The Power of AI Is In Our Hands. What Do We Need to Know?
The New Trail has a great feature story by Lisa Szabo on generative AI, The Power of AI Is In Our Hands. What Do We Need to Know? The story features a number of us at U of Alberta talking about the generative AI tools like ChatGPT. It quotes me talking about art and how I believe we will still want art by humans despite what AIs can generate. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we will enjoy and consume both AI generated entertainment and art that we believe was generated by people we know.
John Gabrieli, an MIT neuroscientist who is skeptical about the promises of big tech and its salesmen: “I am impressed how educational technology has had no effect on scale, on reading outcomes, on reading difficulties, on equity issues,”…
A team at the LIS (London Interdisciplinary School) have created a great short video on the biases of AI image generators. The video covers the issues quickly and is documented with references you can follow for more. I had been looking at how image generators portrayed academics like philosophers, but this reports on research that went much further.
What is also interesting is how this grew out of a LIS undergrad’s first year project. It says something about LIS that they encourage and build on such projects. This got me wondering about the LIS which I had never heard of before. It seems to be a new teaching college in London, UK that is built around interdisciplinary programmes, not departments, that deal with “real-world problems.” It sounds a bit like problem-based learning.
Anyway, it will be interesting to watch how it evolves.
Today I gave a talk online for an event organized by Huminfra, a Swedish national infrastructure project. The title of the talk was “The Imitation Game: Artificial Intelligence and Dialogue” and it was part of an event online on “Research in the Humanities in the wake of ChatGPT.” I drew on Turing’s name for the Turing Test, the “imitation game.” Here is the abstract,
The release of ChatGPT has provoked an explosion of interest in the conversational opportunities of generative artificial intelligence (AI). In this presentation Dr. Rockwell will look at how dialogue has been presented as a paradigm for thinking machines starting with Alan Turing’s proposal to test machine intelligence with an “imitation game” now known as the Turing Test. In this context Rockwell will show Veliza a tool developed as part of Voyant Tools (voyant-tools.org) that lets you play and script a simple chatbot based on ELIZA which was developed by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966. ELIZA was one of the first chatbots with which you could have a conversation. It responded as if a psychotherapist, turning whatever you said back into a question. While it was simple, it could be quite entertaining and thus provides a useful way to understanding chatbots.
I remember the beginnings of computer-assisted presentations. My unit at the University of Toronto Computing Services experimented with the first tools and projectors. The three-gun projectors were finicky to set up and I felt a little guilty promoting set ups which I knew would take lots of technical support. In one presentation on digital presentations there was actually a colleague under the table making sure all the technology worked while I pitched it to faculty.
Alas, PowerPoint came to dominate though now we have a bunch of innovative presentation tools that work on the web from Google Sheets to Prezi.
Now back to Tufte. His critique still stands. Presentation tools have a cognitive style that encourages us to break complex ideas into chunks and then show one chunk at a time in a linear sequence. He points out that a well designed handout or pamphlet (like his pamphlet on The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint) can present a lot more information in a way that doesn’t hide the connections. You can have something more like a concept map that you take people through on a tour. Prezi deserves credit for paying attention to Tufte and breaking out of the linear style.
Now, of course, there are AI tools that can generate presentations like Presentations.ai or Slideoo. You can see a list of a number of them here. No need to know what you’re presenting, an AI will generate the content, design the slides, and soon present it too.
I gave a talk on “The Knowledge We Bear” that looked at four of the main structures that discipline the ways we bear knowledge in the university as institution. I also moderated a dialogue between Kevin Kee and Jacques Beauvais.
The three days were extraordinary thanks to the leadership of my co-organizer Natalie Loveless. I learned a lot about the weaving of research and creation together.
In many ways this was my last major initiative as Director of KIAS. On July 1st Michael O’Driscoll will take over. It was a way of reflecting on institutes and what they can do with others. I’m grateful to all those who participated.
U of A computing scientists work with Japanese researchers to refine a virtual and mixed reality video game that can improve motor skills for older adults and sedentary people.
The Folio of the University of Alberta published a story about a trip to Japan that I and others embarked on, U of A computing scientists work with Japanese researchers on virtual reality game to get people out of their seats. Ritsumeikan invited us to develop research collaborations around gaming, language and artificial intelligence. Our visit was a chance to further the collaborations, like the one my colleagues Eleni Stroulia and Victor Fernandez Cervantes are developing with Thawmas Ruck around games for older adults. This inter-university set of collaborations build on projects I was involved in going back to 2011, including a conference (Replaying Japan) and a journal, the Journal of Replaying Japan.
The highlight was the signing of a Memorandum Of Understanding by the two presidents (of U of A and Ritsumeikan). I was also involved as was Professor Nakamura. May the collaboration thrive.
In spheres as disparate as medicine and cryptocurrencies, “do your own research,” or DYOR, can quickly shift from rallying cry to scold.
The New York Times has a nice essay by John Herrman on They Did Their Own ‘Research.’ Now What?The essay talks about the loss of trust in authorities and the uses/misuses of DYOR (Do Your Own Research) gestures especially in discussions about cryptocurrencies. DYOR seems to act rhetorically as:
Advice that readers should do research before making a decision and not trust authorities (doctors, financial advisors etc).
A disclaimer that readers should not blame the author if things don’t turn out right.
A scold to or for those who are not committed to whatever it is that is being pushed as based on research. It is a form of research signalling – “I’ve done my research, if you don’t believe me do yours.”
A call to join a community of instant researchers who are skeptical of authority. If you DYOR then you can join us.
A call to process (of doing your own research) over truth. Enjoy the research process!
Become an independent thinker who is not in thrall to authorities.
DYOR is an attitude, if not quite a practice, that has been adopted by some athletes, musicians, pundits and even politicians to build a sort of outsider credibility. “Do your own research” is an idea central to Joe Rogan’s interview podcast, the most listened to program on Spotify, where external claims of expertise are synonymous with admissions of malice. In its current usage, DYOR is often an appeal to join in, rendered in the language of opting out.
The question is whether reading around is really doing research or whether it is selective listening. What does it mean to DYOR in the area of vaccines? It seems to mean not trusting science and instead listening to all sorts of sympathetic voices.
What does this mean about the research we do in the humanities. Don’t we sometimes focus too much on discourse and not give due weight to the actual science or authority of those we are “questioning”? Haven’t we modelled this critical stance where what matters is that one overturns hierarchy/authority and democratizes the negotiation of truth? Irony, of course, trumps all.
From a CGSA/ACÉV Statement Against Exploitation and Oppression in Games Education and Industry a link to a video report People Make Games. The report documents emotional abuse in the education and indie game space. It deals with how leaders can create a toxic environment and how they can fail to take criticism seriously. A myth of the “auteur” in game design then protects the superstar leaders. Which is why they called the video “people make games” (not single auteurs.) Watch it.
A Hong Kong company has developed facial expression-reading AI that monitors students’ emotions as they study. With many children currently learning from home, they say the technology could make the virtual classroom even better than the real thing.
With cameras all over, this should worry us. We are not only be identified by face recognition, but now they want to know our inner emotions too. What sort of theory of emotions licenses these systems?