Tag Archives: governance

Summer (2019) Institute on AI (artificial intelligence) Societal Impacts, Governance, and Ethics. Summer Institute In Alberta, Canada

The deadline for applications is April 7, 2019. As for whether or not you might like to attend, here’s more from a joint March 11, 2019 Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii)/
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)/University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Law School news release
(also on globalnewswire.com),

What will Artificial Intelligence (AI) mean for society? That’s the question scholars from a variety of disciplines will explore during the inaugural Summer Institute on AI Societal Impacts, Governance, and Ethics. Summer Institute, co-hosted by the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) and CIFAR, with support from UCLA School of Law, takes place July 22-24, 2019 in Edmonton, Canada.

“Recent advances in AI have brought a surge of attention to the field – both excitement and concern,” says co-organizer and UCLA professor, Edward Parson. “From algorithmic bias to autonomous vehicles, personal privacy to automation replacing jobs. Summer Institute will bring together exceptional people to talk about how humanity can receive the benefits and not get the worst harms from these rapid changes.”

Summer Institute brings together experts, grad students and researchers from multiple backgrounds to explore the societal, governmental, and ethical implications of AI. A combination of lectures, panels, and participatory problem-solving, this comprehensive interdisciplinary event aims to build understanding and action around these high-stakes issues.

“Machine intelligence is opening transformative opportunities across the world,” says John Shillington, CEO of Amii, “and Amii is excited to bring together our own world-leading researchers with experts from areas such as law, philosophy and ethics for this important discussion. Interdisciplinary perspectives will be essential to the ongoing development of machine intelligence and for ensuring these opportunities have the broadest reach possible.”

Over the three-day program, 30 graduate-level students and early-career researchers will engage with leading experts and researchers including event co-organizers: Western University’s Daniel Lizotte, Amii’s Alona Fyshe and UCLA’s Edward Parson. Participants will also have a chance to shape the curriculum throughout this uniquely interactive event.

Summer Institute takes place prior to Deep Learning and Reinforcement Learning Summer School, and includes a combined event on July 24th [2019] for both Summer Institute and Summer School participants.

Visit dlrlsummerschool.ca/the-summer-institute to apply; applications close April 7, 2019.

View our Summer Institute Biographies & Boilerplates for more information on confirmed faculty members and co-hosting organizations. Follow the conversation through social media channels using the hashtag #SI2019.

Media Contact: Spencer Murray, Director of Communications & Public Relations, Amii
t: 587.415.6100 | c: 780.991.7136 | e: spencer.murray@amii.ca

There’s a bit more information on The Summer Institute on AI and Society webpage (on the Deep Learning and Reinforcement Learning Summer School 2019 website) such as this more complete list of speakers,

Confirmed speakers at Summer Institute include:

Alona Fyshe, University of Alberta/Amii (SI co-organizer)
Edward Parson, UCLA (SI co-organizer)
Daniel Lizotte, Western University (SI co-organizer)
Geoffrey Rockwell, University of Alberta
Graham Taylor, University of Guelph/Vector Institute
Rob Lempert, Rand Corporation
Gary Marchant, Arizona State University
Richard Re, UCLA
Evan Selinger, Rochester Institute of Technology
Elana Zeide, UCLA

Two questions, why are all the summer school faculty either Canada- or US-based? What about South American, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc. thinkers?

One last thought, I wonder if this ‘AI & ethics summer institute’ has anything to do with the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, which CIFAR administers and where both the University of Alberta and Vector Institute are members.

Singapore as banyan tree, bonsai, and nanotechnology: a truckload of metaphors

There’s a fascinating essay and political analysis by George Yeo (former Foreign Minister of Singapore, etc.) about Singapore’s state of affairs on it’s 50th anniversary in The World Post (a Huffington Post and Berggruen Institute partnership project). From Yeo’s Aug. 3, 2015 essay,

Why Singapore at 50 Is Like a Banyan Tree, a Bonsai and Nanotechnology

Under the late Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore — which this week is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a nation — was unabashedly a hierarchical society. When asked if Singapore was a nanny state, he replied that, if it were one, he was proud to have fostered it. But he also knew that Singapore society was entering a new phase.

In November 1990, Lee Kuan Yew stepped aside to let Goh Chok Tong take over as prime minister. The state retreated a little; controls were carefully loosened; greater diversity was tolerated if not selectively encouraged. As minister for information and the arts, I was happy to push some boundaries — censorship, use of dialects and Singlish, greater emphasis of pre-PAP history and promotion of our diverse ancestral heritage. These were all sensitive issues and I had to manage senior cabinet colleagues artfully. A speech I made about the need to prune the banyan tree in order that civic participation could flourish resonated with many Singaporeans. Pruning the banyan tree means cutting down hierarchy. …

Diversity causes tension. In hierarchical societies, diversity is frowned upon because it makes top-down organization more difficult. Standardization improves efficiency but it also leads to oppression.

Many years ago, the late Cardinal Jan Schotte told me this story about Pope John Paul II, whom he served as the secretary of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican. Drafting a speech for the Holy Father, Cardinal Schotte inserted a sentence for the pope to say that “despite our differences, we are one.” John Paul II gently chided him and replaced “despite” with “because of.” “Because of our differences, we are one.”

The particularity of the individual is sacrosanct. Each of us is unique; each is ultimately responsible for his own life. The correction by the pope was not of style but of deep principle. Diversity is not to be merely tolerated; it is to be celebrated. For those who believe in God, every human being carries a divine imprint which unites us. For Confucianists and atheists, every human being has a moral core which also makes us one. …

I was most interested in the nanotechnology metaphor and how Yeo relates it to Singapore,

During his first term as chief minister of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu compared the workings of Singapore to nanotechnology. Yes, we are small but we pack a lot into a tiny space and are able to network Singapore to the entire world.

Singapore is not intelligible in itself. Its economy, culture and politics can only be understood in the context of the region it serves. Singapore is only one node in a dense network of many nodes. Whether the Singapore node grows or shrinks depends on the health of the network and our ability to link up with other nodes and add value. Our diversity is therefore a great strength.

He abandoned the nanotechnology metaphor fairly quickly to talk about diversity, independence, and military preparedness,

Diversity is, however, also our vulnerability. Every channel which connects us to the outside world also brings infection. Maintaining Singapore’s integrity and security is therefore a continuing challenge. Two conditions have to be met for a city-state to be independent.

First, its foreign policy has to be nimble to adjust to a shifting external balance of power. Second, the citizenry must be united in its common defense against external subversion and aggression. The external and internal equations have to be solved simultaneously. Only when Singaporeans feel secure about their own place at home can they turn outwards and do big things together. I spent 16 years as a soldier, first in the Army, then the Air Force and, finally, in the Joint Staff. The Singapore Armed Forces is a well-equipped and well-trained militia. Its fighting ability is completely dependent on the unity of diverse Singaporeans and their commitment to a common, righteous cause. By being prepared for war, we are more likely to have peace. It is better not to be put to the test.

If we can maintain peace in Asia for another 10 to 20 years, the region will be transformed beyond recognition and become a powerhouse of the global economy. While trials of strength are inevitable, Sino-U.S. relations are unlikely to deteriorate too badly. Even when China’s economy overtakes that of the U.S. in size, the U.S. will remain the dominant military and political power in the world for decades to come. American popular culture has already taken over the world.

Unlike the U.S., China is not a missionary power. So long as it is able to maintain its own political and cultural universe within, China has no ambition to compete with the U.S. for global supremacy without. If China is also a missionary power, like the former Soviet Union, another hot or cold war is inevitable. Happily, China is not and a titanic clash between the U.S. and China is not inevitable.

Between China and India, they are more likely to cooperate than to fight. Except for a minor border war in 1962, which has been largely forgotten in China, the long history of contact between them has been peaceful. Each recognizes the other as an ancient people.

Yeo provides a very interesting perspective, that of an insider intimately involved in Singapore’s evolution as a city-state.  I don’t entirely agree with his analysis about China. While they may not have the ‘missioinary’ society he sees in the US, China has been expansionist in the past and are currently busy absorbing Tibet.

You can find out more about George Yeo Yong-Boon here. As I think the Huffington Post is sufficiently well known that a description is unnecessary, I don’t think the same can said of the Berggruen Institute, so here goes. From the Berggruen Institute home page,

The Berggruen Institute is dedicated to the design and implementation of new ideas of good governance — drawing from practices in both East and West — that can be brought to bear on the common challenges of globalization in the 21st century.

We are an independent, non-partisan “think and action tank” that engages cutting edge entrepreneurs, global thinkers and political leaders from around the world as key participants in our projects.

The great transition of our time is from American-led globalization 1.0 to the interdependence of plural identities that characterizes globalization 2.0 as the dominance of the West recedes with the rise of the rest. A political and cultural awakening, amplified by social media, is part and parcel of this shift, and good governance must respond by devolving power and involving citizens more meaningfully in governing their communities. At the same time, we believe that accountable institutions must be created that can competently manage the global links of interdependence.

In another life, I was quite interested in diversity and viewpoints that contrast with my own from a cultural perspective. This foray, given the essay title, was a surprise and a delightful one at that.

Can governments keep pace with science and technology?

Later this week (Feb. 3 & 4, 2011), an imaginative discussion about society, emerging technologies, and the role of government, Here Be Dragons: Governing a Technologically Uncertain Future, will take place at Google’s Washington, DC, headquarters.  The event (one of a series dubbed ‘Future Tense’) is the result of a partnership between Arizona State University, the New America Foundation, and Slate magazine. Not surprisingly Slate has an article about the event but it’s written by Robert J. Sawyer, a Canadian science fiction novelist and it’s not about the event per se. From the Slate article, The Purpose of Science Fiction; How it teaches governments—and citizens—how to understand the future of technology,

… science-fiction writers explore these issues in ways that working scientists simply can’t. Some years ago, for a documentary for Discovery Channel Canada, I interviewed neurobiologist Joe Tsien, who had created superintelligent mice in his lab at Princeton—something he freely spoke about when the cameras were off. But as soon as we started rolling, and I asked him about the creation of smarter mice, he made a “cut” gesture. “We can talk about the mice having better memories but not about them being smarter. The public will be all over me if they think we’re making animals more intelligent.”

But science-fiction writers do get to talk about the real meaning of research. We’re not beholden to skittish funding bodies and so are free to speculate about the full range of impacts that new technologies might have—not just the upsides but the downsides, too. And we always look at the human impact rather than couching research in vague, nonthreatening terms.

That bit about ‘smarter mice’ is related to the issue I was discussing in regard to PBS’s Nova Series: Making Stuff and their approach to transgenic goats (my Jan. 21, 2011 posting). Many people are distressed by this notion of crossing boundaries and ‘playing God’ to the point where discussion is rendered difficult if not impossible.The ‘smarter mice’ issue points to a related problem in that people find some boundaries more acceptable to cross than others.

Sawyer’s point about science fiction being a means of holding the discussion is well taken. He will be presenting at this week’s ‘Dragons’ event. Here’s more about it,

Maps in the old days often included depictions of sea dragons or lions to connote unknown or dangerous terrain. Unfortunately, when it comes to a future that will be altered in unimaginable ways by emerging technologies, society and government cannot simply lay down a “Here Be Dragons” marker with a fanciful illustration to signal that most of us have no clue.

How does a democratic society both nurture and regulate — and find the right balance between those two imperatives — fast-evolving technologies poised to radically alter life?

Synthetic biology, with its potential to engineer and manipulate living organisms, and the Internet, which continues to alter how we live and relate to each other, offer two compelling cases in point.

Future Tense is convening at Google DC a number of leading scientists, Internet thinkers, governance experts and science fiction writers to grapple with the challenge of governing an unchartered future.

Related but tangential: The Canadian Army has shown an interest in science fiction as they have commissioned at least two novels by Karl Schroeder as I noted in my Feb. 16, 2009 posting.

One last thought, I am curious about the fact that the ‘Dragons’ event is being held at a Google headquarters yet Google is not a sponsor, a host, or a partner.

Nanotechnology and European NGOs; 2009 Nobel in Physics has Canadian connections; China’s nanotechnology roadmap; Canada Research Chair Hongbin Li

Lately (as in this year), there’s been a lot of substantive interest in regulating nanotechnology:

  • the recent joint Transatlantic Regulatory project which brought together the London School of Economics, Chatham House, the Environmental Law Institute and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) for a report and a series of presentations.  (I discussed the PEN presentation here.)
  • the recent announcement from the US Environmental Protection Agency about their new nanomaterials research which will presumably result in discussion about regulations. (I mentioned the announcement here.)
  • the January 2009 announcement by Environment Canada that they would be conducting a one time nanomaterials inventory. This type of announcement offers the distinct possibility that future regulation may be on the agenda. (I first discussed  this initiative in my Feb. 3, 2009, Feb. 4, 2009, and Feb.8, 2009 postings.)

Now a new group has issued a report, the European Environment Bureau (from the news item on Nanowerk),

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Europe’s largest federation of environmental citizens’ organisations, launched a report (“Nanotechnologies in the 21st Century – A Critical Review of Governance Issues in Europe and Elsewhere (October 09”)  outlining the critical governance structures needed for the safe development and use of nanotechnology.

You can read more here.

As I noted in my headline, the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics has some Canadian connections. From the Fast Company article by Kit Eaton,

Half the prize went to Charles Kao for work that led to long-distance fiber-optic communications. Born in Shanghai, he was educated in the U.K. and worked in one of the early companies that became the current Nortel (emphasis mine). This is where he did research into the fiber-optic systems available at the time, which had been puzzling scientists and engineers by not nearing their theoretical efficiency, and remaining good only for short-distance signaling. Kao’s experiments proved the reason behind these inefficiencies was impurities in the glass making up the fibers–this effected the refractive index of the medium as well as how much light was wasted by scattering instead of being neatly piped down the fiber to the receiving electronics.

The other half of the prize was shared by Canadian (emphasis mine) Willard Boyle and American George Smith for their co-invention of the Charge-Coupled Device. This little optically-sensitive chip, with its neat shift-bit way of getting data from the individual light-sensitive pixels to the data pipe that connects the sensor to a computer, is basically the invention that made possible the whole field of digital photography.

If you have any interest in China’s science and technology scene, Springer and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have announced that they are publishing a series of reports, roadmaps for the next 40 years.  The first reports are out on Oct. 14, 2009 and there will be more in 2010. I see that one of the 2010 reports will be on nanotechnology. For more details, you can go here.

I almost missed the announcement that Dr. Hongbin Li at the University of British Columbia has received a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Nanoscience and Protein Engineering. Congratulations Dr. Li! I posted a two-part interview in 2008 that  Dr. Li kindly granted me here and here.

Nano sheds some light on incandescence and a Framing Nano report

The news caught my eye immediately,  ‘Scientists at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have created the world’s smallest incandescent lamp‘. It reminded me of Oliver Saks’ memoir, Uncle Tungsten, which dwelled at length on his uncle’s light bulb factory and their mutual fascination with the filament. Very briefly, the scientists are exploring the boundary between two incompatible theories, thermodynamics and quantum mechanics. There’s more here.

I mentioned the Framing Nano project  in a previous post (July 28, 2008), a European nano governance project. In January 2009, they released a report with an enormous title, ‘Framing Nano Project: A multistakeholder dialogue platform framing the responsible development of Nanosciences & Nanotechnologjes‘. It’s mostly concerned with risk and regulation in Europe but there’s also a bit of information the situation in other parts of the world. There is mention of Canada,

Australia and Canada are also rather active on nanoregulation. Both have important programmes on EHS (Environment, Health and Safety) research and have published in-depth reviews of their regulations to assess eventual limits when dealing with nanotechnology. Even though no specific laws have been set up, the adoption of a precautionary approach principle, when dealing with nanotechnology application, is envisaged in both countries. (p. 4)

The report does not cite source for its contentions about Canada, which means that I’m not sure what to make of it. Last year at the Cascadia Nanotechnology Symposium (March 2008), there seemed to be a general consensus that virtually no analysis had been done or was being done on whether or not existing regulatory frameworks could accommodate nanotechnology. Of course, the problem with these things is that the federal government is huge so it’s possible that none representatives from the National Research Council and other government agencies could be unaware of those developments. If you’re interested in the Framing Nano report, you can read more about it and/or get a copy of it here .

Framing nano and more

There seems to be a lot more discussion about risks and regulation this year than there was last year. I found more on nano governance this morning. The project is called, Framing Nano,  funded by the European Commission, with a mission to foster international dialogue on regulatory frameworks.

On a child friendly note, ‘The World of the Tiny’, an exhibit at the Children’s Museum in Mexico City is all about nano and some of the scientific information in the show was provided by Dupont Mexico. The Nanowerk News article is here.

Following on a Spanish language note, Nanotechnologia Aragon-Cataluna (NanoAracat) has a nano wiki (in English).

Nanowiki is a digital online publication, developed in the frame of NanoAracat, to track the evolution of paradigms and discoveries in the nanoscience and nanotechnology field, annotate and disseminate them, giving an overall view and feed the essential public debate on nanotechnology and its practical applications.

The parent website, NanoAracat, is here and the NanoWiki is here.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) recently posted an article on nanotechnology that looks very similar to the material in an article by Martin Mittelstaedt (definitely behind a paywall as I just checked) that was printed in the Globe and Mail a few weeks ago when the Council of Canadian Academies released their report for the Government of Canada on nanotechnology and possible risks.

Now I’m off to work on my own nano wiki, The Nanotech Mysteries.