more information about the speakers and logistics,

Date and time

Starts on Wed, Mar 6, 2024 7:00 PM PST

Location

Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema (SFU Vancouver — Woodward’s Building) 149 W Hastings Street Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7

[See registration page for link to map]

Refund Policy

Refunds up to 7 days before event

About the speakers

Kate Crawfordis a leading international scholar of the social implications of artificial intelligence. She is a Research Professor at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles, a Senior Principal Researcher at MSR in New York, an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney, and the inaugural Visiting Chair for AI and Justice at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Her latest book, Atlas of AI (Yale, 2021), won the Sally Hacker Prize from the Society for the History of Technology, the ASSI&T Best Information Science Book Award, and was named one of the best books in 2021 by New Scientist and the Financial Times.

Over her twenty-year research career, she has also produced groundbreaking creative collaborations and visual investigations. Her project Anatomy of an AI System with Vladan Joler is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the V&A in London, and was awarded with the Design of the Year Award in 2019 and included in the Design of the Decades by the Design Museum of London. Her collaboration with the artist Trevor Paglen, Excavating AI, won the Ayrton Prize from the British Society for the History of Science. She has advised policy makers in the United Nations, the White House, and the European Parliament, and she currently leads the Knowing Machines Project, an international research collaboration that investigates the foundations of machine learning. And in 2023, Kate Crawford was named on of the TIME100 list as one of the most influential people in AI.

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is Simon Fraser University’s Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media, Professor in the School of Communication, and Director of the Digital Democracies Institute. At the Institute, she leads the Mellon-funded Data Fluencies Project, which combines the interpretative traditions of the arts and humanities with critical work in the data sciences to express, imagine, and create innovative engagements with (and resistances to) our data-filled world.

She has studied both Systems Design Engineering and English Literature, which she combines and mutates in her research on digital media. She is author many books, including: Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT, 2006), Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (MIT 2011), Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (MIT 2016), and Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition (2021, MIT Press). She has been Professor and Chair of the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, where she worked for almost two decades and is currently a Visiting Professor. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and has also held fellowships from: the Guggenheim, ACLS, American Academy of Berlin, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

I’m wondering if the speakers will be discussing how visual and other arts impact their views on AI and vice versa. Both academics have an interest in the arts as you can see in Crawford’s event bio. As for Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, in my April 23, 2021 posting where if you scroll down to her name, (about 30% of the way down), you’ll see she was involved with “Multimedia & Electronic Music Experiments (MEME),” History of Art and Architecture,” and “Theatre Arts and Performance Studies” at Brown University.

A February 12, 2024 SFU Public Square announcement (received via email), which includes a link to this Speaker’s Spotlight webpage (scroll down), suggests my speculation is incorrect,

For over two decades, Kate Crawford’s work has focused on understanding large scale data systems, machine learning and AI in the wider contexts of history, politics, labor, and the environment.

Her latest book,  Atlas of AI (2021) explores artificial intelligence as the extractive industry of the 21st century, relying on vast amounts of data, human labour, and natural resources. …

One more biographical note about Crawford, she was mentioned here in an April 17, 2015 posting, scroll down to the National Film Board of Canada subhead, then down to Episode 5 ‘Big Data and its Algorithms’ of the Do Not Track documentary; she is one of the interviewees. I’m not sure if that documentary is still accessible online.

Back to the event, to get more details and/or buy a ticket, go to: “The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future” registration webpage.

Or, SFU is hosting its free 2023 Nobel Prize-themed lecture at Science World on March 6, 2024 (see my January 16, 2024 posting and scroll down about 30% of the way for more details).

Hype, hype, hype: Vancouver’s Frontier Collective represents local tech community at SxWS (South by Southwest®) 2024 + an aside

I wonder if Vancouver’s Mayor Ken Sim will be joining the folks at the giant culture/tech event known as South by Southwest® (SxSW) later in 2024. Our peripatetic mayor seems to enjoy traveling to sports events (FIFA 2023 in Qatar), to Los Angeles to convince producers of a hit television series, “The Last of Us,” that they film the second season in Vancouver, and, to Austin, Texas for SxSW 2023. Note: FIFA is Fédération internationale de football association or ‘International Association Football Federation’.

It’s not entirely clear why Mayor Sim’s presence was necessary at any of these events. In October 2023, he finished his first year in office; a business owner and accountant, Sim is best known for his home care business, “Nurse Next Door” and his bagel business, “Rosemary Rocksalt,” meaning he wouldn’t seem to have much relevant experience with sports and film events.

I gather Mayor Sim’s presence was part of the 2023 hype (for those who don’t know, it’s from ‘hyperbole’) where SxSW was concerned, from the Vancouver Day at SxSW 2023 event page,

Vancouver Day

Past(03/12/2023) 12:00PM – 6:00PM

FREE W/ RSVP | ALL AGES

Swan Dive

The momentum and vibrancy of Vancouver’s innovation industry can’t be stopped!

The full day event will see the Canadian city’s premier technology innovators, creative tech industries, and musical artists show why Vancouver is consistently voted one of the most desirable places to live in the world.

We will have talks/panels with the biggest names in VR/AR/Metaverse, AI, Web3, premier technology innovators, top startups, investors and global thought-leaders. We will keep Canada House buzzing throughout the day with activations/demos from top companies from Vancouver and based on our unique culture of wellness and adventure will keep guests entertained, and giveaways will take place across the afternoon.

The Canadian city is showing why Vancouver has become the second largest AR/VR/Metaverse ecosystem globally (with the highest concentration of 3D talent than anywhere in the world), a leader in Web3 with companies like Dapper Labs leading the way and becoming a hotbed in technology like artificial intelligence.

The Frontier Collective’s Vancouver’s Takeover of SXSW is a signature event that will enhance Vancouver as the Innovation and Creative Tech leader on the world stage.It is an opportunity for the global community to encounter cutting-edge ideas, network with other professionals who share a similar appetite for a forward focused experience and define their next steps.

Some of our special guests include City of Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim [emphasis mine], Innovation Commissioner of the Government of BC- Gerri Sinclair, Amy Peck of Endeavor XR, Tony Parisi of Lamina1 and many more.

In the evening, guests can expect a special VIP event with first-class musical acts, installations, wellness activations and drinks, and the chance to mingle with investors, top brands, and top business leaders from around the world.

To round out the event, a hand-picked roster of Vancouver musicians will keep guests dancing late into the night.

This is from Mayor Sim’s Twitter (now X) feed, Note: The photographs have not been included,

Mayor Ken Sim@KenSimCity Another successful day at #SXSW2023 showcasing Vancouver and British Columbia while connecting with creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs from around the world! #vanpoli#SXSW

Last edited from Austin, TX·13.3K Views

Did he really need to be there?

2024 hype at SxSW and Vancouver’s Frontier Collective

New year and same hype but no Mayor Sim? From a January 22, 2024 article by Daniel Chai for the Daily Hive, Note: A link has been removed,

Frontier Collective, a coalition of Vancouver business leaders, culture entrepreneurs, and community builders, is returning to the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference next month to showcase the city’s tech innovation on the global stage.

The first organization to formally represent and promote the region’s fastest-growing tech industries, Frontier Collective is hosting the Vancouver Takeover: Frontiers of Innovation from March 8 to 12 [2024].

According to Dan Burgar, CEO and co-founder of Frontier Collective, the showcase is not just about presenting new advancements but is also an invitation to the world to be part of a boundary-transcending journey.

“This year’s Vancouver Takeover is more than an event; it’s a beacon for the brightest minds and a celebration of the limitless possibilities that emerge when we dare to innovate together.”

Speakers lined up for the SXSW Vancouver Takeover in Austin, Texas, include executives from Google, Warner Bros, Amazon, JP Morgan, Amazon, LG, NTT, Newlab, and the Wall Street Journal.

“The Frontier Collective is excited to showcase a new era of technological innovation at SXSW 2024, building on the success of last year’s Takeover,” added Natasha Jaswal, VP of operations and events of Frontier Collective, in a statement. “Beyond creating a captivating event; its intentional and curated programming provides a great opportunity for local companies to gain exposure on an international stage, positioning Vancouver as a global powerhouse in frontier tech innovation.

Here’s the registration page if you want to attend the Frontiers of Innovation Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024,

Join us for a curated experience of music, art, frontier technologies and provocative panel discussions. We are organizing three major events, designed to ignite conversation and turn ideas into action.

We’re excited to bring together leaders from Vancouver and around the world to generate creative thinking at the biggest tech festival.

Let’s create the future together!

You have a choice of two parties and a day long event. Enjoy!

Who is the Frontier Collective?

The group announced itself in 2022, from a February 17, 2022 article in techcouver, Note: Links have been removed,

The Frontier Collective is the first organization to formally represent and advance the interests of the region’s fastest-growing industries, including Web3, the metaverse, VR/AR [virtual reality/augmented reality], AI [artificial intelligence], climate tech, and creative industries such as eSports [electronic sports], NFTs [non-fungible tokens], VFX [visual effects], and animation.

Did you know the Vancouver area currently boasts the world’s second largest virtual and augmented reality sector and hosts the globe’s biggest cluster of top VFX, video games and animation studios, as well as the highest concentration of 3D talent?

Did you know NFT technology was created in Vancouver and the city remains a top destination for blockchain and Web3 development?

Frontier Collective’s coalition of young entrepreneurs and business leaders wants to raise awareness of Vancouver’s greatness by promoting the region’s innovative tech industry on the world stage, growing investment and infrastructure for early-stage companies, and attracting diverse talent to Vancouver.

“These technologies move at an exponential pace. With the right investment and support, Vancouver has an immense opportunity to lead the world in frontier tech, ushering in a new wave of transformation, economic prosperity and high-paying jobs. Without backing from governments and leaders, these companies may look elsewhere for more welcoming environments.” said Dan Burgar, Co-founder and Head of the Frontier Collective. Burgar heads the local chapter of the VR/AR Association.

Their plan includes the creation of a 100,000-square-foot innovation hub in Vancouver to help incubate startups in Web3, VR/AR, and AI, and to establish the region as a centre for metaverse technology.

Frontier Collective’s team includes industry leaders at the Vancouver Economic Commission [emphasis mine; Under Mayor Sim and his majority City Council, the commission has been dissolved; see September 21, 2023 Vancouver Sun article “Vancouver scraps economic commission” by Tiffany Crawford], Collision Conference, Canadian incubator Launch, Invest Vancouver, and the BDC Deep Tech Fund.  These leaders continue to develop and support frontier technology in their own organizations and as part of the Collective.

Interestingly, a February 7, 2023 article by the editors of BC Business magazine seems to presage the Vancouver Economic Commission’s demise. Note: Links have been removed,

Last year, tech coalition Frontier Collective announced plans to position Vancouver as Canada’s tech capital by 2030. Specializing in subjects like Web3, the metaverse, VR/AR, AI and animation, it seems to be following through on its ambition, as the group is about to place Vancouver in front of a global audience at SXSW 2023, a major conference and festival celebrating tech, innovation and entertainment.  

Taking place in Austin, Texas from March 10-14 [2023], Vancouver Takeover is going to feature speakers, stories and activations, as well as opportunities for companies to connect with industry leaders and investors. Supported by local businesses like YVR Airport, Destination Vancouver, Low Tide Properties and others, Frontier is also working with partners from Trade and Invest BC, Telefilm and the Canadian Consulate. Attendees will spot familiar faces onstage, including the likes of Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation Brenda Bailey, Vancouver mayor Ken Sim [emphasis mine] and B.C. Innovation Commissioner Gerri Sinclair. 

That’s right, no mention of the Vancouver Economic Commission.

As for the Frontier Collective Team (accessed January 29, 2024), the list of ‘industry leaders’ (18 people with a gender breakdown that appears to be 10 male and 8 female) and staff members (a Senior VP who appears to be male and the other seven staff members who appear to be female) can be found here. (Should there be a more correct way to do the gender breakdown, please let me know in the Comments.)

i find the group’s name a bit odd, ‘frontier’ is something I associate with the US. Americans talk about frontiers, Canadians not so much.

If you are interested in attending the daylong (11 am – 9 pm) Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024 event on March 10, 2024, just click here.

Aside: swagger at Vancouver City Hall, economic prosperity, & more?

What follows is not germane to the VR/AR community, SxSW of any year, or the Frontier Collective but it may help to understand why the City of Vancouver’s current mayor is going to events where he would seem to have no useful role to play.

Matt O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article for Vancouver Magazine offers an eyeopening review of Mayor Ken Sim’s first year in office.

Ken Sim swept to power a year ago promising to reduce waste, make our streets safer and bring Vancouver’s “swagger” back. But can his open-book style win over the critics?

I’m sitting on a couch in the mayor’s third-floor offices, and Ken Sim is walking over to his turntable to put on another record. “How about the Police? I love this album.”

With the opening strains of  “Every Breath You Take” crackling to life, Sim is explaining his approach to conflict resolution, and how he takes inspiration from the classic management tome Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.

Odd choice for a song to set the tone for an interview. Here’s more about the song and its origins according to the song’s Wikipedia entry,

To escape the public eye, Sting retreated to the Caribbean. He started writing the song at Ian Fleming’s writing desk on the Goldeneye estate in Oracabessa, Jamaica.[14] The lyrics are the words of a possessive lover who is watching “every breath you take; every move you make”. Sting recalled:

“I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realise at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”[15][emphasis mine]

The interview gets odder, from O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article,

Suddenly, the office door swings open and Sim’s chief of staff, Trevor Ford, pokes his head in (for the third time in the past 10 minutes). “We have to go. Now.”

“Okay, okay,” says Sim, turning back to address me. “Do you mind if I change while we’re talking?” And so the door closes again—and, without further ado, the Mayor of Vancouver drops trou [emphasis mine] and goes in search of a pair of shorts, continuing with a story about how some of his west-side friends are vocally against the massive Jericho Lands development promising to reshape their 4th and Alma neighbourhood.

“And I’m like, ‘Let me be very clear: I 100-percent support it, this is why—and we’ll have to agree to disagree,’” he says, trading his baby-blue polo for a fitted charcoal grey T-shirt. Meanwhile, as Sim does his wardrobe change, I’m doing everything I can to keep my eyes on my keyboard—and hoping the mayor finds his missing shorts.

It’s fair to assume that previous mayors weren’t in the habit of getting naked in front of journalists. At least, I can’t quite picture Kennedy Stewart doing so, or Larry or Gordon Campbell either. 

But it also fits a pattern that’s developing with Ken Sim as a leader entirely comfortable in his own skin. He’s in a hurry to accomplish big things—no matter who’s watching and what they might say (or write). And he eagerly embraces the idea of bringing Vancouver’s “swagger” back—outlined in his inaugural State of the City address, and underlined when he shotgunned a beer at July’s [2023] Khatsahlano Street Party.

O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article goes on to mention some of the more practical initiatives undertaken by Mayor Sim and his supermajority of ABC (Sim’s party, A Better City) city councillors in their efforts to deal with some of the city’s longstanding and intractable problems,

For a reminder of Sim’s key priorities, you need only look at the whiteboard in the mayor’s office. At the top, there’s a row labelled “Daily Focus (Top 4)”—which are, in order, 3-3-3-1 (ABC’s housing program); Chinatown; Business Advocacy; and Mental Health/Safety.

On some files, like Chinatown, there have been clear advances: council unanimously approved the Uplifting Chinatown Action Plan in January, which devotes more resources to cleaning and sanitation services, graffiti removal, beautification and other community supports. The plan also includes a new flat rate of $2 per hour for parking meters throughout Chinatown (to encourage more people to visit and shop in the area) and a new satellite City Hall office, to improve representation. And on mental health and public safety, the ABC council moved quickly in November to take action on its promise to fund 100 new police officers and 100 new mental health professionals [emphasis mine]—though the actual hiring will take time.

O’Grady likely wrote his article a few months before its October 2023 publication date (a standard practice for magazine articles), which may explain why he didn’t mention this, from an October 10, 2023 article by Michelle Gamage and Jen St. Denis for The Tyee,

100 Cops, Not Even 10 Nurses

One year after Mayor Ken Sim and the ABC party swept into power on a promise to hire 100 cops and 100 mental health nurses to address fears about crime and safety in Vancouver, only part of that campaign pledge has been fulfilled.

At a police board meeting in September, Chief Adam Palmer announced that 100 new police officers have now joined the Vancouver Police Department.

But just 9.5 full-time equivalent positions have been filled to support the mental health [emphasis mine] side of the promise.

In fact, Vancouver Coastal Health says it’s no longer aiming [emphasis mine] to hire 100 nurses. Instead, it’s aiming for 58 staff and specialists [emphasis mine], including social workers, community liaison workers and peers, as well as other disciplines alongside nurses to deliver care.

At the police board meeting on Sept. 21 [2023], Palmer said the VPD has had no trouble recruiting new police officers and has now hired 70 new recruits who are first-time officers, as well as at least 24 experienced officers from other police services.

In contrast, it’s been a struggle for VCH to recruit nurses specializing in mental health.

BC Nurses’ Union president Adriane Gear said she remembers wondering where Sim was planning on finding 100 nurses [emphasis mine] when he first made the campaign pledge. In B.C. there are around 5,000 full-time nursing vacancies, she said. Specialized nurses are an even more “finite resource,” she added.

I haven’t seen any information as to why the number was reduced from 100 mental health positions to 58. I’m also curious as to how Mayor Ken Sim whose business is called ‘Nurse Next Door’ doesn’t seem to know there’s a shortage of nurses in the province and elsewhere.

Last year, the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Quartz published a January 28, 2022 article by Aurora Almendral about the worldwide nursing shortage and the effects of COVID pandemic,

The report’s [from the International Council of Nurses (ICN)] survey of nurse associations around the world painted a grim picture of strained workforce. In Spain, nurses reported a chronic lack of PPE, and 30% caught covid. In Canada, 52% of nurses reported inadequate staffing, and 47% met the diagnostic cut-off for potential PTSD [emphasis mine].

Burnout plagued nurses around the world: 40% in Uganda, 60% in Belgium, and 63% in the US. In Oman, 38% nurses said they were depressed, and 73% had trouble sleeping. Fifty-seven percent of UK nurses planned to leave their jobs in 2021, up from 36% in 2020. Thirty-eight percent of nurses in Lebanon did not want to be nurses anymore, but stayed in their jobs because their families needed the money.

In Australia, 17% of nurses had sought mental health support. In China, 6.5% of nurses reported suicidal thoughts.

Moving on from Mayor Sim’s odd display of ignorance (or was it cynical calculation from a candidate determined to win over a more centrist voting population?), O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article ends on this note,

When Sim runs for reelection in 2026, as he promises to do, he’ll have a great backdrop for his campaign—the city having just hosted several games for the FIFA World Cup, which is expected to bring in $1 billion and 900,000 visitors over five years.

The renewed swagger of Sim’s city will be on full display for the world to see. So too—if left unresolved—will some of Vancouver’s most glaring and intractable social problems.

I was born in Vancouver and don’t recall the city as having swagger, at any time. As for the economic prosperity that’s always promised with big events like the FIFA world cup, I’d like to see how much the 2010 Olympic Games held in Vancouver cost taxpayers and whether or not there were long lasting economic benefits. From a July 9, 2022 posting on Bob Mackin’s thebreaker.news,

The all-in cost to build and operate the Vancouver 2010 Games was as much as $8 billion, but the B.C. Auditor General never conducted a final report. The organizing committee, VANOC, was not covered by the freedom of information law and its records were transferred to the Vancouver Archives after the Games with restrictions not to open the board minutes and financial ledgers before fall 2025.

Mayor Sim will have two more big opportunities to show off his swagger in 2025 . (1) The Invictus Games come to Vancouver and Whistler in February 2025 and will likely bring Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle to the area (see the April 22, 2022 Associated Press article by Gemma Karstens-Smith on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website) and (2) The 2025 Junos (the Canadian equivalent to the Grammys) from March 26 – 30, 2025 with the awards show being held on March 30, 2025 (see the January 25, 2024 article by Daniel Chai for the Daily Hive website).

While he waits, Sim may have a ‘swagger’ opportunity later this month (February 2024) when Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex (Meghan Markle) visit the Vancouver and Whistler for a “a three-day Invictus Games’ One Year to Go event in Vancouver and Whistler,” see Daniel Chai’s February 2, 2024 article for more details.

Don’t forget, should you be in Austin, Texas for the 2024 SxSW, the daylong (11 am – 9 pm) Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024 event is on March 10, 2024, just click here to register. Who knows? You might get to meet Vancouver’s, Mayor Ken Sim. Or, if you can’t make it to Austin, Texas, O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article offer an unusual political profile.

February 1, 2024 talk about ‘CULTUS’: a scifi, queer art installation at the University of British Columbia’s Belkin Gallery in Vancouver, Canada

Spanning religiosity, science fiction, contemporary perspectives on artificial intelligence, and the techno-industrial complex, artist Zach Blas and writer/editor Jayne Wilkinson will be discussing CULTUS, an art installation currently being shown as part of the Belkin Gallery’s January 12 – April 14, 2024 exhibition, Aporia (Notes to a Medium),

Zach Blas, CULTUS , 2023, from the 2024 exhibition at Arebyte Gallery, London, UK. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Max Colson

Here’s what the folks at the Belkin Art Gallery (Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery) had to say in their January 30, 2024 announcement (received via email),

Artist Talk with Zach Blas and Jayne Wilkinson

Thursday, February 1 at 5 pm 

Please join us for a lecture by interdisciplinary artist Zach Blas, with a dialogue to follow with writer/editor Jayne Wilkinson. Blas will discuss his most recent work, CULTUS, the second in a trilogy of queer science-fiction installations addressing the beliefs, fantasies and histories that are influential to the contemporary tech industry. CULTUS (the Latin word for “worship”) considers the God-like status often afforded to artificial intelligence (AI) and examines how this religiosity is marshalled to serve beliefs about judgement and transcendence, extraction and immortality, pleasure and punishment, individual freedom and cult devotion. The conversation to follow will address some of the pressing intersecting political and ethical questions raised by both using and critiquing contemporary image technologies like AI.

This conversation will be audio-recorded; email us at belkin.gallery@ubc.ca if you are interested in listening to the recording following the event.

This talk is presented in conjunction with the Belkin’s exhibition Aporia (Notes to a Medium) and Critical Image Forum, a collaboration between the Belkin and the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at UBC.

For anyone (like me) who’s never heard of either Blas or Wilkinson, there’s more on the Belkin’s event page,

Zach Blas is an artist, filmmaker and writer whose practice draws out the philosophies and imaginaries residing in computational technologies and their industries. Working across moving image, computation, installation, theory and performance, Blas has exhibited, lectured and held screenings at venues including the 12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Tate Modern, 12th Gwangju Biennale and e-flux. His 2021 artist monograph Unknown Ideals is published by Sternberg Press. Blas is currently Assistant Professor of Visual Studies at the University of Toronto.

Jayne Wilkinson is a Toronto-based art writer and editor.

Should you be interested in attending the talk and/or the exhibition, here are some directions, from the Belkin Gallery’s Visit webpage,

Directions

The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery is located at the University of British Columbia Vancouver campus, 1825 Main Mall, Vancouver BC, V6T 1Z2

Open in Maps

By Public Transit

TransLink offers many routes to UBC, including several express services (44, 84, R4, 99). The UBC Bus Loop is the last stop for each of these buses, and is located in the central area of campus near the AMS Nest. To get to the gallery, walk west on University Boulevard. (about 1 block) until you reach Main Mall. Turn right onto Main Mall and continue for about 3 blocks until you reach Crescent Road. We are located on your left at the corner of Main Mall and Crescent Road, near the Flagpole Plaza.

By Car

From downtown Vancouver, proceed west on West 4th Avenue, which becomes Chancellor Blvd and then merges with NW Marine Drive. Continue west on NW Marine Drive, to the Rose Garden Parkade (on your left).

From the airport, proceed to SW Marine Drive. Stay on SW Marine Drive, which eventually merges with NW Marine Drive. Continue just past the Museum of Anthropology (on your left) to the Rose Garden Parkade (on your right).

Accessibility

Entrance

The Belkin is wheelchair accessible. The main entrance is located on the east side of the building next to Main Mall. For people requiring wheelchair or easier accessibility, use the ramp from Crescent Road to access the main gallery doors.  This entrance is level and accessible and has both a revolving door and a powered wheelchair-accessible door.

Washrooms

Washrooms are all-gender and include two multi-stall washrooms with wheelchair-accessible stalls and one stand-alone washroom that is wheelchair accessible.

Seating

Portable gallery stools are available for use.

Large Print Materials

Large print materials are available.

ASL Interpretation

ASL interpreters are available upon request for Belkin programs and events. To request interpretation for an event or tour, please contact us in advance.

Service Animals

Service dogs are welcome to accompany visitors.

Scent

The Belkin’s office is scent free. Occasionally, there are works or projects that are scent-focused.

Please ask our staff if you require any assistance or have any questions.

Admission to the gallery is free.

Simon Fraser University’s (SFU; Vancouver, Canada) Café Scientifique Winter/Spring 2024 events + a 2023 Nobel-themed lecture

There are three upcoming Simon Fraser University (SFU) Café Scientifique events (Zoom) and one upcoming Nobel=themed lecture (in person) according to a January 15, 2024 notice (received via email), Note: All the events are free,

Hello SFU Cafe Scientifique friends!

We are back with a brand new line up for our Cafe Scientifique discussion series.  Zoom invites will be sent closer to the event dates [emphasis mine].  We hope you can join us.

All event information and registration links on this page: https://www.sfu.ca/science/community.html

Café Scientifique: Why Do Babies Get Sick? A Systems Biology Approach to Developing Diagnostics and Therapeutics for Neonatal Sepsis. 

Tuesday, January 30, 5:00-6:30pm over Zoom 

Around the world five newborn babies die each second from life-threatening infections. Unfortunately there is no fast or easy way to tell which microbes are involved. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry assistant professor Amy Lee will share how we can use genomics and machine learning approaches to tackle this challenge.
Register here. https://events.sfu.ca/event/38235-cafe-scientifique-january-why-do-babies-get-sick?

Cafe Scientifique: From data to dollars: A journey through financial modelling
Tuesday, February 27, 5:00-6:30 pm over Zoom 

Financial modelling involves using mathematical and statistical techniques to understand future financial scenarios, helping individuals and businesses make informed decisions about their investments. Join Dr. Jean-François Bégin as he explores how these models can empower us to navigate the complexities of financial markets.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/763521010897

Cafe Scientifique: Overtraining and the Everyday Athlete
Tuesday, April 30, 5:00-6:30 pm over Zoom 

What happens when we train too hard, don’t take enough time to recover, or underfuel while exercising, and how that applies to both elite athletes and just your “everyday athlete.” Join Dr. Alexandra Coates from our Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology Department in this interesting discussion.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/763521010897

Missed our last Café Scientifique talk [Decoding how life senses and responds to carbon dioxide gas] with Dustin King? [SFU Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Assistant Professor Dustin King’s Indigenous background is central to his work and relationship with the biochemical research he conducts. He brings Indigenous ways of knowing and a two-eye seeing approach to critical questions about humanity’s impact upon the natural world …] Watch it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCHTSbF3RVs&list=PLTMt9gbqLurAMfSHQqVAHu7YbyOFq81Ix&index=10

The ‘2023 Nobel Prize Lectures’ being presented by SFU do not feature the 2023 winners but rather, SFU experts in the relevant field, from the January 15, 2024 SFU Café Scientifique notice (received via email),

BACK IN-PERSON AT THE SCIENCE WORLD THEATRE!

Location: Science World Theatre 1455 Quebec Street Vancouver, BC V6A 3Z7

NOBEL PRIZE LECTURES  

Wednesday, March 6, 2024 

6:30-7:30 pm Refreshments, 7:30-9:30 pm Lectures 

Celebrate the 2023 Nobel awardees in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine!

SFU experts will explain Nobel laureates’ award-winning research and its significance to our everyday lives. 

Featured presenters are

*Mark Brockman from Molecular Biology and Biochemistry for the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology;

*Byron Gates from Chemistry for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry; and

*Shawn Sederberg from the School of Engineering Science for the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/nobel-prize-lectures-tickets-773387301237

For anyone who has trouble remembering who and why the winners were awarded a 2023 Nobel Prize, here’s a nobleprize.org webpage devoted to the 2023 winners.

XoMotion, an exoskeleton developed in Canada causes commotion

I first stumbled across these researchers in 2016 when their project was known as “Wearable Lower Limb Anthropomorphic Exoskeleton (WLLAE).” In my January 20, 2016 posting, “#BCTECH: being at the Summit (Jan. 18-19, 2016),” an event put on by the province of British Columbia (BC, Canada) and the BC Innovation Council (BCIC), I visited a number of booths and talks at the #BC TECH Summit and had this to say about WLLAE,

“The Wearable Lower Limb Anthropomorphic Exoskeleton (WLLAE) – a lightweight, battery-operated and ergonomic robotic system to help those with mobility issues improve their lives. The exoskeleton features joints and links that correspond to those of a human body and sync with motion. SFU has designed, manufactured and tested a proof-of-concept prototype and the current version can mimic all the motions of hip joints.” The researchers (Siamak Arzanpour and Edward Park) pointed out that the ability to mimic all the motions of the hip is a big difference between their system and others which only allow the leg to move forward or back. They rushed the last couple of months to get this system ready for the Summit. In fact, they received their patent for the system the night before (Jan. 17, 2016) the Summit opened.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any pictures of WLLAE yet and the proof-of-concept version may differ significantly from the final version. This system could be used to help people regain movement (paralysis/frail seniors) and I believe there’s a possibility it could be used to enhance human performance (soldiers/athletes). The researchers still have some significant hoops to jump before getting to the human clinical trial stage. They need to refine their apparatus, ensure that it can be safely operated, and further develop the interface between human and machine. I believe WLLAE is considered a neuroprosthetic device. While it’s not a fake leg or arm, it enables movement (prosthetic) and it operates on brain waves (neuro). It’s a very exciting area of research, consequently, there’s a lot of international competition. [ETA January 3, 2024: I’m pretty sure I got the neuroprosthetic part wrong]

Time moved on and there was a name change and then there was this November 10, 2023 article by Jeremy Hainsworth for the Vancouver is Awesome website,

Vancouver-based fashion designer Chloe Angus thought she’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life after being diagnosed with an inoperable benign tumour in her spinal cord in 2015, resulting in permanent loss of mobility in her legs.

Now, however, she’s been using a state-of-the-art robotic exoskeleton known as XoMotion that can help physically disabled people self-balance, walk, sidestep, climb stairs and crouch.

“The first time I walked with the exoskeleton was a jaw-dropping experience,” said Angus. “After all these years, the exoskeleton let me stand up and walk on my own without falling. I felt like myself again.”

She added the exoskeleton has the potential to completely change the world for people with motion disabilities.

XoMotion is the result of a decade of research and the product of a Simon Fraser University spinoff company, Human in Motion Robotics (HMR) Inc. It’s the brainchild of professors Siamak Arzanpour and Edward Park.

Arzanpour and Park, both researchers in the Burnaby-based university’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, began work on the device in 2014. They had a vision to enhance exoskeleton technology and empower individuals with mobility challenges to have more options for movement.

“We felt that there was an immediate need to help people with motion disabilities to walk again, with a full range of motion. At the time, exoskeletons could only walk forward. That was the only motion possible,” Arzanpour said.

A November 15, 2023 article (with an embedded video) by Amy Judd & Alissa Thibault for Global News (television) highlights Alexander’s story,

SFU professors Siamak Arzanpour and Edward Park wanted to help people with motion disabilities to walk freely, naturally and independently.

The exoskeleton [XoMotion] is now the most advanced of its kind in the world.

Chloe Angus, who lost her mobility in her legs in 2015, now works for the team.

She said the exoskeleton makes her feel like herself again.

She was diagnosed with an inoperable benign tumor in her spinal cord in 2015 which resulted in a sudden and permanent loss of mobility in her legs. At the time, doctors told Angus that she would need a wheelchair to move for the rest of her life.

Now she is part of the project and defying all odds.

“After all these years, the exoskeleton let me stand up and walk on my own without falling. I felt like myself again.”

There’s a bit more information in the November 8, 2023 Simon Fraser University (SFU) news release (which has the same embedded video as the Global News article) by Ray Sharma,

The state-of-the-art robotic exoskeleton known as XoMotion is the result of a decade of research and the product of an SFU spin off company, Human in Motion Robotics (HMR) Inc. The company has recently garnered millions in investment, an overseas partnership and a suite of new offices in Vancouver.

XoMotion allows individuals with mobility challenges to stand up and walk on their own, without additional support. When in use, XoMotion maintains its stability and simultaneously encompasses all the ranges of motion and degrees of freedom needed for users to self-balance, walk, sidestep, climb stairs, crouch, and more. 

Sensors within the lower-limb exoskeleton mimic the human body’s sense of logic to identify structures along the path, and in-turn, generate a fully balanced motion.

SFU professors Siamak Arzanpour and Edward Park, both researchers in the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, began work on the device in 2014 with a vision to enhance exoskeleton technology and empower individuals with mobility challenges to have more options for movement. 

“We felt that there was an immediate need to help people with motion disabilities to walk again, with a full range of motion. At the time, exoskeletons could only walk forward. That was the only motion possible,” says Arzanpour. 

The SFU professors, who first met in 2001 as graduate students at the University of Toronto, co-founded HMR in 2016, bringing together a group of students, end-users, therapists, and organizations to build upon the exoskeleton. Currently, 70 per cent of HMR employees are SFU graduates. 

In recent years, HMR has garnered multiple streams of investment, including a contract with Innovative Solutions Canada, and $10 million in funding during their Series A round in May, including an $8 million investment and strategic partnership from Beno TNR, a prominent Korean technology investment firm.

I decided to bring the embedded video here, it runs a little over 2 mins.,

You can find the Human in Robotics (HMR) website here.

AI for salmon recovery

Hopefully you won’t be subjected to a commercial prior to this 3 mins. 49 secs. video about the salmon and how artificial intelligence (AI) could make a difference in theirs and our continued survival,

Video caption: Wild Salmon Center is partnering with First Nations to pilot the Salmon Vision technology. (Credit: Olivia Leigh Nowak/Le Colibri Studio.)

An October 19, 2023 news item on phys.org announces this research, Note: Links have been removed,

Scientists and natural resource managers from Canadian First Nations, governments, academic institutions, and conservation organizations published the first results of a unique salmon population monitoring tool in Frontiers in Marine Science.

This groundbreaking new technology, dubbed “Salmon Vision,” combines artificial intelligence with age-old fishing weir technology. Early assessments show it to be remarkably adept at identifying and counting fish species, potentially enabling real-time salmon population monitoring for fisheries managers.

An October 19, 2023 Wild Salmon Center news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides more detail about the work,

“In recent years, we’ve seen the promise of underwater video technology to help us literally see salmon return to rivers,” says lead author Dr. Will Atlas, Senior Watershed Scientist with the Portland-based Wild Salmon Center. “That dovetails with what many of our First Nations partners are telling us: that we need to automate fish counting to make informed decisions while salmon are still running.” 

The Salmon Vision pilot study annotates more than 500,000 individual video frames captured at two Indigenous-run fish counting weirs on the Kitwanga and Bear Rivers of B.C.’s Central Coast. 

The first-of-its-kind deep learning computer model, developed in data partnership with the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority and Skeena Fisheries Commission, shows promising accuracy in identifying salmon species. It yielded mean average precision rates of 67.6 percent in tracking 12 different fish species passing through custom fish-counting boxes at the two weirs, with scores surpassing 90 and 80 percent for coho and sockeye salmon: two of the principal fish species targeted by First Nations, commercial, and recreational fishers. 

“When we envisioned providing fast grants for projects focused on Indigenous futurism and climate resilience, this is the type of project that we hoped would come our way,” says Dr. Keolu Fox, a professor at the University of California-San Diego, and one of several reviewers in an early crowdfunding round for the development of Salmon Vision. 

Collaborators on the model, funded by the British Columbia Salmon Recovery and Innovation Fund, include researchers and fisheries managers with Simon Fraser University and Douglas College computing sciences, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Gitanyow Fisheries Authority, and the Skeena Fisheries Commission. Following these exciting early results, the next step is to expand the model with partner First Nations into a half-dozen new watersheds on B.C.’s North and Central Coast.

Real-time data on salmon returns is critical on several fronts. According to Dr. Atlas, many fisheries in British Columbia have been data-poor for decades. That leaves fisheries managers to base harvest numbers on early-season catch data, rather than the true number of salmon returning. Meanwhile, changing weather patterns, stream flows, and ocean conditions are creating more variable salmon returns: uncertainty that compounds the ongoing risks of overfishing already-vulnerable populations.

“Without real-time data on salmon returns, it’s extremely difficult to build climate-smart, responsive fisheries,” says Dr. Atlas. “Salmon Vision data collection and analysis can fill that information gap.” 

It’s a tool that he says will be invaluable to First Nation fisheries managers and other organizations both at the decision-making table—in providing better information to manage conservation risks and fishing opportunities—and in remote rivers across salmon country, where on-the-ground data collection is challenging and costly. 

The Salmon Vision team is implementing automated counting on a trial basis in several rivers around the B.C. North and Central Coasts in 2023. The goal is to provide reliable real-time count data by 2024.

This October 18, 2023 article by Ramona DeNies for the Wild Salmon Center (WSC) is nicely written although it does cover some of the same material seen in the news release, Note: A link has been removed,

Right now, in rivers across British Columbia’s Central Coast, we don’t know how many salmon are actually returning. At least, not until fishing seasons are over.

And yet, fisheries managers still have to make decisions. They have to make forecasts, modeled on data from the past. They have to set harvest targets for commercial and recreational fisheries. And increasingly, they have to make the call on emergency closures, when things start looking grim.

“On the north and central coast of BC, we’ve seen really wildly variable returns of salmon over the last decade,” says Dr. Will Atlas, Wild Salmon Center Senior Watershed Scientist. “With accelerating climate change, every year is unprecedented now. Yet from a fisheries management perspective, we’re still going into most seasons assuming that this year will look like the past.”

One answer, Dr. Atlas says, is “Salmon Vision.” Results from this first-of-its-kind technology—developed by WSC in data partnership with the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority and Skeena Fisheries Commission—were recently published in Frontiers in Marine Science.

There are embedded images in DeNies’ October 18, 2023 article; it’s where I found the video.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Wild salmon enumeration and monitoring using deep learning empowered detection and tracking by William I. Atlas, Sami Ma, Yi Ching Chou, Katrina Connors, Daniel Scurfield, Brandon Nam, Xiaoqiang Ma, Mark Cleveland, Janvier Doire, Jonathan W. Moore, Ryan Shea, Jiangchuan Liu. Front. Mar. Sci., 20 September 2023 Volume 10 – 2023 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2023.1200408

This paper appears to be open access.

Machine decision-making (artificial intelligence) in British Columbia’s government (Canada)

Jeremy Hainsworth’s September 19, 2023 article on the Vancouver is Awesome website was like a dash of cold water. I had no idea that plans for using AI (artificial intelligence) in municipal administration were so far advanced (although I did cover this AI development, “Predictive policing in Vancouver—the first jurisdiction in Canada to employ a machine learning system for property theft reduction” in a November 23, 2017 posting). From Hainsworth’s September 19, 2023 article, Note: A link has been removed,

Human discretion and the ability to follow decision-making must remain top of mind employing artificial intelligence (AI) to providing public services, Union of BC Municipalities conference delegates heard Sept. 19 [2023].

And, delegates heard from Office of the Ombudsperson of B.C. representatives, decisions made by machines must be fair and transparent.

“This is the way of the future — using AI systems for delivering municipal services,” Zoë Macmillan, office manager of investigations, health and local services.

The risk in getting it wrong on fairness and privacy issues, said Wendy Byrne, office consultation and training officer, is a loss of trust in government.

It’s an issue the office has addressed itself, due to the impacts automated decision-making could have on British Columbians, in terms of the fairness they receive around public services. The issue has been covered in a June 2021 report, Getting Ahead of the Curve [emphasis mine]. The work was done jointly with B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

And, said office representatives, there also needs to be AI decision-making trails that can be audited when it comes to transparency in decision-making and for people appealing decisions made by machines.

She [Zoë Macmillan] said many B.C. communities are on the verge of implementing AI for providing citizens with services. In Vancouver and Kelowna, AI is already being used [emphasis mine] in some permitting systems.

The public, meanwhile, needs to be aware when an automated decision-making system is assisting them with an issue, she [Wendy Byrne] noted.

It’s not clear from Hainsworth’s article excerpts seen here but the report, “Getting Ahead of the Curve” was a joint Yukon and British Columbia (BC) effort. Here’s a link to the report (PDF) and an excerpt, Note: I’d call this an executive summary,

Message from the Officers

With the proliferation of instantaneous and personalized services increasingly being delivered to people in many areas in the private sector, the public is increasingly expecting the same approach when receiving government services. Artificial intelligence (AI) is touted as an effective, efficient and cost-saving solution to these growing expectations. However, ethical and legal concerns are being raised as governments in Canada and abroad are experimenting with AI technologies in
decision-making under inadequate regulation and, at times, in a less than transparent manner.

As public service oversight officials upholding the privacy and fairness rights of citizens, it is our responsibility to be closely acquainted with emerging issues that threaten those rights. There is no timelier an issue that intersects with our
respective mandates as privacy commissioners and ombudsman, than the increasing use of artificial intelligence by the governments and public bodies we oversee.

The digital era has brought swift and significant change to the delivery of public services. The benefits of providing the public with increasingly convenient and timely service has spurred a range of computer-based platforms, from digital assistants to automated systems of approval for a range of services – building permits, inmate releases, social assistance applications, and car insurance premiums [emphasis mine] to name a few. While this kind of machine-based service delivery was once narrowly applied in the public sector, the use of artificial intelligence by the public sector is gaining a stronger foothold in countries around the world, including here in Canada. As public bodies become larger and more complex, the perceived benefits of efficiency, accessibility and accuracy of algorithms to make decisions once made by humans, can be initially challenging to refute.

Fairness and privacy issues resulting from the use of AI are well documented, with many commercial facial recognition systems and assessment tools demonstrating bias and augmenting the ability to use personal information in ways that infringe
privacy interests. Similar privacy and fairness issues are raised by the use of AI in government. People often have no choice but to interact with government and the decisions of government can have serious, long-lasting impacts on our lives. A failure to consider how AI technologies create tension with the fairness and privacy obligations of democratic institutions poses risks for the public and undermines trust in government.

In examining examples of how these algorithms have been used in practice, this report demonstrates that there are serious legal and ethical concerns for public sector administrators. Key privacy concerns relate to the lack of transparency of closed proprietary systems that prove challenging to review, test and monitor. Current privacy laws do not contemplate the use of AI and as such lack obligations for key
imperatives around the collection and use of personal information in machine-based
systems. From a fairness perspective, the use of AI in the public sector challenges key pillars of administrative fairness. For example, how algorithmic decisions are made, explained, reviewed or appealed, and how bias is prevented all present challenging questions.

As the application of AI in public administration continues to gain momentum, the intent of this report is to provide both important context regarding the challenges AI presents in public sector decision-making, as well as practical recommendations that aim to set consistent parameters for transparency, accountability, legality and procedural fairness for AI’s use by public bodies. The critically important values of
privacy protection and administrative fairness cannot be left behind as the field of AI continues to evolve and these principles must be more expressly articulated in legislation, policy and applicable procedural applications moving forward.

This joint report urges governments to respect and fulfill fairness and privacy principles in their adoption of AI technologies. It builds on extensive literature on public sector AI by providing concrete, technology-sensitive, implementable guidance on building fairness and privacy into public sector AI. The report also recommends capacity-building, co-operation and public engagement initiatives government should undertake to promote the public’s trust and buy-in of AI.

This report pinpoints the persistent challenges with AI that merit attention from a fairness and privacy perspective; identifies where existing regulatory measures and instruments for administrative fairness and privacy protection in the age of AI fall short and where they need to be enhanced; and sets out detailed, implementable guidance on incorporating administrative fairness and privacy principles across the various stages of the AI lifecycle, from inception and design, to testing, implementation and mainstreaming.

The final chapter contains our recommendations for the development of a framework to facilitate the responsible use of AI systems by governments. Our recommendations include:

– The need for public authorities to make a public commitment to guiding principles for the use of AI that incorporate transparency, accountability, legality, procedural fairness and the protection of privacy. These principles should apply to all existing and new programs or activities, be included in any tendering documents by public authorities for third-party contracts or AI systems delivered by service providers, and be used to assess legacy projects so they are brought into compliance within a reasonable timeframe.

– The need for public authorities to notify an individual when an AI system is used to make a decision about them and describe to the individual in a way that is understandable how that system operates.

– Government promote capacity building, co-operation, and public engagement on AI.
This should be carried out through public education initiatives, building subject-matter knowledge and expertise on AI across government ministries, developing capacity to support knowledge sharing and expertise between government and AI developers and vendors, and establishing or growing the capacity to develop open-source, high-quality data sets for training and testing Automated Decision Systems (ADS).

– Requiring all public authorities to complete and submit an Artificial Intelligence Fairness and Privacy Impact Assessment (AIFPIA) for all existing and future AI programs for review by the relevant oversight body.

– Special rules or restrictions for the use of highly sensitive information by AI.

… [pp. 1-3]

These are the contributors to the report: Alexander Agnello: Policy Analyst, B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson; Ethan Plato: Policy Analyst, B.C. Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner; and Sebastian Paauwe: Investigator and Compliance Review Officer, Office of the Yukon Ombudsman and Information and Privacy Commissioner.

A bit startling to see how pervasive ” … automated systems of approval for a range of services – building permits, inmate releases, social assistance applications, and car insurance premiums …” are already. Not sure I’d call this 60 pp. report “Getting Ahead of the Curve” (PDF). It seems more like it was catching up—even in 2021.

Finally, there’s my October 27, 2023 post about the 2023 Canadian Science Policy Conference highlighting a few of the sessions. Scroll down to the second session, “901 – The new challenges of information in parliaments“, where you’ll find this,

… This panel proposes an overview … including a discussion on emerging issues impacting them, such as the integration of artificial intelligence and the risks of digital interference in democratic processes.

Interesting, eh?

6th annual Girls and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) Summit at Science World in Vancouver (Canada)

Thanks to Rebecca Bollwitt and the October 24, 2023 posting on her Miss 604 blog for the news about the 2023 (or 6th annual) Girls and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) Summit. From Alexis Miles’s October 24, 2023 post,

The 6th annual Girls and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and math), presented by STEMCELL Technologies, is taking place at Science World November 4th [2023].

Girls and STEAM at Science World
Date: Saturday, November 4, 2023
Time: 7:45am to 4:00pm
Location: Science World (1455 Quebec Street, Vancouver)
Admission: Registration is open online for girls aged 12 to 14.

300 young girls, aged 12-14, will take over the Science World dome in a day of hands-on activities, enriching workshops, inspiring mentorship sessions and a keynote presentation.

This year’s keynote presentation features Andini Makosinski, Filipina-Polish Canadian inventor best known for her invention of the Hollow Flashlight that runs off the heat of the human hand, and theeDrink, a coffee mug that harvests the excess heat of a hot drink and converts it into electricity to charge a phone. The inspiration for Andini’s flashlight came from her friend in the Philippines, who had failed a grade in school because she had no light or electricity to study with at night.

A September 25, 2023 STEMCELL Technologies news release announces the company’s participation and support for the event,

STEMCELL Technologies, Canada’s largest biotechnology company, is pleased to announce it will be the presenting partner of the Girls and STEAM Summit at Science World in Vancouver.

The Summit, which takes place on November 4, 2023, is a full-day event with workshops, hands-on activities, a keynote presentation, and sessions with experienced mentors who work in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and design, and math).

“Science is about so much more than what happens in the laboratory. It provides a lens that can instill a deep-seated curiosity in young minds and enrich every aspect of our lives,” said Sharon Louis, Senior Vice President of Research and Development, STEMCELL. “Scientific education – in the classroom and out in the world – can lead to life-changing experiences and limitless opportunities for young women and girls. STEMCELL is proud to support the Girls and STEAM program to make science more accessible, and help ignite the passion of the next generation of scientists and leaders.”

About STEMCELL Technologies

STEMCELL Technologies supports life sciences research with more than 2,500 specialized reagents, tools, and services. STEMCELL offers high-quality cell culture media, cell separation technologies, instruments, accessory products, educational resources, and contract assay services that are used by scientists performing stem cell, immunology, cancer, regenerative medicine, and cellular therapy research globally.

[downloaded from https://miss604.com/2023/10/girls-and-steam-at-science-world.html]

You can register here.

Toronto’s ArtSci Salon hosts October 16, 2023 and October 27, 2023 events and the Fourth Annual Small File Media Festival in Vancouver (Canada) Oct. 20 – 21, 2023

An October 5, 2023 announcement (received via email) from Toronto’s ArtSci Salon lists two events coming up in October 2023,

These two Events are part of the international Leonardo LASER series
LASER Toronto is hosted by Nina Czegledy and Roberta Buiani

The Anthropocene Cookbook on October 16, 2023

[downloaded from: https://artscisalon.com/coms4208/]

From the Toronto ArtSci Salon October 5, 2023 announcement,

Oct 16 [2023], 3:30 PM [ET] 
The Anthropocene cookbook

with authors 
Zane Cerpina & Stahl Stenslie
Cerpina and Stenslie are the authors of
The Anthropocene Cookbook. How to survive in the age of catastrophes 

Join us to welcome Cerpina and Stenslie as they introduce us to their
book and discuss the future cuisine of humanity. To sustain the
soon-to-be 9 billion global population we cannot count on Mother
Earth’s resources anymore. The project explores innovative and
speculative ideas about new foods in the field of arts, design, science
& technology, rethinking eating traditions and food taboos, and
proposing new recipes for survival in times of ecological catastrophes.

To match the topic of their talk, attendees will be presented with
“anthropocene snacks” and will be encouraged to discuss food
alternatives and new networks of solidarity to fight food deserts,
waste, and unsustainable consumption.

This is a Hybrid event: our guests will join us virtually on zoom.
Join us in person at Glendon Campus, rm YH190 (the studio next to the
Glendon Theatre) for a more intimate community experience and some
anthropocene snacks. If you wish to join us on Zoom, please

register here

This event is part of a series on Emergent Practices in Communication,
featuring explorations on interspecies communication and digital
networks; land-based justice and collective care. The full program can be found here

This initiative is supported by York University’s Teaching Commons Academic Innovation Fund

Zane Cerpina is a multicultural and interdisciplinary female author,
curator, artist, and designer working with the complexity of
socio-political and environmental issues in contemporary society and in
the age of the Anthropocene. Cerpina earned her master’s degree in
design from AHO – The Oslo School of Architecture and Design and a
bachelor’s degree in Art and Technology from Aalborg University. She
resides in Oslo and is a project manager/curator at TEKS (Trondheim
Electronic Arts Centre). She is also a co-founder and editor of EE:
Experimental Emerging Art Journal. From 2015 to 2019, Cerpina was a
creative manager and editor at PNEK (Production Network for Electronic
Art, Norway).

Stahl Stenslie works as an artist, curator and researcher specializing
in experimental media art and interaction experiences. His aesthetic
focus is on art and artistic expressions that challenge ordinary ways of
perceiving the world. Through his practice he asks the questions we tend
to avoid – or where the answers lie in the shadows of existence.
Keywords of his practice are somaesthetics, unstable media,
transgression and numinousness. The technological focus in his works is
on the art of the recently possible – such as i) panhaptic
communication on Smartphones, ii) somatic and immersive soundspaces, and
iii) design of functional and lethal artguns, 3D printed in low-cost
plastic material.He has a PhD on Touch and Technologies from The School
of Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway. Currently he heads the R&D
department at Arts for Young Audiences Norway.

If you’re interested in the book, there’s the anthropocenecookbook.com, which has more about the book and purchase information,

The Anthropocene Cookbook is by far the most comprehensive collection of ideas about future food from the perspective of art, design, and science. It is a thought-provoking book about art, food, and eating in the Anthropocene –The Age of Man– and the age of catastrophes.

Published by The MIT Press [MIT = Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
| mitpress.mit.edu

Supported by TEKS
Trondheim Electronic Arts Centre
| www.teks.no

*Date changed* Streaming Carbon Footprint on October 27, 2023

Keep scrolling down to Date & location changed for Streaming Carbon Footprint subhead.

From the Toronto ArtSci Salon October 5, 2023 announcement,

Oct 27, [2023] 5:00-7:00 PM  [ET]
Streaming Carbon Footprint

with 
Laura U. Marks
and
David Rokeby

Room 230
The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences
222 College Street, Toronto

We are thrilled to announce this dialogue between media Theorist Laura U. Marks and Media Artist David Rokeby. Together, they will discuss a well known elephant in the room of media and digital technologies: their carbon footprint. As social media and streaming media usage increases exponentially, what can be done to mitigate their impact? are there alternatives?

This is a live event: our guests will join us in person.

if you wish to join us on Zoom instead, a link will be circulated on our website and on social media a few days before the event. The event will be recorded

Laura U. Marks works on media art and philosophy with an intercultural focus, and on small-footprint media. She programs experimental media for venues around the world. As Grant Strate University Professor, she teaches in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Her upcoming book The Fold: From Your Body to the Cosmos will be published I March 2024 by Duke University Press. 

David Rokeby is an installation artist based in Toronto, Canada. He has been creating and exhibiting since 1982. For the first part of his career he focussed on interactive pieces that directly engage the human body, or that involve artificial perception systems. In the last decade, his practice has expanded to included video, kinetic and static sculpture. His work has been performed / exhibited in shows across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia.

Awards include the first BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for Interactive Art in 2000, a 2002 Governor General’s award in Visual and Media Arts and the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica for Interactive Art 2002. He was awarded the first Petro-Canada Award for Media Arts in 1988, the Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction for Interactive Art (Austria) in 1991 and 1997.

I haven’t been able to dig up any information about registration but it will be added here should I stumble across any in the next few weeks. I did, however, find more information about Marks’s work and a festival in Vancouver (Canada).

Fourth Annual Small File Media Festival (October 20 -21, 2023) and the Streaming Carbon Footprint

First, let’s flip back in time to a July 27, 2021 Simon Fraser University (SFU) news release (also published as a July 27, 2021 news item on phys.org) by Tessa Perkins Deneault,

When was the last time you watched a DVD? If you’re like most people, your DVD collection has been gathering dust as you stream movies and TV from a variety of on-demand services. But have you ever considered the impact of streaming video on the environment?

School for the Contemporary Arts professor Laura Marks and engineering professor Stephen Makonin, with engineering student Alejandro Rodriguez-Silva and media scholar Radek Przedpełski, worked together for over a year to investigate the carbon footprint of streaming media supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

“Stephen and Alejandro were there to give us a reality check and to increase our engineering literacy, and Radek and I brought the critical reading to it,” says Marks. “It was really a beautiful meeting of critical media studies and engineering.”

After combing through studies on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and making their own calculations, they confirmed that streaming media (including video on demand, YouTube, video embedded in social media and websites, video conferences, video calls and games) is responsible for more than one per cent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. And this number is only projected to rise as video conferencing and streaming proliferate.

“One per cent doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s significant if you think that the airline industry is estimated to be 1.9 per cent,” says Marks. “ICT’s carbon footprint is growing fast, and I’m concerned that because we’re all turning our energy to other obvious carbon polluters, like fossil fuels, cars, the airline industry, people are not going to pay attention to this silent, invisible carbon polluter.”

One thing that Marks found surprising during their research is how politicized this topic is.

Their full report includes a section detailing the International Energy Association’s attack on French think tank The Shift Project after they published a report on streaming media’s carbon footprint in 2019. They found that some ICT engineers state that the carbon footprint of streaming is not a concern because data centres and networks are very efficient, while others say the fast-rising footprint is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Their report includes comparisons of the divergent figures in engineering studies in order to get a better understanding of the scope of this problem.

The No. 1 thing Marks and Makonin recommend to reduce streaming’s carbon footprint is to ensure that our electricity comes from renewable sources. At an individual level, they offer a list of recommendations to reduce energy consumption and demand for new ICT infrastructure including: stream less, watch physical media including DVDs, decrease video resolution, use audio-only mode when possible, and keep your devices longer—since production of devices is very carbon-intensive.    

Promoting small files and low resolution, Marks founded the Small File Media Festival [link leads to 2023 programme], which will present its second annual program [2021] of 5-megabyte films Aug. 10 – 20. As the organizers say, movies don’t have to be big to be binge-worthy.

Learn more about Marks’ research and the Small File Media Festival: https://www.sfu.ca/sca/projects—activities/streaming-carbon-footprint.html

And now for 2023, here’s a video promoting the upcoming fourth annual festival,

The Streaming Carbon Footprint webpage on the SFU website includes information about the final report and the latest Small File Media Festival. Although I found the Small File Media Festival website also included a link for purchasing tickets,

The Small File Media Festival returns for its fourth iteration! We are delighted to partner with The Cinematheque to present over sixty jewel-like works from across the globe. These movies are small in file size, but huge in impact: by embracing the aesthetics of compression and low resolution (glitchiness, noise, pixelation), they lay the groundwork for a new experimental film movement in the digital age. This year, six lovingly curated programs traverse brooding pixelated landscapes, textural paradises, and crystalline infinities.

TICKETS AND FESTIVAL INFO

Join us Friday, October 20 [2023] for the opening-night program followed by a drinks reception in the lobby and a dance party in the cinema, featuring music by Vancouver electronic artist SAN. We’ll announce the winner of the coveted Small-File Golden Mini Bear during Saturday’s [October 21, 2023] award ceremony! As always, the festival will stream online at small​file​.ca after the live events.

We’re most grateful to our future-forward friends at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Canada Council for the Arts, and SFU Contemporary Arts. Thanks to VIVO Media Arts, Cairo Video Festival, and The Hmm for generous distribution and exhibition awards, and to UKRAïNATV, a partner in small-file activism.

Cosmically healthy, community-building, and punk AF, small-file ecomedia will heal the world, one pixel at a time.

TICKETS

There we have it. And then, we didn’t

*Date & location change* for Streaming Carbon Footprint event

From an October 27, 2023 ArtSci Salon notice,

Nov 7, [2023] 5:00-7:00 PM 
Streaming Carbon Footprint

with 
Laura U. Marks
and
David Rokeby
 

Tuesday, November 7 [2023]
5:00-7:00 pm
The BMO Lab
15 King’s College Circle, room H-12
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3H7

Good luck to the organizers. It must have been nervewracking to change the date so late in the game.

General Fusion: update to October 10, 2023

It seems that Canadian nuclear energy company General Fusion has finally moved from Burnaby to Richmond (both are part of the Metro Vancouver Region). The move first announced in 2021 (see my November 3, 2021 posting for the news and a description of fusion energy; Note: fission is a different form of nuclear energy, fusion is considered clean/green).

I found confirmation of the move in an August 9, 2023 article by Kenneth Chan for the dailyhive.com

If all goes as planned, a major hurdle in fusion-based, zero-emission clean energy innovation could be produced on Sea Island in Richmond in just three years from now.

BC-based General Fusion announced today it has plans to build a new magnetized target fusion (MTF) machine at the company’s global headquarters at 6020-6082 Russ Baker Way [emphasis mine] near the South Terminal of Vancouver International Airport (YVR). [Note: YVR is located in Richmond, BC]

Chan goes on to note (from his August 9, 2023 article), Note: A link has been removed,

This machine will be designed to achieve fusion conditions of over 100,000,000°C by 2025, with “scientific breakeven” conditions by 2026. This will “fast-track” the company’s technical progress.

More specifically, this further proof-of-concept will show General Fusion’s ability to “symmetrically compress magnetized plasmas in a repeatable manner and achieve fusion conditions at scale.”

General Fusion’s technology is designed to be lower cost by avoiding other approaches that require expensive superconducting magnets or high-powered lasers.

The YVR machine is intended to support further work and investment and reduce the risk of General Fusion’s commercial-scale demonstration test plan in Culham Campus of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) — located just outside of Oxford, west of London. The UK plant has effectively been delayed, [emphasis mine] with the goal now to provide electricity to the grid with commercial fusion energy by the early to mid-2030s.

“Our updated three-year Fusion Demonstration Program puts us on the best path forward to commercialize our technology by the 2030s,” said Greg Twinney, CEO of General Fusion, in a statement. “We’re harnessing our team’s existing strengths right here in Canada and delivering high-value, industry-leading technical milestones in the near term.”

Canada, always a colony

I wonder what happened to the UKAEA deal. In my October 28, 2022 posting (Overview of fusion energy scene) General Fusion was downright effusive in its enthusiasm about the joint path to commercialization with a demonstration machine to be built in the UK. Scroll down to my ‘Fusion energy explanation (2)’ subhead for more details.

It now looks as if the first demonstration will be build and tested in Canada, from an August 9, 2023 General Fusion news release,

General Fusion announced a new Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) machine that will fast-track the company’s technical progress. To be built at the company’s new Richmond headquarters, this ground-breaking machine is designed to achieve fusion conditions of over 100 million degrees Celsius by 2025, [emphasis mine] and progress toward scientific breakeven by 2026. In addition, the company completed the first close of its Series F raise for a combined $25 million USD (approximately $33.5 million CAD) of funding. The round was anchored by existing investors, BDC Capital and GIC. It also included new grant funding from the Government of British Columbia, which builds upon the Canadian government’s ongoing support through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). 

This machine represents a significant new pillar to accelerate and de-risk [emphasis mine] General Fusion’s Demonstration Program, designed to leverage the company’s recent technological advancements and provide electricity to the grid with commercial fusion energy by the early to mid-2030s.  

Over the next two to three years, General Fusion will work closely with the UK Atomic Energy Authority [UKAEA] to validate the data gathered from [Lawson Machine 26] LM26 and incorporate it into the design of the company’s planned commercial scale demonstration in the UK.

So, the machine is being ‘de-risked’ in Canada first, eh?

September 2023

There was an interesting UK addition to General Fusion’s board of directors according to a September 6, 2023 news release,

Today [September 6, 2023], General Fusion announced the appointment of Norman Harrison to its Board of Directors. Norman is a world-class executive in the energy sector, with 40 years of unique experience providing leadership to both the fusion energy and nuclear fission communities.

His experience includes serving as the CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) from 2006 to 2010 [emphasis mine], when he oversaw the groundbreaking research being conducted by the Joint European Torus (JET), the world’s largest fusion experiment and the only one operating using deuterium-tritium fuel, as it pushed the frontiers of fusion science. Norman’s expertise will support General Fusion as the company completes its Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) demonstration, LM26 [scroll up to August 9, 2023 news release in the above for details] , at its Canadian headquarters. LM26 is targeting fusion conditions of 100 million degrees Celsius by 2025 and is charting a path to scientific breakeven equivalent by 2026. The results achieved by LM26 will be validated by the UKAEA and incorporated into the design of the company’s near-commercial machine, which is planned to be built at the UKAEA’s Culham Campus. 

Norman’s background also includes leading the construction and operations of large-scale power plants. As a result, his guidance will benefit General Fusion as it progresses to commercializing its MTF technology by the early to mid-2030s.

“I’ve been a part of the fusion energy industry for many years now. General Fusion’s unique technology stands out and has exciting promise to put fusion energy onto the electricity grid,” said Norman Harrison. “I am thrilled to join the General Fusion team and be a part of the company’s progress.”

“Norman’s wealth of expertise in advancing fusion technology and operating large electricity infrastructure provides us with meaningful insight into what is required to effectively bring Magnetized Target Fusion to the energy grid in a cost-effective, practical way,” said Greg Twinney, CEO, General Fusion. “We look forward to working with him as General Fusion transforms the commercial power industry with reliable fusion power.”

About General Fusion

General Fusion is pursuing a fast and practical approach to commercial fusion energy and is headquartered in Richmond, B.C. The company was established in 2002 and is funded by a global syndicate of leading energy venture capital firms, industry leaders and technology pioneers. …

So, after postponing plans to build a build a demonstration plant with UKAEA and deciding to build it in Canada where it can be ‘de-risked’ here first, General Fusion adds a former UKAEA CEO to their company board. This seems a little strategic to me.

October 2023

Here’s the latest from an October 10, 2023 news release,

Today [October 11, 2023], General Fusion and Kyoto Fusioneering announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to accelerate the commercialization of General Fusion’s proprietary Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) technology, aiming for grid integration in the early to mid-2030s. The companies will collaborate to advance critical systems for MTF commercialization, including the tritium fuel cycle, liquid metal balance of plant, and power conversion cycle.

Tritium, a hydrogen isotope and key fusion fuel, does not occur naturally and must be produced or “bred” in the fusion process. General Fusion’s game-changing commercial power plant design features a proprietary liquid metal wall that compresses plasma to fusion conditions, protects the fusion machine’s vessel components, and breeds tritium upon interacting with the fusion products. This design allows the machine to be self-sustaining, generating fuel for the life of the power plant while facilitating efficient energy extraction from the fusion reaction through a liquid metal loop to a heat exchanger.

Kyoto Fusioneering specializes in fusion power plant systems that complement the plasma confinement core, are applicable to various fusion confinement concepts, such as MTF, and are on the critical path for fusion commercialization. The complementary capabilities of both organizations will enable parallel development of key systems supporting MTF commercialization. Initial collaboration under this MOU will focus on liquid metal experimentation and fuel cycle system development at both the General Fusion and Kyoto Fusioneering facilities, such as establishment of balance of plant and power conversion test facilities, liquid metal loops, and vacuum systems.

Quotes:

“Currently, our new machine, LM26, is on-track to achieve fusion conditions by 2025, and progress towards scientific breakeven by 2026,” said Greg Twinney, CEO, General Fusion. “Harnessing the unique technological and engineering expertise of Kyoto Fusioneering will be instrumental as we translate LM26’s groundbreaking results into the world’s first Magnetized Target Fusion power plant.”

“We’re thrilled to join forces with General Fusion. Our combined expertise will accelerate the path to commercial fusion energy, a critical step toward a sustainable, decarbonized future,” said Satoshi Konishi, Co-founder and Chief Fusioneer, Kyoto Fusioneering.

Quick Facts:

Magnetized Target Fusion [prepare yourself for 1 min. 21 secs. of an enthusiastic Michel Laberge, company founder and chief science officer] uniquely sidesteps challenges to commercialization that other technologies face. The proprietary liquid metal liner in the commercial fusion machine is mechanically compressed by high-powered pistons. This enables fusion conditions to be created in short pulses rather than creating a sustained reaction. General Fusion’s design does not require large superconducting magnets or an expensive array of lasers.

General Fusion’s design will use deuterium-tritium fuel for its commercial power plant. Both are isotopes of hydrogen. Deuterium occurs naturally and can be derived from seawater. Tritium needs to be produced, which is why General Fusion’s unique and proprietary technology that breeds tritium as a byproduct of the fusion reaction is a game-changer.

Kyoto Fusioneering was spun out of Kyoto University. It is home to world-class R&D facilities, and its team has a combined total of approximately 800 years of experience [emphasis mine].

About Kyoto Fusioneering

Kyoto Fusioneering, established in 2019 [emphasis mine], is a privately funded technology startup with facilities in Tokyo and Kyoto (Japan), Reading (UK), and Seattle (USA). The company specialises in developing advanced technologies for commercial fusion power plants, such as gyrotron systems, tritium fuel cycle technologies, and breeding blankets for tritium production and power generation. Working collaboratively with public and private fusion developers around the world, Kyoto Fusioneering’s mission is to make fusion energy the ultimate sustainable solution for humanity’s energy needs.

800 years of experience seems to be a bit of a stretch for a company established four years ago with 96 employees as of July 1, 2023 (see Kyoto Fusioneering’s Company Profile webpage) but hat’s off for the sheer gutsiness of it.