Category Archives: pop culture

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.

Superheroes in college/university anatomy classes

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain [downloaded from https://phys.org/news/2023-08-anatomy-superheroic-science-class.html]

An August 9, 2023 news item on phys.org highlights how superhero anatomy is being employed in human anatomy courses, Note: A link has been removed,

What do superheroes Deadpool and Elastigirl have in common? Each was used in a college anatomy class to add relevance to course discussions—Deadpool to illustrate tissue repair, and Elastigirl, aka Mrs. Incredible, as an example of hyperflexibility.

Instructors at The Ohio State University College of Medicine created a “SuperAnatomy” course in an attempt to improve the experience of undergraduate students learning the notoriously difficult—and for some, scary or gross—subject matter of human anatomy.

An August 9, 2023 Ohio State University news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, delves further into the topic, Note: Links have been removed,

Surveys showed that most students who took the class found the use of superheroes increased their motivation to learn, fostered deeper understanding of the material, and made the content more approachable and enjoyable.

A few of the many content examples also included considering how Wolverine’s claws would affect his musculoskeletal system and citing Groot in a discussion of skin disorders.The effort was aimed at bringing creativity to the classroom – in the form of outside-the-box instruction and as a way to inspire students’ imagination and keep them engaged, said Melissa Quinn, associate professor of anatomy at Ohio State and senior author of a study on the course’s effectiveness.

“In these introductory courses, it’s a little tougher to talk about clinical relevance because students don’t fully understand a lot of the mechanics,” Quinn said. “But if you bring in pop culture, which everybody is inundated with in some way, shape or form, and tie it to the foundational sciences, then that becomes a way to apply it a little bit more.”

The study was published recently in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education.

First author Jeremy Grachan, the mastermind behind the course’s creation, led design of the curriculum as an Ohio State PhD student and is now an assistant professor of anatomy at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

SuperAnatomy was created as a 1000-level three-credit-hour undergraduate course open to students of all majors. The class consisted of three 55-minute lectures each week and lab sessions offered twice in the semester. The course’s curriculum borrowed heavily from Human Anatomy 2300, a four-credit-hour course taken primarily by pre-health profession majors, consisting of live and recorded lectures, review sessions and one lab per week.

Students from both classes were invited to join the study over three semesters in 2021 and 2022; 36 students in SuperAnatomy and 442 students in Human Anatomy participated. Researchers collected data from 50-question quizzes given during the first week of classes and at the end of the semester intended to gauge how well students learned and applied course content. The students also completed pre- and post-course surveys.

The quiz results showed that student learning and application of material in the two courses was essentially the same. And to be clear, the SuperAnatomy content was not all cartoons and comic books.

“We looked at courses already running in our anatomy curriculum and took the relevant parts of those courses and added in the superheroes,” Quinn said. “So we actually elevated the curriculum.”

The follow-up survey of SuperAnatomy participants suggested the inclusion of superheroes strengthened their class experience, with nearly all students reporting that pop culture and superhero references expanded their understanding of course material and boosted their motivation to do well in the class.

“Collectively, if the students are enjoying the course and motivated to learn the material it could be better not only for their academic success, but their mental health and social wellbeing too,” the authors wrote.

Human anatomy is tough stuff – on top of the high volume of unfamiliar medical terms rooted in Latin, it can be unsettling to learn about the body in such a scientific, yet intimate, way.

“If you don’t have a good tour guide to help you, you might be inclined to give up pretty quickly,” Quinn said. “And none of us wants to be stale in our teaching.

“Here, we’ve seen that you can take a course like anatomy, which has been around forever, and bring it very much to whatever generation that we’re going to be teaching. And it’s not just about having fun – but a way to really make anatomy very interesting.”

Mason Marek and James Cray Jr. of Ohio State also co-authored the study.

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

Effects of using superheroes in an undergraduate human anatomy curriculum by
Jeremy J. Grachan, Mason Marek, James Cray Jr., Melissa M. Quinn. Anatomical Sciences Education DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.2312 First published: 25 June 2023

This paper is open access.

Graphic novels for teaching math, physics, and more

I’m going to start with the fun, i.e., “Max the Demon Vs Entropy of Doom”,

Found on Assa Auerbach @AssaAuerbach·Twitter feed: 6:57 AM · Feb 17, 2018 [downloaded from: https://theconversation.com/3-reasons-we-use-graphic-novels-to-teach-math-and-physics-211171]

Engaging introduction to James Clerk Maxwell’s and his thought experiment concerning entropy, “Maxwell’s demon.”

It’s one of the points that Sarah Klanderman and Josha Ho (both from Marian University; Indiana, US) make in their co-authored August 17, 2023 essay (on The Conversation) about using graphic novels to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) topics in the classroom, Note: Links have been removed,

Graphic novels – offering visual information married with text – provide a means to engage students without losing all of the rigor of textbooks. As two educators in math and physics, we have found graphic novels to be effective at teaching students of all ability levels. We’ve used graphic novels in our own classes, and we’ve also inspired and encouraged other teachers to use them. And we’re not alone: Other teachers are rejuvenating this analog medium with a high level of success.

In addition to covering a wide range of topics and audiences, graphic novels can explain tough topics without alienating student averse to STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. Even for students who already like math and physics, graphic novels provide a way to dive into topics beyond what is possible in a time-constrained class. In our book “Using Graphic Novels in the STEM Classroom,” we discuss the many reasons why graphic novels have a unique place in math and physics education. …

Klanderman and Ho share some information that was new to me, from the August 17, 2023 essay, Note: Links have been removed,

Increasingly, schools are moving away from textbooks, even though studies show that students learn better using print rather than digital formats [emphasis mine]. Graphic novels offer the best of both worlds: a hybrid between modern and traditional media.

This integration of text with images and diagrams is especially useful in STEM disciplines that require quantitative reading and data analysis skills, like math and physics.

For example, our collaborator Jason Ho, an assistant professor at Dordt University, uses “Max the Demon Vs Entropy of Doom” to teach his physics students about entropy. This topic can be particularly difficult for students because it’s one of the first times when they can’t physically touch something in physics. Instead, students have to rely on math and diagrams to fill in their knowledge.

Rather than stressing over equations, Ho’s students focus on understanding the subject more conceptually. This approach helps build their intuition before diving into the algebra. They get a feeling for the fundamentals before they have to worry about equations.

After having taken Ho’s class, more than 85% of his students agreed that they would recommend using graphic novels in STEM classes, and 90% found this particular use of “Max the Demon” helpful for their learning. When strategically used, graphic novels can create a dynamic, engaging teaching environment even with nuanced, quantitative topics.

I encourage you to read the essay in its entirety if you have the time and the interest.

Here’s a link to the publisher’s website, a citation for and description of the book along with a Table of Contents, Note: it seems to be available in the UK only,

Using Graphic Novels in the STEM Classroom by William Boerman-Cornell, Josha Ho, David Klanderman, Sarah Klanderman. Published: 30 Nov 2023 Format: Paperback Edition: 1st Extent: 168 [pp?] ISBN: 9781350279186 Imprint: Bloomsbury Academic Illustrations: 5 bw illus. Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Pre-order. Available 30 Nov 2023

Description

This book provides everything STEM teachers need to use graphic novels in order to engage students, explain difficult concepts, and enrich learning. Drawing upon the latest educational research and over 60 years of combined teaching experience, the authors describe the multimodal affordances and constraints of each element of the STEM curriculum. Useful for new and seasoned teachers alike, the chapters provide practical guidance for teaching with graphic novels, with a section each for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. An appendix provides nearly 100 short reviews of graphic novels arranged by topic, such as cryptography, evolution, computer coding, skyscraper design, nuclear physics, auto repair, meteorology, and human physiology, allowing the teacher to find multiple graphic novels to enhance almost any unit. These include graphic novel biographies of Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, Alan Turing, Rosalind Franklin, as well as popular titles such as T-Minus by Jim Ottaviani, Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine, Theodoris Andropoulos’s Who Killed Professor X, and Gene [Luen] Yang’s Secret Coders series.

Table of Contents

List of Figures
Foreword, Jay Hosler
Acknowledgements
1. What Research Tells us about Teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics with Graphic Novels
2. Teaching Life Science and Earth Science with Graphic Novels
3. Teaching Physical Science with Graphic Novels
4. Teaching Technology with Graphic Novels
5. Using Graphic Novels to Teach Engineering
6. Teaching Mathematics with Graphic Novels
7. Unanswered Questions and Concluding Thoughts
Appendix: List of STEM Graphic Novels
References
Notes
Index

Finally, h/t August 20, 2023 news item on phys.org

Non-human authors (ChatGPT or others) of scientific and medical studies and the latest AI panic!!!

It’s fascinating to see all the current excitement (distressed and/or enthusiastic) around the act of writing and artificial intelligence. Easy to forget that it’s not new. First, the ‘non-human authors’ and then the panic(s). *What follows the ‘nonhuman authors’ is essentially a survey of situation/panic.*

How to handle non-human authors (ChatGPT and other AI agents)—the medical edition

The first time I wrote about the incursion of robots or artificial intelligence into the field of writing was in a July 16, 2014 posting titled “Writing and AI or is a robot writing this blog?” ChatGPT (then known as GPT-2) first made its way onto this blog in a February 18, 2019 posting titled “AI (artificial intelligence) text generator, too dangerous to release?

The folks at the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) have recently adopted a pragmatic approach to the possibility of nonhuman authors of scientific and medical papers, from a January 31, 2022 JAMA editorial,

Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to help authors improve the preparation and quality of their manuscripts and published articles are rapidly increasing in number and sophistication. These include tools to assist with writing, grammar, language, references, statistical analysis, and reporting standards. Editors and publishers also use AI-assisted tools for myriad purposes, including to screen submissions for problems (eg, plagiarism, image manipulation, ethical issues), triage submissions, validate references, edit, and code content for publication in different media and to facilitate postpublication search and discoverability..1

In November 2022, OpenAI released a new open source, natural language processing tool called ChatGPT.2,3 ChatGPT is an evolution of a chatbot that is designed to simulate human conversation in response to prompts or questions (GPT stands for “generative pretrained transformer”). The release has prompted immediate excitement about its many potential uses4 but also trepidation about potential misuse, such as concerns about using the language model to cheat on homework assignments, write student essays, and take examinations, including medical licensing examinations.5 In January 2023, Nature reported on 2 preprints and 2 articles published in the science and health fields that included ChatGPT as a bylined author.6 Each of these includes an affiliation for ChatGPT, and 1 of the articles includes an email address for the nonhuman “author.” According to Nature, that article’s inclusion of ChatGPT in the author byline was an “error that will soon be corrected.”6 However, these articles and their nonhuman “authors” have already been indexed in PubMed and Google Scholar.

Nature has since defined a policy to guide the use of large-scale language models in scientific publication, which prohibits naming of such tools as a “credited author on a research paper” because “attribution of authorship carries with it accountability for the work, and AI tools cannot take such responsibility.”7 The policy also advises researchers who use these tools to document this use in the Methods or Acknowledgment sections of manuscripts.7 Other journals8,9 and organizations10 are swiftly developing policies that ban inclusion of these nonhuman technologies as “authors” and that range from prohibiting the inclusion of AI-generated text in submitted work8 to requiring full transparency, responsibility, and accountability for how such tools are used and reported in scholarly publication.9,10 The International Conference on Machine Learning, which issues calls for papers to be reviewed and discussed at its conferences, has also announced a new policy: “Papers that include text generated from a large-scale language model (LLM) such as ChatGPT are prohibited unless the produced text is presented as a part of the paper’s experimental analysis.”11 The society notes that this policy has generated a flurry of questions and that it plans “to investigate and discuss the impact, both positive and negative, of LLMs on reviewing and publishing in the field of machine learning and AI” and will revisit the policy in the future.11

This is a link to and a citation for the JAMA editorial,

Nonhuman “Authors” and Implications for the Integrity of Scientific Publication and Medical Knowledge by Annette Flanagin, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Michael Berkwits, Stacy L. Christiansen. JAMA. 2023;329(8):637-639. doi:10.1001/jama.2023.1344

The editorial appears to be open access.

ChatGPT in the field of education

Dr. Andrew Maynard (scientist, author, and professor of Advanced Technology Transitions in the Arizona State University [ASU] School for the Future if Innovation in Society and founder of the ASU Future of Being Human initiative and Director of the ASU Risk Innovation Nexus) also takes a pragmatic approach in a March 14, 2023 posting on his eponymous blog,

Like many of my colleagues, I’ve been grappling with how ChatGPT and other Large Language Models (LLMs) are impacting teaching and education — especially at the undergraduate level.

We’re already seeing signs of the challenges here as a growing divide emerges between LLM-savvy students who are experimenting with novel ways of using (and abusing) tools like ChatGPT, and educators who are desperately trying to catch up. As a result, educators are increasingly finding themselves unprepared and poorly equipped to navigate near-real-time innovations in how students are using these tools. And this is only exacerbated where their knowledge of what is emerging is several steps behind that of their students.

To help address this immediate need, a number of colleagues and I compiled a practical set of Frequently Asked Questions on ChatGPT in the classroom. These covers the basics of what ChatGPT is, possible concerns over use by students, potential creative ways of using the tool to enhance learning, and suggestions for class-specific guidelines.

Dr. Maynard goes on to offer the FAQ/practical guide here. Prior to issuing the ‘guide’, he wrote a December 8, 2022 essay on Medium titled “I asked Open AI’s ChatGPT about responsible innovation. This is what I got.”

Crawford Kilian, a longtime educator, author, and contributing editor to The Tyee, expresses measured enthusiasm for the new technology (as does Dr. Maynard), in a December 13, 2022 article for thetyee.ca, Note: Links have been removed,

ChatGPT, its makers tell us, is still in beta form. Like a million other new users, I’ve been teaching it (tuition-free) so its answers will improve. It’s pretty easy to run a tutorial: once you’ve created an account, you’re invited to ask a question or give a command. Then you watch the reply, popping up on the screen at the speed of a fast and very accurate typist.

Early responses to ChatGPT have been largely Luddite: critics have warned that its arrival means the end of high school English, the demise of the college essay and so on. But remember that the Luddites were highly skilled weavers who commanded high prices for their products; they could see that newfangled mechanized looms would produce cheap fabrics that would push good weavers out of the market. ChatGPT, with sufficient tweaks, could do just that to educators and other knowledge workers.

Having spent 40 years trying to teach my students how to write, I have mixed feelings about this prospect. But it wouldn’t be the first time that a technological advancement has resulted in the atrophy of a human mental skill.

Writing arguably reduced our ability to memorize — and to speak with memorable and persuasive coherence. …

Writing and other technological “advances” have made us what we are today — powerful, but also powerfully dangerous to ourselves and our world. If we can just think through the implications of ChatGPT, we may create companions and mentors that are not so much demonic as the angels of our better nature.

More than writing: emergent behaviour

The ChatGPT story extends further than writing and chatting. From a March 6, 2023 article by Stephen Ornes for Quanta Magazine, Note: Links have been removed,

What movie do these emojis describe?

That prompt was one of 204 tasks chosen last year to test the ability of various large language models (LLMs) — the computational engines behind AI chatbots such as ChatGPT. The simplest LLMs produced surreal responses. “The movie is a movie about a man who is a man who is a man,” one began. Medium-complexity models came closer, guessing The Emoji Movie. But the most complex model nailed it in one guess: Finding Nemo.

“Despite trying to expect surprises, I’m surprised at the things these models can do,” said Ethan Dyer, a computer scientist at Google Research who helped organize the test. It’s surprising because these models supposedly have one directive: to accept a string of text as input and predict what comes next, over and over, based purely on statistics. Computer scientists anticipated that scaling up would boost performance on known tasks, but they didn’t expect the models to suddenly handle so many new, unpredictable ones.

“That language models can do these sort of things was never discussed in any literature that I’m aware of,” said Rishi Bommasani, a computer scientist at Stanford University. Last year, he helped compile a list of dozens of emergent behaviors [emphasis mine], including several identified in Dyer’s project. That list continues to grow.

Now, researchers are racing not only to identify additional emergent abilities but also to figure out why and how they occur at all — in essence, to try to predict unpredictability. Understanding emergence could reveal answers to deep questions around AI and machine learning in general, like whether complex models are truly doing something new or just getting really good at statistics. It could also help researchers harness potential benefits and curtail emergent risks.

Biologists, physicists, ecologists and other scientists use the term “emergent” to describe self-organizing, collective behaviors that appear when a large collection of things acts as one. Combinations of lifeless atoms give rise to living cells; water molecules create waves; murmurations of starlings swoop through the sky in changing but identifiable patterns; cells make muscles move and hearts beat. Critically, emergent abilities show up in systems that involve lots of individual parts. But researchers have only recently been able to document these abilities in LLMs as those models have grown to enormous sizes.

But the debut of LLMs also brought something truly unexpected. Lots of somethings. With the advent of models like GPT-3, which has 175 billion parameters — or Google’s PaLM, which can be scaled up to 540 billion — users began describing more and more emergent behaviors. One DeepMind engineer even reported being able to convince ChatGPT that it was a Linux terminal and getting it to run some simple mathematical code to compute the first 10 prime numbers. Remarkably, it could finish the task faster than the same code running on a real Linux machine.

As with the movie emoji task, researchers had no reason to think that a language model built to predict text would convincingly imitate a computer terminal. Many of these emergent behaviors illustrate “zero-shot” or “few-shot” learning, which describes an LLM’s ability to solve problems it has never — or rarely — seen before. This has been a long-time goal in artificial intelligence research, Ganguli [Deep Ganguli, a computer scientist at the AI startup Anthropic] said. Showing that GPT-3 could solve problems without any explicit training data in a zero-shot setting, he said, “led me to drop what I was doing and get more involved.”

There is an obvious problem with asking these models to explain themselves: They are notorious liars. [emphasis mine] “We’re increasingly relying on these models to do basic work,” Ganguli said, “but I do not just trust these. I check their work.” As one of many amusing examples, in February [2023] Google introduced its AI chatbot, Bard. The blog post announcing the new tool shows Bard making a factual error.

If you have time, I recommend reading Omes’s March 6, 2023 article.

The panic

Perhaps not entirely unrelated to current developments, there was this announcement in a May 1, 2023 article by Hannah Alberga for CTV (Canadian Television Network) news, Note: Links have been removed,

Toronto’s pioneer of artificial intelligence quits Google to openly discuss dangers of AI

Geoffrey Hinton, professor at the University of Toronto and the “godfather” of deep learning – a field of artificial intelligence that mimics the human brain – announced his departure from the company on Monday [May 1, 2023] citing the desire to freely discuss the implications of deep learning and artificial intelligence, and the possible consequences if it were utilized by “bad actors.”

Hinton, a British-Canadian computer scientist, is best-known for a series of deep neural network breakthroughs that won him, Yann LeCun and Yoshua Bengio the 2018 Turing Award, known as the Nobel Prize of computing. 

Hinton has been invested in the now-hot topic of artificial intelligence since its early stages. In 1970, he got a Bachelor of Arts in experimental psychology from Cambridge, followed by his Ph.D. in artificial intelligence in Edinburgh, U.K. in 1978.

He joined Google after spearheading a major breakthrough with two of his graduate students at the University of Toronto in 2012, in which the team uncovered and built a new method of artificial intelligence: neural networks. The team’s first neural network was  incorporated and sold to Google for $44 million.

Neural networks are a method of deep learning that effectively teaches computers how to learn the way humans do by analyzing data, paving the way for machines to classify objects and understand speech recognition.

There’s a bit more from Hinton in a May 3, 2023 article by Sheena Goodyear for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) radio programme, As It Happens (the 10 minute radio interview is embedded in the article), Note: A link has been removed,

There was a time when Geoffrey Hinton thought artificial intelligence would never surpass human intelligence — at least not within our lifetimes.

Nowadays, he’s not so sure.

“I think that it’s conceivable that this kind of advanced intelligence could just take over from us,” the renowned British-Canadian computer scientist told As It Happens host Nil Köksal. “It would mean the end of people.”

For the last decade, he [Geoffrey Hinton] divided his career between teaching at the University of Toronto and working for Google’s deep-learning artificial intelligence team. But this week, he announced his resignation from Google in an interview with the New York Times.

Now Hinton is speaking out about what he fears are the greatest dangers posed by his life’s work, including governments using AI to manipulate elections or create “robot soldiers.”

But other experts in the field of AI caution against his visions of a hypothetical dystopian future, saying they generate unnecessary fear, distract from the very real and immediate problems currently posed by AI, and allow bad actors to shirk responsibility when they wield AI for nefarious purposes. 

Ivana Bartoletti, founder of the Women Leading in AI Network, says dwelling on dystopian visions of an AI-led future can do us more harm than good. 

“It’s important that people understand that, to an extent, we are at a crossroads,” said Bartoletti, chief privacy officer at the IT firm Wipro.

“My concern about these warnings, however, is that we focus on the sort of apocalyptic scenario, and that takes us away from the risks that we face here and now, and opportunities to get it right here and now.”

Ziv Epstein, a PhD candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies the impacts of technology on society, says the problems posed by AI are very real, and he’s glad Hinton is “raising the alarm bells about this thing.”

“That being said, I do think that some of these ideas that … AI supercomputers are going to ‘wake up’ and take over, I personally believe that these stories are speculative at best and kind of represent sci-fi fantasy that can monger fear” and distract from more pressing issues, he said.

He especially cautions against language that anthropomorphizes — or, in other words, humanizes — AI.

“It’s absolutely possible I’m wrong. We’re in a period of huge uncertainty where we really don’t know what’s going to happen,” he [Hinton] said.

Don Pittis in his May 4, 2022 business analysis for CBC news online offers a somewhat jaundiced view of Hinton’s concern regarding AI, Note: Links have been removed,

As if we needed one more thing to terrify us, the latest warning from a University of Toronto scientist considered by many to be the founding intellect of artificial intelligence, adds a new layer of dread.

Others who have warned in the past that thinking machines are a threat to human existence seem a little miffed with the rock-star-like media coverage Geoffrey Hinton, billed at a conference this week as the Godfather of AI, is getting for what seems like a last minute conversion. Others say Hinton’s authoritative voice makes a difference.

Not only did Hinton tell an audience of experts at Wednesday’s [May 3, 2023] EmTech Digital conference that humans will soon be supplanted by AI — “I think it’s serious and fairly close.” — he said that due to national and business competition, there is no obvious way to prevent it.

“What we want is some way of making sure that even if they’re smarter than us, they’re going to do things that are beneficial,” said Hinton on Wednesday [May 3, 2023] as he explained his change of heart in detailed technical terms. 

“But we need to try and do that in a world where there’s bad actors who want to build robot soldiers that kill people and it seems very hard to me.”

“I wish I had a nice and simple solution I could push, but I don’t,” he said. “It’s not clear there is a solution.”

So when is all this happening?

“In a few years time they may be significantly more intelligent than people,” he told Nil Köksal on CBC Radio’s As It Happens on Wednesday [May 3, 2023].

While he may be late to the party, Hinton’s voice adds new clout to growing anxiety that artificial general intelligence, or AGI, has now joined climate change and nuclear Armageddon as ways for humans to extinguish themselves.

But long before that final day, he worries that the new technology will soon begin to strip away jobs and lead to a destabilizing societal gap between rich and poor that current politics will be unable to solve.

The EmTech Digital conference is a who’s who of AI business and academia, fields which often overlap. Most other participants at the event were not there to warn about AI like Hinton, but to celebrate the explosive growth of AI research and business.

As one expert I spoke to pointed out, the growth in AI is exponential and has been for a long time. But even knowing that, the increase in the dollar value of AI to business caught the sector by surprise.

Eight years ago when I wrote about the expected increase in AI business, I quoted the market intelligence group Tractica that AI spending would “be worth more than $40 billion in the coming decade,” which sounded like a lot at the time. It appears that was an underestimate.

“The global artificial intelligence market size was valued at $428 billion U.S. in 2022,” said an updated report from Fortune Business Insights. “The market is projected to grow from $515.31 billion U.S. in 2023.”  The estimate for 2030 is more than $2 trillion. 

This week the new Toronto AI company Cohere, where Hinton has a stake of his own, announced it was “in advanced talks” to raise $250 million. The Canadian media company Thomson Reuters said it was planning “a deeper investment in artificial intelligence.” IBM is expected to “pause hiring for roles that could be replaced with AI.” The founders of Google DeepMind and LinkedIn have launched a ChatGPT competitor called Pi.

And that was just this week.

“My one hope is that, because if we allow it to take over it will be bad for all of us, we could get the U.S. and China to agree, like we did with nuclear weapons,” said Hinton. “We’re all the in same boat with respect to existential threats, so we all ought to be able to co-operate on trying to stop it.”

Interviewer and moderator Will Douglas Heaven, an editor at MIT Technology Review finished Hinton’s sentence for him: “As long as we can make some money on the way.”

Hinton has attracted some criticism himself. Wilfred Chan writing for Fast Company has two articles, “‘I didn’t see him show up’: Ex-Googlers blast ‘AI godfather’ Geoffrey Hinton’s silence on fired AI experts” on May 5, 2023, Note: Links have been removed,

Geoffrey Hinton, the 75-year-old computer scientist known as the “Godfather of AI,” made headlines this week after resigning from Google to sound the alarm about the technology he helped create. In a series of high-profile interviews, the machine learning pioneer has speculated that AI will surpass humans in intelligence and could even learn to manipulate or kill people on its own accord.

But women who for years have been speaking out about AI’s problems—even at the expense of their jobs—say Hinton’s alarmism isn’t just opportunistic but also overshadows specific warnings about AI’s actual impacts on marginalized people.

“It’s disappointing to see this autumn-years redemption tour [emphasis mine] from someone who didn’t really show up” for other Google dissenters, says Meredith Whittaker, president of the Signal Foundation and an AI researcher who says she was pushed out of Google in 2019 in part over her activism against the company’s contract to build machine vision technology for U.S. military drones. (Google has maintained that Whittaker chose to resign.)

Another prominent ex-Googler, Margaret Mitchell, who co-led the company’s ethical AI team, criticized Hinton for not denouncing Google’s 2020 firing of her coleader Timnit Gebru, a leading researcher who had spoken up about AI’s risks for women and people of color.

“This would’ve been a moment for Dr. Hinton to denormalize the firing of [Gebru],” Mitchell tweeted on Monday. “He did not. This is how systemic discrimination works.”

Gebru, who is Black, was sacked in 2020 after refusing to scrap a research paper she coauthored about the risks of large language models to multiply discrimination against marginalized people. …

… An open letter in support of Gebru was signed by nearly 2,700 Googlers in 2020, but Hinton wasn’t one of them. 

Instead, Hinton has used the spotlight to downplay Gebru’s voice. In an appearance on CNN Tuesday [May 2, 2023], for example, he dismissed a question from Jake Tapper about whether he should have stood up for Gebru, saying her ideas “aren’t as existentially serious as the idea of these things getting more intelligent than us and taking over.” [emphasis mine]

Gebru has been mentioned here a few times. She’s mentioned in passing in a June 23, 2022 posting “Racist and sexist robots have flawed AI” and in a little more detail in an August 30, 2022 posting “Should AI algorithms get patents for their inventions and is anyone talking about copyright for texts written by AI algorithms?” scroll down to the ‘Consciousness and ethical AI’ subhead

Chan has another Fast Company article investigating AI issues also published on May 5, 2023, “Researcher Meredith Whittaker says AI’s biggest risk isn’t ‘consciousness’—it’s the corporations that control them.”

The last two existential AI panics

The term “autumn-years redemption tour”is striking and while the reference to age could be viewed as problematic, it also hints at the money, honours, and acknowledgement that Hinton has enjoyed as an eminent scientist. I’ve covered two previous panics set off by eminent scientists. “Existential risk” is the title of my November 26, 2012 posting which highlights Martin Rees’ efforts to found the Centre for Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge.

Rees is a big deal. From his Wikipedia entry, Note: Links have been removed,

Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow OM FRS FREng FMedSci FRAS HonFInstP[10][2] (born 23 June 1942) is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist.[11] He is the fifteenth Astronomer Royal, appointed in 1995,[12][13][14] and was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 2004 to 2012 and President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010.[15][16][17][18][19][20]

The Centre for Existential Risk can be found here online (it is located at the University of Cambridge). Interestingly, Hinton who was born in December 1947 will be giving a lecture “Digital versus biological intelligence: Reasons for concern about AI” in Cambridge on May 25, 2023.

The next panic was set off by Stephen Hawking (1942 – 2018; also at the University of Cambridge, Wikipedia entry) a few years before he died. (Note: Rees, Hinton, and Hawking were all born within five years of each other and all have/had ties to the University of Cambridge. Interesting coincidence, eh?) From a January 9, 2015 article by Emily Chung for CBC news online,

Machines turning on their creators has been a popular theme in books and movies for decades, but very serious people are starting to take the subject very seriously. Physicist Stephen Hawking says, “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Tesla Motors and SpaceX founder Elon Musk suggests that AI is probably “our biggest existential threat.”

Artificial intelligence experts say there are good reasons to pay attention to the fears expressed by big minds like Hawking and Musk — and to do something about it while there is still time.

Hawking made his most recent comments at the beginning of December [2014], in response to a question about an upgrade to the technology he uses to communicate, He relies on the device because he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative disease that affects his ability to move and speak.

Popular works of science fiction – from the latest Terminator trailer, to the Matrix trilogy, to Star Trek’s borg – envision that beyond that irreversible historic event, machines will destroy, enslave or assimilate us, says Canadian science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer.

Sawyer has written about a different vision of life beyond singularity [when machines surpass humans in general intelligence,] — one in which machines and humans work together for their mutual benefit. But he also sits on a couple of committees at the Lifeboat Foundation, a non-profit group that looks at future threats to the existence of humanity, including those posed by the “possible misuse of powerful technologies” such as AI. He said Hawking and Musk have good reason to be concerned.

To sum up, the first panic was in 2012, the next in 2014/15, and the latest one began earlier this year (2023) with a letter. A March 29, 2023 Thompson Reuters news item on CBC news online provides information on the contents,

Elon Musk and a group of artificial intelligence experts and industry executives are calling for a six-month pause in developing systems more powerful than OpenAI’s newly launched GPT-4, in an open letter citing potential risks to society and humanity.

Earlier this month, Microsoft-backed OpenAI unveiled the fourth iteration of its GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) AI program, which has wowed users with its vast range of applications, from engaging users in human-like conversation to composing songs and summarizing lengthy documents.

The letter, issued by the non-profit Future of Life Institute and signed by more than 1,000 people including Musk, called for a pause on advanced AI development until shared safety protocols for such designs were developed, implemented and audited by independent experts.

Co-signatories included Stability AI CEO Emad Mostaque, researchers at Alphabet-owned DeepMind, and AI heavyweights Yoshua Bengio, often referred to as one of the “godfathers of AI,” and Stuart Russell, a pioneer of research in the field.

According to the European Union’s transparency register, the Future of Life Institute is primarily funded by the Musk Foundation, as well as London-based effective altruism group Founders Pledge, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

The concerns come as EU police force Europol on Monday {March 27, 2023] joined a chorus of ethical and legal concerns over advanced AI like ChatGPT, warning about the potential misuse of the system in phishing attempts, disinformation and cybercrime.

Meanwhile, the U.K. government unveiled proposals for an “adaptable” regulatory framework around AI.

The government’s approach, outlined in a policy paper published on Wednesday [March 29, 2023], would split responsibility for governing artificial intelligence (AI) between its regulators for human rights, health and safety, and competition, rather than create a new body dedicated to the technology.

The engineers have chimed in, from an April 7, 2023 article by Margo Anderson for the IEEE (institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Spectrum magazine, Note: Links have been removed,

The open letter [published March 29, 2023], titled “Pause Giant AI Experiments,” was organized by the nonprofit Future of Life Institute and signed by more than 27,565 people (as of 8 May). It calls for cessation of research on “all AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.”

It’s the latest of a host of recent “AI pause” proposals including a suggestion by Google’s François Chollet of a six-month “moratorium on people overreacting to LLMs” in either direction.

In the news media, the open letter has inspired straight reportage, critical accounts for not going far enough (“shut it all down,” Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote in Time magazine), as well as critical accounts for being both a mess and an alarmist distraction that overlooks the real AI challenges ahead.

IEEE members have expressed a similar diversity of opinions.

There was an earlier open letter in January 2015 according to Wikipedia’s “Open Letter on Artificial Intelligence” entry, Note: Links have been removed,

In January 2015, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and dozens of artificial intelligence experts[1] signed an open letter on artificial intelligence calling for research on the societal impacts of AI. The letter affirmed that society can reap great potential benefits from artificial intelligence, but called for concrete research on how to prevent certain potential “pitfalls”: artificial intelligence has the potential to eradicate disease and poverty, but researchers must not create something which is unsafe or uncontrollable.[1] The four-paragraph letter, titled “Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence: An Open Letter”, lays out detailed research priorities in an accompanying twelve-page document.

As for ‘Mr. ChatGPT’ or Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, while he didn’t sign the March 29, 2023 letter, he appeared before US Congress suggesting AI needs to be regulated according to May 16, 2023 news article by Mohar Chatterjee for Politico.

You’ll notice I’ve arbitrarily designated three AI panics by assigning their origins to eminent scientists. In reality, these concerns rise and fall in ways that don’t allow for such a tidy analysis. As Chung notes, science fiction regularly addresses this issue. For example, there’s my October 16, 2013 posting, “Wizards & Robots: a comic book encourages study in the sciences and maths and discussions about existential risk.” By the way, will.i.am (of the Black Eyed Peas band was involved in the comic book project and he us a longtime supporter of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) initiatives.

Finally (but not quite)

Puzzling, isn’t it? I’m not sure we’re asking the right questions but it’s encouraging to see that at least some are being asked.

Dr. Andrew Maynard in a May 12, 2023 essay for The Conversation (h/t May 12, 2023 item on phys.org) notes that ‘Luddites’ questioned technology’s inevitable progress and were vilified for doing so, Note: Links have been removed,

The term “Luddite” emerged in early 1800s England. At the time there was a thriving textile industry that depended on manual knitting frames and a skilled workforce to create cloth and garments out of cotton and wool. But as the Industrial Revolution gathered momentum, steam-powered mills threatened the livelihood of thousands of artisanal textile workers.

Faced with an industrialized future that threatened their jobs and their professional identity, a growing number of textile workers turned to direct action. Galvanized by their leader, Ned Ludd, they began to smash the machines that they saw as robbing them of their source of income.

It’s not clear whether Ned Ludd was a real person, or simply a figment of folklore invented during a period of upheaval. But his name became synonymous with rejecting disruptive new technologies – an association that lasts to this day.

Questioning doesn’t mean rejecting

Contrary to popular belief, the original Luddites were not anti-technology, nor were they technologically incompetent. Rather, they were skilled adopters and users of the artisanal textile technologies of the time. Their argument was not with technology, per se, but with the ways that wealthy industrialists were robbing them of their way of life

In December 2015, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates were jointly nominated for a “Luddite Award.” Their sin? Raising concerns over the potential dangers of artificial intelligence.

The irony of three prominent scientists and entrepreneurs being labeled as Luddites underlines the disconnect between the term’s original meaning and its more modern use as an epithet for anyone who doesn’t wholeheartedly and unquestioningly embrace technological progress.

Yet technologists like Musk and Gates aren’t rejecting technology or innovation. Instead, they’re rejecting a worldview that all technological advances are ultimately good for society. This worldview optimistically assumes that the faster humans innovate, the better the future will be.

In an age of ChatGPT, gene editing and other transformative technologies, perhaps we all need to channel the spirit of Ned Ludd as we grapple with how to ensure that future technologies do more good than harm.

In fact, “Neo-Luddites” or “New Luddites” is a term that emerged at the end of the 20th century.

In 1990, the psychologist Chellis Glendinning published an essay titled “Notes toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto.”

Then there are the Neo-Luddites who actively reject modern technologies, fearing that they are damaging to society. New York City’s Luddite Club falls into this camp. Formed by a group of tech-disillusioned Gen-Zers, the club advocates the use of flip phones, crafting, hanging out in parks and reading hardcover or paperback books. Screens are an anathema to the group, which sees them as a drain on mental health.

I’m not sure how many of today’s Neo-Luddites – whether they’re thoughtful technologists, technology-rejecting teens or simply people who are uneasy about technological disruption – have read Glendinning’s manifesto. And to be sure, parts of it are rather contentious. Yet there is a common thread here: the idea that technology can lead to personal and societal harm if it is not developed responsibly.

Getting back to where this started with nonhuman authors, Amelia Eqbal has written up an informal transcript of a March 16, 2023 CBC radio interview (radio segment is embedded) about ChatGPT-4 (the latest AI chatbot from OpenAI) between host Elamin Abdelmahmoud and tech journalist, Alyssa Bereznak.

I was hoping to add a little more Canadian content, so in March 2023 and again in April 2023, I sent a question about whether there were any policies regarding nonhuman or AI authors to Kim Barnhardt at the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). To date, there has been no reply but should one arrive, I will place it here.

In the meantime, I have this from Canadian writer, Susan Baxter in her May 15, 2023 blog posting “Coming soon: Robot Overlords, Sentient AI and more,”

The current threat looming (Covid having been declared null and void by the WHO*) is Artificial Intelligence (AI) which, we are told, is becoming too smart for its own good and will soon outsmart humans. Then again, given some of the humans I’ve met along the way that wouldn’t be difficult.

All this talk of scary-boo AI seems to me to have become the worst kind of cliché, one that obscures how our lives have become more complicated and more frustrating as apps and bots and cyber-whatsits take over.

The trouble with clichés, as Alain de Botton wrote in How Proust Can Change Your Life, is not that they are wrong or contain false ideas but more that they are “superficial articulations of good ones”. Cliches are oversimplifications that become so commonplace we stop noticing the more serious subtext. (This is rife in medicine where metaphors such as talk of “replacing” organs through transplants makes people believe it’s akin to changing the oil filter in your car. Or whatever it is EV’s have these days that needs replacing.)

Should you live in Vancouver (Canada) and are attending a May 28, 2023 AI event, you may want to read Susan Baxter’s piece as a counterbalance to, “Discover the future of artificial intelligence at this unique AI event in Vancouver,” a May 19, 2023 sponsored content by Katy Brennan for the Daily Hive,

If you’re intrigued and eager to delve into the rapidly growing field of AI, you’re not going to want to miss this unique Vancouver event.

On Sunday, May 28 [2023], a Multiplatform AI event is coming to the Vancouver Playhouse — and it’s set to take you on a journey into the future of artificial intelligence.

The exciting conference promises a fusion of creativity, tech innovation, and thought–provoking insights, with talks from renowned AI leaders and concept artists, who will share their experiences and opinions.

Guests can look forward to intense discussions about AI’s pros and cons, hear real-world case studies, and learn about the ethical dimensions of AI, its potential threats to humanity, and the laws that govern its use.

Live Q&A sessions will also be held, where leading experts in the field will address all kinds of burning questions from attendees. There will also be a dynamic round table and several other opportunities to connect with industry leaders, pioneers, and like-minded enthusiasts. 

This conference is being held at The Playhouse, 600 Hamilton Street, from 11 am to 7:30 pm, ticket prices range from $299 to $349 to $499 (depending on when you make your purchase, From the Multiplatform AI Conference homepage,

Event Speakers

Max Sills
General Counsel at Midjourney

From Jan 2022 – present (Advisor – now General Counsel) – Midjourney – An independent research lab exploring new mediums of thought and expanding the imaginative powers of the human species (SF) Midjourney – a generative artificial intelligence program and service created and hosted by a San Francisco-based independent research lab Midjourney, Inc. Midjourney generates images from natural language descriptions, called “prompts”, similar to OpenAI’s DALL-E and Stable Diffusion. For now the company uses Discord Server as a source of service and, with huge 15M+ members, is the biggest Discord server in the world. In the two-things-at-once department, Max Sills also known as an owner of Open Advisory Services, firm which is set up to help small and medium tech companies with their legal needs (managing outside counsel, employment, carta, TOS, privacy). Their clients are enterprise level, medium companies and up, and they are here to help anyone on open source and IP strategy. Max is an ex-counsel at Block, ex-general manager of the Crypto Open Patent Alliance. Prior to that Max led Google’s open source legal group for 7 years.

So, the first speaker listed is a lawyer associated with Midjourney, a highly controversial generative artificial intelligence programme used to generate images. According to their entry on Wikipedia, the company is being sued, Note: Links have been removed,

On January 13, 2023, three artists – Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz – filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt, claiming that these companies have infringed the rights of millions of artists, by training AI tools on five billion images scraped from the web, without the consent of the original artists.[32]

My October 24, 2022 posting highlights some of the issues with generative image programmes and Midjourney is mentioned throughout.

As I noted earlier, I’m glad to see more thought being put into the societal impact of AI and somewhat disconcerted by the hyperbole from the like of Geoffrey Hinton and the like of Vancouver’s Multiplatform AI conference organizers. Mike Masnick put it nicely in his May 24, 2023 posting on TechDirt (Note 1: I’ve taken a paragraph out of context, his larger issue is about proposals for legislation; Note 2: Links have been removed),

Honestly, this is partly why I’ve been pretty skeptical about the “AI Doomers” who keep telling fanciful stories about how AI is going to kill us all… unless we give more power to a few elite people who seem to think that it’s somehow possible to stop AI tech from advancing. As I noted last month, it is good that some in the AI space are at least conceptually grappling with the impact of what they’re building, but they seem to be doing so in superficial ways, focusing only on the sci-fi dystopian futures they envision, and not things that are legitimately happening today from screwed up algorithms.

For anyone interested in the Canadian government attempts to legislate AI, there’s my May 1, 2023 posting, “Canada, AI regulation, and the second reading of the Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022 (Bill C-27).”

Addendum (June 1, 2023)

Another statement warning about runaway AI was issued on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. This was far briefer than the previous March 2023 warning, from the Center for AI Safety’s “Statement on AI Risk” webpage,

Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war [followed by a list of signatories] …

Vanessa Romo’s May 30, 2023 article (with contributions from Bobby Allyn) for NPR ([US] National Public Radio) offers an overview of both warnings. Rae Hodge’s May 31, 2023 article for Salon offers a more critical view, Note: Links have been removed,

The artificial intelligence world faced a swarm of stinging backlash Tuesday morning, after more than 350 tech executives and researchers released a public statement declaring that the risks of runaway AI could be on par with those of “nuclear war” and human “extinction.” Among the signatories were some who are actively pursuing the profitable development of the very products their statement warned about — including OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis.

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” the statement from the non-profit Center for AI Safety said.

But not everyone was shaking in their boots, especially not those who have been charting AI tech moguls’ escalating use of splashy language — and those moguls’ hopes for an elite global AI governance board.

TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas, whose coverage has been steeped in AI, immediately unravelled the latest panic-push efforts with a detailed rundown of the current table stakes for companies positioning themselves at the front of the fast-emerging AI industry.

“Certainly it speaks volumes about existing AI power structures that tech execs at AI giants including OpenAI, DeepMind, Stability AI and Anthropic are so happy to band and chatter together when it comes to publicly amplifying talk of existential AI risk. And how much more reticent to get together to discuss harms their tools can be seen causing right now,” Lomas wrote.

“Instead of the statement calling for a development pause, which would risk freezing OpenAI’s lead in the generative AI field, it lobbies policymakers to focus on risk mitigation — doing so while OpenAI is simultaneously crowdfunding efforts to shape ‘democratic processes for steering AI,'” Lomas added.

The use of scary language and fear as a marketing tool has a long history in tech. And, as the LA Times’ Brian Merchant pointed out in an April column, OpenAI stands to profit significantly from a fear-driven gold rush of enterprise contracts.

“[OpenAI is] almost certainly betting its longer-term future on more partnerships like the one with Microsoft and enterprise deals serving large companies,” Merchant wrote. “That means convincing more corporations that if they want to survive the coming AI-led mass upheaval, they’d better climb aboard.”

Fear, after all, is a powerful sales tool.

Romo’s May 30, 2023 article for NPR offers a good overview and, if you have the time, I recommend reading Hodge’s May 31, 2023 article for Salon in its entirety.

*ETA June 8, 2023: This sentence “What follows the ‘nonhuman authors’ is essentially a survey of situation/panic.” was added to the introductory paragraph at the beginning of this post.

Public can now vote for 2023 Morgridge (Institute for Research) Ethics Cartooning Competition

A February 21, 2023 Morgridge Institute for Research news release on EurekAlert announced open voting in their ethics cartooning competition,

Eighteen cartoons have been selected as finalists in the 2023 Ethics Cartooning Competition, an annual contest sponsored by the Morgridge Institute for Research. 

Participants from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and affiliated biomedical centers or institutes submitted their work, then a panel of judges selected the final cartoons for display to the public, who is invited to vote and help determine the 2023 winners.

This year’s cartoons depict a variety of research ethics topics, such as the ethics of scientific publishing, research funding and environments, questionable research practices, drug pricing, the ethics of experimenting on animals, social impacts of scientific research, and scientists as responsible members of society.

The Morgridge Ethics Cartooning Competition, developed by Morgridge Bioethics Scholar in Residence Pilar Ossorio, encourages scientists to shed light on timely or recurring issues that arise in scientific research.

“Ethical issues are all around us,” says Ossorio. “An event like the competition encourages people to identify some of those issues, perhaps talk about them with friends and colleagues, and think about how to communicate about those issues with a broader community of people.”

Public voting is open until March 10, 2023: https://morgridge.org/story/ethics-cartooning-contest-vote-2023/

Some of the cartoons feature biting commentary,

https://morgridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2023-R.png

The one above hit home as I commented on a local (Vancouver, Canada) billionaire’s (Chip Wilson of Lululemon) announcement that he was spending $100M on research to treat a rare disease (facio-scapulo-humeral muscular dystrophy [FSHD]) he has. (See my April 5, 2022 posting, scroll down about 80% of the way to the subhead, Money makes the world go around.)

And this too caught my eye,

https://morgridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2023-G.png

It reminds me that I’ve been meaning to do a piece on science and racism for the last few years. Maybe this year, eh?

In the meantime, go vote, there’s another 16 to choose from and you have until March 10, 2023: https://morgridge.org/story/ethics-cartooning-contest-vote-2023/

FrogHeart’s 2022 comes to an end as 2023 comes into view

I look forward to 2023 and hope it will be as stimulating as 2022 proved to be. Here’s an overview of the year that was on this blog:

Sounds of science

It seems 2022 was the year that science discovered the importance of sound and the possibilities of data sonification. Neither is new but this year seemed to signal a surge of interest or maybe I just happened to stumble onto more of the stories than usual.

This is not an exhaustive list, you can check out my ‘Music’ category for more here. I have tried to include audio files with the postings but it all depends on how accessible the researchers have made them.

Aliens on earth: machinic biology and/or biological machinery?

When I first started following stories in 2008 (?) about technology or machinery being integrated with the human body, it was mostly about assistive technologies such as neuroprosthetics. You’ll find most of this year’s material in the ‘Human Enhancement’ category or you can search the tag ‘machine/flesh’.

However, the line between biology and machine became a bit more blurry for me this year. You can see what’s happening in the titles listed below (you may recognize the zenobot story; there was an earlier version of xenobots featured here in 2021):

This was the story that shook me,

Are the aliens going to come from outer space or are we becoming the aliens?

Brains (biological and otherwise), AI, & our latest age of anxiety

As we integrate machines into our bodies, including our brains, there are new issues to consider:

  • Going blind when your neural implant company flirts with bankruptcy (long read) April 5, 2022 posting
  • US National Academies Sept. 22-23, 2022 workshop on techno, legal & ethical issues of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) September 21, 2022 posting

I hope the US National Academies issues a report on their “Brain-Machine and Related Neural Interface Technologies: Scientific, Technical, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues – A Workshop” for 2023.

Meanwhile the race to create brainlike computers continues and I have a number of posts which can be found under the category of ‘neuromorphic engineering’ or you can use these search terms ‘brainlike computing’ and ‘memristors’.

On the artificial intelligence (AI) side of things, I finally broke down and added an ‘artificial intelligence (AI) category to this blog sometime between May and August 2021. Previously, I had used the ‘robots’ category as a catchall. There are other stories but these ones feature public engagement and policy (btw, it’s a Canadian Science Policy Centre event), respectively,

  • “The “We are AI” series gives citizens a primer on AI” March 23, 2022 posting
  • “Age of AI and Big Data – Impact on Justice, Human Rights and Privacy Zoom event on September 28, 2022 at 12 – 1:30 pm EDT” September 16, 2022 posting

These stories feature problems, which aren’t new but seem to be getting more attention,

While there have been issues over AI, the arts, and creativity previously, this year they sprang into high relief. The list starts with my two-part review of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s AI show; I share most of my concerns in part two. The third post covers intellectual property issues (mostly visual arts but literary arts get a nod too). The fourth post upends the discussion,

  • “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (1 of 2): The Objects” July 28, 2022 posting
  • “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (2 of 2): Meditations” July 28, 2022 posting
  • “AI (artificial intelligence) and art ethics: a debate + a Botto (AI artist) October 2022 exhibition in the Uk” October 24, 2022 posting
  • Should AI algorithms get patents for their inventions and is anyone talking about copyright for texts written by AI algorithms? August 30, 2022 posting

Interestingly, most of the concerns seem to be coming from the visual and literary arts communities; I haven’t come across major concerns from the music community. (The curious can check out Vancouver’s Metacreation Lab for Artificial Intelligence [located on a Simon Fraser University campus]. I haven’t seen any cautionary or warning essays there; it’s run by an AI and creativity enthusiast [professor Philippe Pasquier]. The dominant but not sole focus is art, i.e., music and AI.)

There is a ‘new kid on the block’ which has been attracting a lot of attention this month. If you’re curious about the latest and greatest AI anxiety,

  • Peter Csathy’s December 21, 2022 Yahoo News article (originally published in The WRAP) makes this proclamation in the headline “Chat GPT Proves That AI Could Be a Major Threat to Hollywood Creatives – and Not Just Below the Line | PRO Insight”
  • Mouhamad Rachini’s December 15, 2022 article for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) online news overs a more generalized overview of the ‘new kid’ along with an embedded CBC Radio file which runs approximately 19 mins. 30 secs. It’s titled “ChatGPT a ‘landmark event’ for AI, but what does it mean for the future of human labour and disinformation?” The chat bot’s developer, OpenAI, has been mentioned here many times including the previously listed July 28, 2022 posting (part two of the VAG review) and the October 24, 2022 posting.

Opposite world (quantum physics in Canada)

Quantum computing made more of an impact here (my blog) than usual. it started in 2021 with the announcement of a National Quantum Strategy in the Canadian federal government budget for that year and gained some momentum in 2022:

  • “Quantum Mechanics & Gravity conference (August 15 – 19, 2022) launches Vancouver (Canada)-based Quantum Gravity Institute and more” July 26, 2022 posting Note: This turned into one of my ‘in depth’ pieces where I comment on the ‘Canadian quantum scene’ and highlight the appointment of an expert panel for the Council of Canada Academies’ report on Quantum Technologies.
  • “Bank of Canada and Multiverse Computing model complex networks & cryptocurrencies with quantum computing” July 25, 2022 posting
  • “Canada, quantum technology, and a public relations campaign?” December 29, 2022 posting

This one was a bit of a puzzle with regard to placement in this end-of-year review, it’s quantum but it’s also about brainlike computing

It’s getting hot in here

Fusion energy made some news this year.

There’s a Vancouver area company, General Fusion, highlighted in both postings and the October posting includes an embedded video of Canadian-born rapper Baba Brinkman’s “You Must LENR” [L ow E nergy N uclear R eactions or sometimes L attice E nabled N anoscale R eactions or Cold Fusion or CANR (C hemically A ssisted N uclear R eactions)].

BTW, fusion energy can generate temperatures up to 150 million degrees Celsius.

Ukraine, science, war, and unintended consequences

Here’s what you might expect,

These are the unintended consequences (from Rachel Kyte’s, Dean of the Fletcher School, Tufts University, December 26, 2022 essay on The Conversation [h/t December 27, 2022 news item on phys.org]), Note: Links have been removed,

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has reverberated through Europe and spread to other countries that have long been dependent on the region for natural gas. But while oil-producing countries and gas lobbyists are arguing for more drilling, global energy investments reflect a quickening transition to cleaner energy. [emphasis mine]

Call it the Putin effect – Russia’s war is speeding up the global shift away from fossil fuels.

In December [2022?], the International Energy Agency [IEA] published two important reports that point to the future of renewable energy.

First, the IEA revised its projection of renewable energy growth upward by 30%. It now expects the world to install as much solar and wind power in the next five years as it installed in the past 50 years.

The second report showed that energy use is becoming more efficient globally, with efficiency increasing by about 2% per year. As energy analyst Kingsmill Bond at the energy research group RMI noted, the two reports together suggest that fossil fuel demand may have peaked. While some low-income countries have been eager for deals to tap their fossil fuel resources, the IEA warns that new fossil fuel production risks becoming stranded, or uneconomic, in the next 20 years.

Kyte’s essay is not all ‘sweetness and light’ but it does provide a little optimism.

Kudos, nanotechnology, culture (pop & otherwise), fun, and a farewell in 2022

This one was a surprise for me,

Sometimes I like to know where the money comes from and I was delighted to learn of the Ărramăt Project funded through the federal government’s New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF). Here’s more about the Ărramăt Project from the February 14, 2022 posting,

“The Ărramăt Project is about respecting the inherent dignity and interconnectedness of peoples and Mother Earth, life and livelihood, identity and expression, biodiversity and sustainability, and stewardship and well-being. Arramăt is a word from the Tamasheq language spoken by the Tuareg people of the Sahel and Sahara regions which reflects this holistic worldview.” (Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine)

Over 150 Indigenous organizations, universities, and other partners will work together to highlight the complex problems of biodiversity loss and its implications for health and well-being. The project Team will take a broad approach and be inclusive of many different worldviews and methods for research (i.e., intersectionality, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary). Activities will occur in 70 different kinds of ecosystems that are also spiritually, culturally, and economically important to Indigenous Peoples.

The project is led by Indigenous scholars and activists …

Kudos to the federal government and all those involved in the Salmon science camps, the Ărramăt Project, and other NFRF projects.

There are many other nanotechnology posts here but this appeals to my need for something lighter at this point,

  • “Say goodbye to crunchy (ice crystal-laden) in ice cream thanks to cellulose nanocrystals (CNC)” August 22, 2022 posting

The following posts tend to be culture-related, high and/or low but always with a science/nanotechnology edge,

Sadly, it looks like 2022 is the last year that Ada Lovelace Day is to be celebrated.

… this year’s Ada Lovelace Day is the final such event due to lack of financial backing. Suw Charman-Anderson told the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] the reason it was now coming to an end was:

You can read more about it here:

In the rearview mirror

A few things that didn’t fit under the previous heads but stood out for me this year. Science podcasts, which were a big feature in 2021, also proliferated in 2022. I think they might have peaked and now (in 2023) we’ll see what survives.

Nanotechnology, the main subject on this blog, continues to be investigated and increasingly integrated into products. You can search the ‘nanotechnology’ category here for posts of interest something I just tried. It surprises even me (I should know better) how broadly nanotechnology is researched and applied.

If you want a nice tidy list, Hamish Johnston in a December 29, 2022 posting on the Physics World Materials blog has this “Materials and nanotechnology: our favourite research in 2022,” Note: Links have been removed,

“Inherited nanobionics” makes its debut

The integration of nanomaterials with living organisms is a hot topic, which is why this research on “inherited nanobionics” is on our list. Ardemis Boghossian at EPFL [École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne] in Switzerland and colleagues have shown that certain bacteria will take up single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs). What is more, when the bacteria cells split, the SWCNTs are distributed amongst the daughter cells. The team also found that bacteria containing SWCNTs produce a significantly more electricity when illuminated with light than do bacteria without nanotubes. As a result, the technique could be used to grow living solar cells, which as well as generating clean energy, also have a negative carbon footprint when it comes to manufacturing.

Getting to back to Canada, I’m finding Saskatchewan featured more prominently here. They do a good job of promoting their science, especially the folks at the Canadian Light Source (CLS), Canada’s synchrotron, in Saskatoon. Canadian live science outreach events seeming to be coming back (slowly). Cautious organizers (who have a few dollars to spare) are also enthusiastic about hybrid events which combine online and live outreach.

After what seems like a long pause, I’m stumbling across more international news, e.g. “Nigeria and its nanotechnology research” published December 19, 2022 and “China and nanotechnology” published September 6, 2022. I think there’s also an Iran piece here somewhere.

With that …

Making resolutions in the dark

Hopefully this year I will catch up with the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) output and finally review a few of their 2021 reports such as Leaps and Boundaries; a report on artificial intelligence applied to science inquiry and, perhaps, Powering Discovery; a report on research funding and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Given what appears to a renewed campaign to have germline editing (gene editing which affects all of your descendants) approved in Canada, I might even reach back to a late 2020 CCA report, Research to Reality; somatic gene and engineered cell therapies. it’s not the same as germline editing but gene editing exists on a continuum.

For anyone who wants to see the CCA reports for themselves they can be found here (both in progress and completed).

I’m also going to be paying more attention to how public relations and special interests influence what science is covered and how it’s covered. In doing this 2022 roundup, I noticed that I featured an overview of fusion energy not long before the breakthrough. Indirect influence on this blog?

My post was precipitated by an article by Alex Pasternak in Fast Company. I’m wondering what precipitated Alex Pasternack’s interest in fusion energy since his self-description on the Huffington Post website states this “… focus on the intersections of science, technology, media, politics, and culture. My writing about those and other topics—transportation, design, media, architecture, environment, psychology, art, music … .”

He might simply have received a press release that stimulated his imagination and/or been approached by a communications specialist or publicists with an idea. There’s a reason for why there are so many public relations/media relations jobs and agencies.

Que sera, sera (Whatever will be, will be)

I can confidently predict that 2023 has some surprises in store. I can also confidently predict that the European Union’s big research projects (1B Euros each in funding for the Graphene Flagship and Human Brain Project over a ten year period) will sunset in 2023, ten years after they were first announced in 2013. Unless, the powers that be extend the funding past 2023.

I expect the Canadian quantum community to provide more fodder for me in the form of a 2023 report on Quantum Technologies from the Council of Canadian academies, if nothing else otherwise.

I’ve already featured these 2023 science events but just in case you missed them,

  • 2023 Preview: Bill Nye the Science Guy’s live show and Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training And Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) coming to Vancouver (Canada) November 24, 2022 posting
  • September 2023: Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand set to welcome women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) November 15, 2022 posting

Getting back to this blog, it may not seem like a new year during the first few weeks of 2023 as I have quite the stockpile of draft posts. At this point I have drafts that are dated from June 2022 and expect to be burning through them so as not to fall further behind but will be interspersing them, occasionally, with more current posts.

Most importantly: a big thank you to everyone who drops by and reads (and sometimes even comments) on my posts!!! it’s very much appreciated and on that note: I wish you all the best for 2023.

Cambodian sci-fi movie exploring Buddhism and nanotechnology

The movie is ‘Karmalink’. From its Internet Movie Datavase (IMDb) entry,

In this Buddhist sci-fi mystery set in near-future Phnom Penh, a young Cambodian detective untangles a link between her friend’s past-life dreams of a lost gold artifact and a neuroscientist’s determination to attain digital enlightenment.

Craig C Lewis’ June 10, 2022 article on buddhistdoor.net offers both illumination and puzzlement,

Cambodian Sci-Fi Movie Karmalink Explores Enlightenment, Reincarnation, and Nanotechnology

The Cambodian science fiction move Karmalink, which won awards on its film festival debut last year for its intriguing mix of high-tech mystery and Buddhist philosophy, has released a new trailer ahead of its North American release next month.

“In near-future Phnom Penh, a teenage boy teams up with a street-smart girl from his neighborhood to untangle the mystery of his past-life dreams,” a synopsis on the website of executive producer Valerie Steinberg explains. “What begins as a hunt for a Buddhist treasure soon leads to greater discoveries that will either end in digital enlightenment or a total loss of identity.” (Valerie Steinberg)

Directed and co-written by Jake Wachtel, Karmalink’s story is set in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, and sets out to explore the intersection of the Buddhist themes of karma, reincarnation, and enlightenment with the consciousness-altering implications of augmented reality and artificial intelligence, as well as the growing disparity between rich and poor.

The main plot follows a 13-year-old boy, Leng Heng (Leng Heng Prak), and his friend, Srey Leak (Srey Leak Chhith), who live in a crowded, dilapidated community on the outskirts of Phnom Penh of the near future.

Heng has been having a recurring dream about a golden Buddha statue owned by various people who he believes to be his past incarnations. Heng enlists the help of Leak to untangle the links between his dreams and the aspirations of a prominent neuroscientist to attain digital enlightenment via nanotechnology [emphasis mine] in order to find the truth and discover their own destiny.

Unfortunately, there are no more details as to how nanotechnology helps with attaining ‘digital enlightenment’. As to what digital enlightenment might be, that too is a mystery.

Matt Villei’s June 9 (?), 2022 article for collider.com provides more details about the movie and its trailer/preview,

The trailer is made up of the many rewards and snippets that the film received during its film festival run, which started in September 2021 at that year’s Venice’s International Film Critic’s Week. It was also announced a few days ago that it will be released theatrically in major US cities as well as Video On Demand in both the US and Canada on July 15, 2022. The film is spoken in Khmer with English subtitles and is a total of 102 minutes long. The film was created as a way to “interrogate processes of neo-colonialism, and highlighting the alienating effects of technological progress, Jake Wachtel’s Karmalink is a mind-bending tale of reincarnation, artificial consciousness, and the search for enlightenment.”

Sadly, the lead actor, Leng Heng Prak, has died since production of the film.

You may want to keep an eye out for Karmalink.