Tag: machine learning

Stochastic Parrots


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.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe if you would like this newsletter to show up in your inbox. Feel free to reach out and say hey at hello@digitallyliterate.net.


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.


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.


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.



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

digilit banner

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.

Connect at hello@digitallyliterate.net or on the social network of your choice.

The Coming War

The Coming War
Digitally Lit #271 – 12/05/2020

Thank you for being here. You are valued.

This week I worked on the following:

  • Trust, But Verify – Users of the Internet become pawns in a flow of information that circulates endlessly in the ether causing a contagion that is nearly insurmountable.
  • Shades of Gray – Absolute truth becomes even more subjective as there are very few things that are clearly right or wrong.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe if you would like this newsletter to show up in your inbox. Feel free to reach out and say hey at hello@digitallyliterate.net.


1981 Nightline interview with Steve Jobs


Ted Koppel, Bettina Gregory, and Ken Kashiwahara present news stories from 1981 on the relevancy of computers in every day life and how they will affect our future. Included are interviews with Apple Computer Chairman Steve Jobs and writer David Burnham.


Google Researcher Says She Was Fired Over Paper Highlighting Bias in A.I.

Timnit Gebru, a prominent a co-leader of the Ethical Artificial Intelligence team at Google sent an email to her colleagues voicing exasperation over the company’s response to efforts to increase minority hiring.

Gebru had been working on a research paper that she hoped to publish, but ran into resistance from her superiors at Google. And so she sent a letter expressing her frustration to the internal listserv Google Brain Women and Allies.

The paper, titled “On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?” lays out the risks of large language models—AIs trained on staggering amounts of text data.

A few days later, Gebru was fired — Google reportedly found the email “inconsistent with the expectations of a Google manager.” It details the struggles Gebru experienced as a Black leader working on ethics research within the company, and presents a bleak view of the path forward for underrepresented minorities at the company.

The coming war on the hidden algorithms that trap people in poverty

A growing group of lawyers are uncovering, navigating, and fighting the automated systems that deny the poor housing, jobs, and basic services.

Credit scores have been used for decades to assess consumer creditworthiness, but their scope is far greater now that they are powered by algorithms: not only do they consider vastly more data, in both volume and type, but they increasingly affect whether you can buy a car, rent an apartment, or get a full-time job. Their comprehensive influence means that if your score is ruined, it can be nearly impossible to recover. Worse, the algorithms are owned by private companies that don’t divulge how they come to their decisions. Victims can be sent in a downward spiral that sometimes ends in homelessness or a return to their abuser.

Online exam monitoring can invade privacy and erode trust at universities

Bonnie Stewart on the testing and proctoring methods that invade privacy and erode trust end up undermining the very integrity that institutions demand students uphold.

As institutions of higher ed turn to online proctoring in the name of academic integrity the risks of exchanging the four walls of the classroom for surveillance platforms may be higher than many institutions bargained for.

As Stewart points out at the end of the piece, higher ed doesn’t need proctoring. Timed tests value what students remember.

Is memorization really a valid educational reason for risking privacy, well-being, and tight university budgets in a world where students will spend most of their lives with Google in their pockets?

Examining Screen Time, Screen Use Experiences, and Well-Being in Adults

This study examined the relationship between screentime and well-being in adults, including positive relationships, meaning, and loneliness. The study is possibly the first to investigate how much pleasure and meaning people feel during screen use and their mediating effects.

Screentime was not found to be significantly correlated with well-being; and screen use experiences did not mediate any of the screen time and well-being relationships.

However, screen use meaning was positively associated with overall well-being and positive relationships. This finding prompts a review of the importance of screen time for well-being, suggesting that this may be a limited approach. Other factors related to screen quality may be equal if not more important for well-being.

Teaching in the Pandemic: ‘This Is Not Sustainable’

Teacher burnout will erode instructional quality, stymie working parents and hinder the reopening of the economy.

“If we keep this up, you’re going to lose an entire generation of not only students but also teachers,” said Shea Martin, an education scholar and facilitator who works with public schools on issues of equity and justice.


Enhance Student Engagement with Virtual Social Learning Spaces

Caitlin Tucker with ideas and strategies for utilizing those shared spaces to create student-centered learning experiences.



If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.


digilit banner
Connect at hello@digitallyliterate.net or on the social network of your choice.

Digitally Literate #231

Machine Learning Delay
Digitally Lit #231 – 2/1/2020

Hi all, welcome to issue #231 of Digitally Literate.

Last week I posted this piece about talking to youth about privacy, security, & digital spaces. These materials and the related interview were used by Meghan Herbst in a piece for Wired on How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids in the Digital Age.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe if you would like this newsletter to show up in your inbox. Feel free to reach out and let me know what you think of this work at hello@digitallyliterate.net.


How Machine Learning Is Generating Strange, New Sounds (11:18)

Project Magenta is a Google Research project that uses machine learning to create new tools for artists and musicians. One of these tools is NSynth, a neural synthesizer that generates strange, new sounds like “cat flutes,” “beast guitars,” and “screaming 3D printers.”

In this video, from Nat and Friends, they explore how NSynth works, and talk with Andrew Huang about his process creating a song entirely out of NSynth generated sounds.


How to Change Your Off-Facebook Activity Settings

Facebook’s long-awaited Off-Facebook Activity tool started rolling out this week.

While it’s not a perfect measure, and we still need stronger data privacy laws, this tool is a first step toward greater transparency and user control regarding third-party tracking. Hopefully other companies follow suit, and allow users to take advantage of it.

This tutorial shows you have to clear your account of off-Facebook activity, and prevent it from being collected in the future. Go do this now.

Teenage sleep and technology engagement across the week

Amy Orben and Andrew Przybylski with research that analyses data from 11,884 adolescents included in the UK Millennium Cohort Study to examine the association between digital engagement and adolescent sleep. They compare the relative effects of retrospective self-report vs. time-use diary measures of technology use.

Results suggest that the negative associations in evidence are mainly driven by retrospective technology use measures and measures of total time spent on digital devices during the day.

This work provides an empirical lens to understand the effects of digital engagement both throughout the day and before bedtime and adds nuance to a research area primarily relying on retrospective self-report.

Why We Should Ban Facial Recognition Technology

There has been a lot of news about Clearview AI, a shadowy facial-recognition-software company providing users access to a database of 3 billion photographs scraped from social media and video streaming sites.

Max Read takes issue with a quote from one of Clearview’s investors in which he says:

I’ve come to the conclusion that because information constantly increases, there’s never going to be privacy…Laws have to determine what’s legal, but you can’t ban technology. Sure, that might lead to a dystopian future or something, but you can’t ban it.

This post by Read pushes back on this narrative that the creep of new technologies is inevitable, and attempts to stop or control it is foolish.

A De-escalation Exercise for Upset Students

enter image description here
A simple technique that takes just a few minutes can help an agitated student regain the state of mind needed for learning.

  • Give the student time to regain their calm
  • Direct the student to be aware of their thoughts and feelings
  • Have the student redirect their thoughts
  • Give the student positive feedback on becoming calm
  • Give the student a little more time to refocus
  • Have the student reflect for the future

Google’s College Readiness Collection

The College Readiness Collection from the Google Applied Digital Skills Team. These lessons will help you plan and prepare for college and other education opportunities.

Organize College Applications in Google Sheets: Create a spreadsheet to track and organize college applications using Google Sheets.
Draft an Application Essay: Write a college application essay using Google Docs to jump-start the application process.
Search for Colleges Online: Gather data about college choices by conducting an online search and recording the data in a spreadsheet in Google Sheets.
Prepare for a College Interview: Collaborate with a partner in a document to prepare for potential interviews.
Prepare for the FAFSA: Organize documents and other important information in a spreadsheet for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Ask Someone to Be a Reference: Use Google Sheets to compile a list of potential references, then write an email to each asking for their recommendation.


Reducing friction in the development of your OER

I blog a lot…and share materials openly online. As I build and share materials, I’m always trying to find ways to allow people to respond and critique to my materials in a friction-free manner.

In this post from David Wiley, he indicates that at Lumen Learning they are adding a button to the bottom of all webpages that links to a Google Doc version of the content. This is shared publicly, and has Track Changes turned on to allow feedback.

I may add this to my blogging, and publishing repertoire.


I’m reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward. I reflect with a purpose.

Kobe Bryant

digilit banner
Digitally Literate is a weekly review of the news, notes, tips, and tricks from the week that resonated with me. I leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs as I read online. Some of this I share on my social networks…much more I do not. At the end of the week, I review my notes and write up this newsletter.

If you have some time, watch six decade-long disinformation operations unfold in six minutes.

Feel free to connect at hello@digitallyliterate.net or on the social network of your choice.

The Age of Cultured Machines

The Age of Cultured Machines (SAPIENS)

Two robots traverse the desert floor. Explosions from a decades-old conflict have left a pockmarked and unstable territory, though many more improvised bombs lie concealed in its vast reaches. Sunlight splays off the beaten edges of Optimus, the smaller robot. Its motors whir as its claw grasps an u…

From Sapiens.

This imaginary scene shows the power of learning from others. Anthropologists and zoologists call this “social learning”: picking up new information by observing or interacting with others and the things others produce. Social learning is rife among humans and across the wider animal kingdom. As we discussed in our previous post, learning socially is fundamental to how humans become fully rounded people, in all our diversity, creativity, and splendor.


If we didn’t have social learning, we wouldn’t have culture. As zoologists Kevin Laland and Will Hoppitt argue, “culture is built upon socially learned and socially transmitted information.” Socially acquired knowledge is distinct from what we learn individually and from information inherited through genes or through imitation.


Soon we might add robots to this list. While our fanciful desert scene of robots teaching each other how to defuse bombs lies in the distant future, robots are beginning to learn socially. If one day robots start to develop and share knowledge independently of humans, might that be the seed for robot culture?


This system of demonstrating tasks to one robot that can then transfer its skills to other robots with different body shapes, strengths, and constraints might just be the first step toward independent social learning in robots. From there, we might be on the road to creating cultured robots.

The post does a good job (IMHO) of connecting social learning to machine learning. The one loose thread they dangle is the one of culture. I don’t think I’m ready to frame this robot culture. I think there is more involved in culture.
It also seems to be obvious that the robot does not have motivation. It’s motivation lies in the activities of human beings in which it is included. The human participants in such activities have that motivation within themselves though, and consequently they have motivations. The robot has no more motivation than a hammer has motivation.

All annotations in the source.

Google Duplex is amazing, creepy, and too good to go to waste

Google Duplex is amazing, creepy, and too good to go to waste (Android Authority)

Google Duplex was the biggest talking point from Google I/O 2018, and we’ve explored what it will mean, should Google actually release it into the wild.

Google Duplex and the new AI that can call and carry a conversation for you.

This is the kind of technology people will either want or do anything to avoid. It’s undeniably awesome to have a call made for you to decipher details either not online or that need to be established over the phone, like reserving a table or getting an appointment. Of course, there’s a pretty big privacy issue in there as well.