Stochastic Parrots

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Hopefully giving you just what you asked for.

This week I posted the following:

  • Developing An Attitude of Gratitude – If you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. If you focus on what you have, you gain what you lack.
  • Risky Business – Teachers are doing one of the most important jobs in our community without the adequate support and compensation expected in other professions. The challenge is that this discussion boils down to a discussion of risk.

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LaMDA and Google’s Failed AI Demo

 

This week at Google I/O 2021, the yearly developer conference for the search giant, they demonstrated how its new LaMDA technology could make conversations with your products more natural. The demo looked super cool, and it made me think about how this will impact our use of these digital spaces.

But…not so fast. In this video, Kevin Marks makes the connection to the Stochastic Parrots paper, and the firing of Timnit Gebru. This video presentation will help make sense of their points.

 

Please take some time to dig through these materials and let them marinate for a bit as you make sense of the exhilarating, dangerous world of language AI.

Read

The U.S. Education System Isn’t Giving Students What Employers Need

Michael Hansen is the CEO of Cengage and noted for disrupting higher education to make learning more affordable.

In this post, Hansen suggests that there is a disconnect between education and employability in the U.S., where employers view universities and colleges as the gatekeepers of workforce talent, yet those same institutions aren’t prioritizing job skills and career readiness.

The post suggests that to create change as an industry, we must provide greater credibility to alternate education paths that allow students to gain employable skills. Employers need to increase credibility for skills-based hiring, remove stigmas around vocational education, and move forward to create equal opportunities for all students.

The Cancellation of Nikole Hannah-Jones

Earlier this week Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times writer in charge of the 1619 Project, was denied a tenured professorship at the University of North Carolina’s journalism school.

The 1619 Project sought to spur a reexamination of how America teaches and celebrates its own history. It caused debate among academics, journalists, even within The New York Times itself. Criticisms of its accuracy by some prominent historians led to edits and clarifications, but Hannah-Jones and the Times stand by the project, the introductory essay to which won her the 2020 Pulitzer for commentary.

I shared this story for multiple reasons. First, the discussion that is happening around the work of Hannah-Jones, and whether tenure is subject to forces outside the institution.

We also need to have a discussion about the term cancel and the culture surrounding it. Graeme Wood shared a good description of the complexity of this trend.

Here is the distinction that saves the term cancellation from uselessness and hypocrisy: Cancellation is not criticism; cancellation is the absence of criticism. It is the replacement of criticism with a summary punishment. The punishment ranges in seriousness and could include withdrawal of a job or just an invitation, but the salient point is that it is meted out instantly and without deliberation, often as the result of a mob action. When this switcheroo becomes a habit, the normal way of doing things, we can call that “cancel culture,” and it is indeed a sign of intellectual and institutional rot.

Educational attainment does not influence brain aging

Research from Nyberg et al., challenges the view that higher education slows brain aging.

Education has been related to various advantageous lifetime outcomes. Using longitudinal structural MRI data (4,422 observations), the group tested the influential hypothesis that higher education translates into slower rates of brain aging. Cross-sectionally, education was modestly associated with regional cortical volume. However, despite marked mean atrophy in the cortex and hippocampus, education did not influence rates of change.

Yikes. 🙂

Check out the link for some great graphics of their data.

The Case For Universal Pre-K Just Got Stronger

According to the National Institute For Early Childhood Research, nearly half of all 3-year-olds and a third of all 4-year-olds in the United States were not enrolled in preschool in 2019. That’s in large part because many parents can’t afford it. Imagine a future where we changed that. A future where every American child had access to two years of preschool during a critical period of their mental development.

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) gives us a glimpse of what that world could look like. It adds to a burgeoning amount of high-quality research that shows just how valuable preschool is — and maybe not for the reasons you might think.

The Rebble Alliance: Preserving the Pebble Smart Watch

I’ve recently been testing out a new wearable device, the Wyze Watch. I purchased one for my oldest child…and I’m enjoying the opportunity to play with tech together.

One of the original wearables, Pebble, has a thriving community devoted to keeping it running, even after shutting down and being purchased by Fitbit.

Check out the RebbleOS here on GitHub.

Do

3 ways to gain control of your Twitter feed

Nuzzel was one of the tools that I used several times per day to make sense of my information streams. It made sense of my Twitter and Facebook streams and gave me an overview of where to direct my attention.

Nuzzel was shut down last week after being purchased by Twitter. This has caused me to go back to my system of RSS feeds as I curate content online.

Doug Belshaw shares guidance on how to start to tame your Twitter feed.

Discuss

consider

Some people worry that artificial intelligence will make us feel inferior, but then, anybody in his right mind should have an inferiority complex every time he looks at a flower.

Alan Kay

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Alabama Lifts Its Ban on Yoga in Schools. For the first time in three decades, yoga can be taught, but the law will still bar teachers from using Sanskrit names for poses.

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