Securing Canada’s AI advantage | Prime Minister of Canada

AI is already unlocking massive growth in industries across the economy. Many Canadians are already feeling the benefits of using AI to work smarter and faster.

The Prime Minister’s office has just announced a large investment in AI. See Securing Canada’s AI advantage | Prime Minister of Canada. This is a pre-budget announcement of $2.4 billion going to AI related things including:

  • 2 billion “to build and provide access to computing capabilities and technological infrastructure for Canada’s world-leading AI researchers, start-ups, and scale-ups”
  • Setting up a “Canadian AI Safety Institute” with $50 million “to further the safe development and deployment of AI”. This sounds like a security rather than ethics institute as it will “help Canada better understand and protect against the risks of advanced or nefarious AI systems, including to specific communities.”
  • Funding for the “enforcement of the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act, with $5.1 million for the Office of the AI and Data Commissioner.”

There are also funds for startups, workers, and businesses.

The massive funding for infrastructure follows a weekend opinion piece in the Globe and Mail (March 21, 2024) on Canada’s AI infrastructure does not compute. The article suggests we have a lot of talent, but don’t have the metal. Well … now we are getting some metal.

The Deepfake Porn of Kids and Celebrities That Gets Millions of Views

It astonishes me that society apparently believes that women and girls should accept becoming the subject of demeaning imagery.

The New York Times has an opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof on deepfake porn,  The Deepfake Porn of Kids and Celebrities That Gets Millions of Views. The opinion says what is becoming obvious, that deepfake tools are being used overwhelmingly to create porn of women, whether celebrities, or girls people know. This artificial intelligence technology is not neutral, it is hurtful of a specific group – girls and women.

The article points to some research like a study 2023 State of Deepfakes by Home Security Heroes. Some of the key findings:

  • The number of deepfake videos is exploding (550% from 2019 to 2023)
  • 98% of the deepfake videos are porn
  • 99% of that porn women subjects
  • South Korean women singers and actresses are 53% of those targeted

It only takes about half an hour and almost no money to create a 60 second porn video from a single picture of someone. The ease of use and low cost is making these tools and services mainstream so that any yahoo can do it to his neighbour or schoolmate. It shouldn’t be surprising that we are seeing stories about young women being harassed by schoolmates that create and post deepfake porn. See stories here and here.

One might think this would be easy to stop – that the authorities could easily find and prosecute the creators of tools like ClothOff that lets you undress a girl whose photo you have taken. Alas, no. The companies hide behind false fronts. The Guardian has a podcast about trying to track down who owned or ran ClothOff.

What we don’t talk about is the responsibility of some research projects like LAION who have created open datasets for training text-to-image models that include pornographic images. They know their datasets include porn but speculate that this will help researchers.

You can learn more about deepfakes from AI Heelp!!!

The Power of AI Is In Our Hands. What Do We Need to Know?

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.

CIFAR welcomes five new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs – CIFAR

Today CIFAR announced five new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs who will join the more than 120 Chairs already appointed at Canada’s three National AI Institutes (Amii in Edmonton, Mila in Montréal, and the Vector Institute in Toronto).

Today they announced that I have been appointed a Canada CIFAR AI Chair, CIFAR welcomes five new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs – CIFAR. Here is the U of A Folio story.


Musée d’Orsay’s Van Gogh Exhibition Breaks Historic Attendance Record

The Musée d’Orsay set a record attendance of 793,556 visitors to its exhibition ‘Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise’.

ARTnews has a story about how the Musée d’Orsay’s Van Gogh Exhibition Breaks Historic Attendance Record. The exhibit included a virtual reality component (Virtual Reality – Van Gogh’s Palette) where visitors could put on a headset and interact with the palette of Vincent van Gogh. You can see a 360 degree video of the experience here in French. It takes place in the room of Dr. Gachet who treated van Gogh. It starts with the piano at which his daughter Marguerite posed for a painting. Her character also narrates. Then you zoom in on a 3D rendered version of his palette where you hear about some of the paintings he did in the last 70 days of his life. They emerge from the palette.

It isn’t clear if the success of the show is due to the VR component or just the chance to see originals. We can only experience the 360 video which has limited interactivity. That said, I don’t find the video of the VR experience convincing. It is a creative documentary and it is hard to see how being immersed would make much of a difference. Was it just a gimmick to get more people to come to the show?

Forty years ago Apple debuted a computer that changed our world, for good or ill | Siva Vaidhyanathan | The Guardian

In many ways, the long 21st century began when Apple launched the Macintosh with its ‘1984’ Super Bowl ad

The Guardian has a story about the 40th anniversary of the Apple Macintosh, Forty years ago Apple debuted a computer that changed our world, for good or ill. The famous 1984 Super Bowl Macintosh ad by Ridley Scott was aired on January 22nd, 1984 and announced that on January 24th, the Macintosh would be introduced.

What made the Mac so revolutionary? To be honest, the Mac wasn’t really that innovative. Apple had tried to sell a GUI (Graphical User Interface) computer before in the Lisa, but it was too expensive. The Lisa in turn had be developed using ideas from Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) that were marketed in the Xerox Star of 1981, which was again too expensive to be influential. What the Mac got right was the price making it affordable. And the rest was history.

The author of the Guardian article, Siva Vaidhyanathan, argues that the Mac and later the iPhone hid the realities of their manufacture and innards. This was a common critique of the GUI, that it hid the way the operating system “really” worked, which was shown presumably by MS Dos.

This move to magic through design has blinded us to the real conditions of most people working and living in the world. A gated device is similar to a gated community. Beyond that, the sealed boxes, once they included ubiquitous cameras and location devices and were connected through invisible radio signals, operate as a global surveillance system that Soviet dictators could never have dreamed of. We bought into a world of soft control beyond Orwell’s imagination as well.

Frankly, I think the argument is exaggerated. Consumer products like cars had been hiding their workings under a trunk long before the Macintosh. For that matter the IBM PCs running MS Dos of that time were really not more open. The command line is an interface as much as a graphical one, it is just a different paradigm, a dialogue interface where you order the machine around instead of a desktop where you manipulate files. The argument seems to be one of association – associating the Mac with a broad generalization about capitalism and then hinting that everything after can be blamed on us wanting what Apple offered. What I remember was struggling to learn the commands of an IBM and then being offered a better designed computer. Sometimes better design isn’t a surveillance plot.

The Lives of Literary Characters

The goal of this project is to generate knowledge about the behaviour of literary characters at large scale and make this data openly available to the public. Characters are the scaffolding of great storytelling. This Zooniverse project will allow us to crowdsource data to train AI models to better understand who characters are and what they do within diverse narrative worlds to answer one very big question: why do human beings tell stories?

Today we are going live on Zooinverse with our Citizen Science (crowdsourcing) project, The Lives of Literary Characters. The goal of the project is offer micro-tasks that allow volunteers to annotate literary passages that help annotate training data. It will be interesting to see if we get a decent number of volunteers.

Before setting this up we did some serious reading around the ethics of crowdsourcing as we didn’t want to just exploit readers.


A groundbreaking study shows kids learn better on paper, not screens. Now what?

For ‘deeper reading’ among children aged 10-12, paper trumps screens. What does it mean when schools are going digital?

The title of this Guardian story says it all, A groundbreaking study shows kids learn better on paper, not screens. Now what? The story reports on a study led by Karen Froud at Columbia University titled, Middle-schoolers’ reading and processing depth in response to digital and print media: An N400 study. They found “evidence of differences in brain responses to texts presented in print and digital media, including deeper semantic encoding for print than digital texts.” Paper works better.

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,”…

OpenAI’s GPT store is already being flooded with AI girlfriend bots

OpenAI’s store rules are already being broken, illustrating that regulating GPTs could be hard to control

From Slashdot I learned about a stroy on how OpenAI’s GPT store is already being flooded with AI girlfriend bots. It isn’t particularly surprising that you can get different girlfriend bots. Nor is it surprising that these would be something you can build in ChatGPT-4. ChatGPT is, afterall, a chatbot. What will be interesting to see is whether these chatbot girlfriends are successful. I would have imagined that men would want pornographic girlfriends and that the market for friends would be more for boyfriends along the lines of what Replika offers.