By now, we’re all familiar with the problems of an open communication network which allows global reach. It’s easy to game our reptile brains to spread misinformation, hate speech and propaganda. It allows countries to interfere in the democratic communication processes in other countries. At best it serves as a kind of opiate for the masses, providing distractions that take people out of their communities. It’s a tool for capitalistic expansion and the control of knowledge and information flows. And to top it all off, the ads it serves are terrible.
Today I want to highlight a really stunning example of Scholarly Communication on Twitter. Chelsea Vowel, Twitter handle @apihtawikosisan has set the bar high, taking a talk that she has put together, and reproducing it as a Twitter thread, for the reason, she says of initiating a broader conversation. I’ve embedded the first tweet here, please read the whole thread – it’s worth it.
I've been giving a talk lately that I'm going to go ahead and share with you here, because we need to have these discussions. I call it "Law For the Apocalypse: Kinship out of Fracture."
Pop quiz: What do climate change and social media privacy have in common?
If you said, “a distracting and inaccurate focus on individual actions” you’re correct! Congratulations! Pat yourself on the back and pour yourself a congratulatory beer, glass of wine, coffee, or soda.
Researchers at MIT, who are at the forefront of autonomous vehicle technology, have noticed that paradoxically when a little bit of assistive technology is added to a car, drivers become less safe. In other words, when people feel like technology is behind they wheel they are more likely to be more distracted drivers and thus many of the autonomous technologies that are intended to make people more safe actually do the opposite.
This is a classic unintended consequence of technology, like the ones described by Edward Tenner in his 1997 book Why Things Bite Back. To combat this issue, the smart folks at MIT decided to put a human facing camera in a vehicle, which would look for distracted driving and compensate accordingly, as seen in this YouTube video. Rather than asking, what are the social and psychological reasons that drive people to engage in distracted driving, so that these reasons might be minimized, instead the best solution was determined to be adding another layer of technological assistance to the issue. Technology to solve the problem created by technology.
Over the last two years or so, the Canadian Government has been openly exploring the issue of how some government processes, such as the processing of lower risk or routine immigration files can be made more efficient through the use of AI (machine learning) algorithmic processes.
The good news is that the adoption of these systems has so far been guided by a digital framework which includes making the processes and software open by default whenever possible. These guidelines hint at a transparency that is necessary to mitigate algorithmic bias.
I usually only post to this blog once per week, but a news story caught my eye today since it concerns my sector (higher education), my country (Canada) and my passion (technology critique).
Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta is going to be the first organization in Canada to install an AI system for the purposes of security. This system consists of a network of cameras and a machine learning algorithm that spends the first few weeks learning what “normal” movement looks like on campus, then uses that baseline to detect if there might be a security issue. Deviations from normal in this case, signal a potential “threat” or at least an event worth looking into. As described by the Vice-President, Securities management in a recent CBC article:
“when that pattern breaks, what it does, that screen comes to life and it shows the people in the security office where the pattern is now different and then it’s up to a human being to decide what to do about it,”
Coral reefs are among the most beautiful and complex ecosystems in the world. However, most people will never experience moving through one because unless you are in the right location and have specialized training and equipment, it is physically impossible to visit a coral reef.
So how can most people relate to something they cannot directly ecperience themselves? How do we work to develop an awareness of the beauty and need to protect coral reefs around the world? Or to put it another way, how do we make something like that accessible to a larger number of people?
In my sustainability communication work, I’m always interested in the new and innovative methods that are being developed to teach people about climate change science and policy. Recently the Canadian Energy Policy Solutions Simulator came across my desk. This simulator, developed by the Pembina Institute, allows the user to see the emissions savings of different policy instruments that the government could introduce, and how close these different policies may or may not help Canada get to our emissions reduction targets.