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Artificial Intelligence for Open Universities in Asia: Lessons from Robert Moses' Low Parkway Bridges
Junhong Xiao, Open University Malaysia, 2024/06/21


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At last November's ICDE conference, writes Junhong Xiao, "the president of an open university (OU) outlined the ambition of building a global digital university in his keynote speech." But is this the right ambition? Xiao makes the comparison with the parkway bridges built extra-low "to keep buses from the city away from Jones Beach – buses presumably filled with the poor blacks and Puerto Ricans Moses despised." In the same way, "if improperly or blindly adopted, AI can turn discriminatory and, in the case of OU education in Asia, may lead to more harm than good." AI is expensive. The cost of deploying AI may create a barrier against lower income institutions and students. He has a point. I have zero interest in AI - or any educational technology - if all it does is help the already-advantaged. Quality, to my mind, is meaningless without access.

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GPT Builder is being retired
Microsoft Support, 2024/06/21


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GPT Builder was a nifty tool for people building custom GPTs. "Builders can use a conversational interface to create their GPT without having to manually fill out the required fields." It is being shut down in Microsoft's CoPilot. Microsoft reports, "we are shifting our focus on GPTs to Commercial and Enterprise scenarios and are stopping GPT efforts in consumer Copilot." Anything you built in GPT Builder will be deleted (I was feeling badly about not building anything but I feel better now). There's a ton of coverage online and people gloating about how there's no business model for AI, all of which seems overblown to me.

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Harvard Business Publishing Education
Ethan Mollick, Lilach Mollick, Harvard Business School Publishing, 2024/06/21


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"We've found GPT-4 class models particularly effective in creating role-play scenarios" (76 page PDF), write the authors. In this article they describe some of their techniques: crafting prompts to the AI knows its role, creating a variety of scenario options, and having it provide a positinve and supportive experience for students (you don't want it to turn toward the dark side). There's a really nice 'negotiation role-play prompt' provided as an example. What I like about this is that it plays to the strength of the AI, where it doesn't matter if it hallucinates (that actually makes the scenario better) and where it doesn't depend on factual knowledge.

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A Long Guide to Giving a Short Academic Talk
Benjamin Noble, 2024/06/21


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I've given tons of talks, some of them short, and while I see the appeal in this approach ('giving a talk is like selling yourself') and while there is some truth in it, I think the overall approach is misguided. Forget about selling; it's more like entertaining than selling. For one thing, I think readers should ignore the 'anatomy of a short talk' offered in this paper. That's a recipe for a snooze-fest. No, the main rule is this: start with the demo. In other words, show something right off the top. Present the main idea right away. Go straight to the most interesting thing. Take any questions the audience may have. Only then do you explain what you were up to: what problem you were trying to solve, maybe, or what theory you think this shows.

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Measuring data rot: An analysis of the continued availability of shared data from a Single University
Kristin A. Briney, PLOS ONE, 2024/06/21


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People like to say that "what's on the internet is forever" but older hands know that stuff disappears all the time. This is known as 'link rot' and this paper (14 page PDF) studies the rate of link rot in a university website and open data service. "A surprising 13.4% of shared URL links pointed to a website homepage rather than a specific record on a website. After testing, 5.4% the 2166 supplemental data links were found to be no longer available... Links from older publications were more likely to be unavailable, with a data disappearance rate estimated at 2.6% per year."

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Institutionalising a transdisciplinary curriculum: assemblages, territories, and refrains - Higher Education
Jack Tsao, Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Adrian Man Ho Lam, Higher Education, 2024/06/21


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I did not enjoy this paper at all. In a nutshell: universities are dealing with 'supercomplexity' in and among the various disciplines, which pushes researching in one discipline across boundaries into other disciplines, creating what might be thought of as 'border wars' among them. To resist this, practitioners at the University of Hong Kong have implemented what they call a 'Common Core' to negotiate and facilitate these cross-boundary influences. We don't learn anything about the Common Core itself, though we read a bit about the 'de-territorialism' process involved in creating it. "Such an assemblage," write the authors, "creates a transversal curricular construction of refrains rather than one that relies on the tired dichotomies between the 'specialised' and the 'general' or the 'horizontal' and the 'vertical.'" The relatively simple story I relate here is presented in this paper with heavy and unnecessary layers of theory. I suppose that's what's needed to get published in the journal, but it otherwise serves no useful purpose. Image: Turner et al., Creativity and Innovative Processes: Assemblages and Lines of Flight.

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Learning is prickly
David Hopkins, Education & Leadership, 2024/06/21


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I'm sure this metaphor appeals to a lot of people. "Learning's 'prickliness' is the inherent discomfort it brings. As workers, parents, and friends, we are often required to step out of our comfort zone, confront challenging situations and grapple with complex concepts." But the thing with metaphors is that they don't work for everyone. The challenges of learning are right where I feel at home, for example. What some people find prickly I find soothing and engaging. Your cactus is my aloe.

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Fast Crimes at Lambda School
Benjamin Sandofsky, Sandofsky, 2024/06/20


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This is a long detailed post documenting the rise and (mostly) fall Lambda School, aka Bloom Institute of Technology. To be clear, "Lambda School targeted single mothers, the disabled, reformed convicts, and people struggling with serious medical problems. They lost tens of thousands of dollars, some lost years of their lives, on a broken, predatory program." This is billed as a tech story - the founder, Austen Allred, is compared to Elon Musk and the company to Uber. But it isn't, it's just another case of someone hyping a service using 'tech' and venture capitalists falling for the hype. There's a lot of this in EdTech, just as there is a lot of this in industry generally. Via Marco Rogers.

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Calculating Empires: A Genealogy of Technology and Power since 1500
Kate Crawford, Vladan Joler, 2024/06/20


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George Station calls it clickbait, and maybe it is (though unlike real clickbait it took a lot of time to create and delivers real value). This wide diagram allows readers to "explore how technical and social structures co-evolved over five centuries in this large-scale research visualization." I would have my quibbles (I think they leave out a lot in the period 1500-1800) but it's certainly something to pause and ruminate over. And yes, there's a column for education. Read more about it here.

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Former Snap engineer launches Butterflies, a social network where AIs and humans coexist
Aisha Malik, TechCrunch, 2024/06/20


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Thisis kind of a neat design exercise: "a new app called Butterflies is aiming to create a social network where humans and AIs interact with each other through posts and DMs." Now not surprisingly the reaction is that it "sounds downright sociopathic and great for narcissists". I personally don't see why narcissists shouldn't have their own app, and to be honest I'm beginning to question the barrage of moralistic criticism of this and related technologies (this comes right after I finished reading a downright offensive criticism (via Ben Werdmuller) of AI by someone who pretends to be the world's only authoritative voice on the subject. I get that people don't trust the corporations behind AI nor the ideals of the people doing the developing. Me neither. But the language is getting judgemental and the responses reactionary, and I'm not a fan.

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View of Trustworthy Verification of Academic Credentials through Blockchain Technology
Faton Kabashi, Halil Snopçe, Artan Luma, Vehbi Nezir, International Journal of Online and Biomedical Engineering, 2024/06/20


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This paper (14 page PDF) offers an outline of how academic credentials could be secured using blockchain. Eventually something like this will be put into place - the main challenge here isn't the technology but whether institutions will cooperate enough with each other to support such a system. I would also add that most people will never see the workings of such a system - instead, they'll just have 'verified credentials' on their digital wallet or some such thing.

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Decentralized Social Networks and the Future of Free Speech Online
Tao Huang, arXiv.org, 2024/06/20


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This paper (25 page PDF) "critically and systematically assesses the decentralization project's prospect for communications online." In the course of the discussion we get a good overview of types of decentralization long with potential promises and pitfalls. The major challenge for decentralized networks, though, is "the phantom of centralization", manifest through users' and moderators' desires to control what they can't indirectly control. We see these issues emerge in things like shared blocklists and network-wide serach functions. The paper seeks to: "balance the decentralization ideal with constant needs of centralization on the network, and how to empower users to make them truly capable of exercising their control." Good discussion, well structured and clear.

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Painting over problems with AI in the third sector
Doug Belshaw, Open Thinkering, 2024/06/20


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"I'm convinced that, as with other forms of literacy, definitions are a power move, with individuals and organisations seeking to dictate what does or does not constitute 'literate practice'," writes Doug Belshaw. I agree (cf. OSI's Open AI Definition). There are, he writes, many elements of digital literacy (105 page PDF), all of which come into play in AI literacy. See also AI Literacy.fyi

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What 40 Million Messages Tell Us About Parent-Teacher Communication
Nadia Tamez-Robledo, EdSurge, 2024/06/20


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TalkingPoints is a proprietary messaging platform that, it says, "connects and empowers families and teachers by using human and AI-powered, two-way translated communication and personalized content." This story reports on a report from a year ago (there's no explanation for the gap) where they "partnered with Google for a massive, AI-powered analysis of 40 million messages in its app to find how parents and teachers are exchanging information." There are some interesting results - "44 percent of the messages were around logistics" and only 8 percent were about academics. But critics are wondering about the privacy implications. Did the users know their messages were being tracked and analyzed by AI? Why, indeed, would schools use a messaging platform without a full security audit that would answer questions like this and others. Nothing about this in the EdSurge article, of course, which is 100% rah rah.

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Let's reproduce GPT-2 (124M)
Andrej Karpathy, YouTube, 2024/06/19


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I am not likely to ever find the time to work though this exercise - it's a four-hour video demonstrating every step involved to reproduce GPT-2. "We reproduce the GPT-2 (124M) from scratch," writes Andrej Karpathy. "This video covers the whole process: First we build the GPT-2 network, then we optimize its training to be really fast, then we set up the training run following the GPT-2 and GPT-3 paper and their hyperparameters, then we hit run, and come back the next morning to see our results, and enjoy some amusing model generations." What I really appreciate about this that it exists. As one commenter says, "Andrej is doing himself what OpenAi was supposed to do in the early days — make AI open." Expand the description for a full table of contents.

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UstadMobile
Mike Dawsom, 2024/06/19


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This application came up in discussion today. I haven't tried it so am relying on description. It's being used in challenging regions where access is limited (or even illegal). "Educators and administrators can easily add, edit and remove content in courses and the library. Content is automatically compressed up to 80% (videos are automatically compressed 60-70% smaller than a standard MP4 (h264) without reducing quality using AV1). Experience API, H5P, Epub, Video, and PDF content is supported. Content can be downloaded and used offline. "

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1EdTech
1EdTech, 2024/06/19


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I don't know whether I've mentioned 1EdTech in these pages before but they should certainly be noted as existing. It represents itself as a "community of leaders across K-12, higher education, and edtech suppliers is committed to building an open, trusted, and innovative digital learning ecosystem at every level." They work across six workstreams, which support four strategic imperatives. , including trusted credentials, application vetting, integrated analytics, and related topics. Here's their blog (based on Drupal so there's no feed or newsletter or anything).

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Open EdTech
Open EdTech, 2024/06/19


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Open EdTech has revised its mission and redefined its website. Rather than develop open ed tech products, it will now focus on defining open ed tech, supporting a membership around the concept, and certifying openm ed tech products. Two products are (not surprisingly currently certified): Moodle, and Big Blue Button. Certification is based on five major criteria: open source development, sustainable stable core team, listening to educators, support for community developers, and support for open ed tech standards. It also has merch. I admit I'm disappointed it has stepped back from the idea of developing something like a personal learning environment. I know it's a hard thing to do. I'd be disappointed if Apple or Microsoft were the only ones willing to do it.

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Widely used calcium imaging protocol can lead to spurious results, new paper cautions
Angie Voyles Askham, The Transmitter, 2024/06/19


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This article is a good sample of the work that goes on studying the brain at the biological level. It's a cautionary note, reporting that the use of calcium imaging can produce misleading results. "Some researchers even have a name for the artifacts... We and others have been talking for 15 years about cells getting 'GCaMPed out.'" The article is important because negative findings like this tend to get less press, and when they're not widely distributed, lead to people rediscovering the same problem over and over. It's also a caution against immediately leaping from evidence of physical activity to evidence of neural activity. A lot of stuff happens in the brain.

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Component-Based Research in Education: Emerging Ideas, Possibilities, and Next Steps
Jeanne Century, Christopher Dede, Joseph Taylor, University of Chicago, EdArXiv, 2024/06/18


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This is a really interesting report (40 page PDF) from a working meeting on component-based research (CBR) in education. "CBR unpacks innovation elements into precisely described parts... educational innovations are composed of 'components' that can be studied alone or in groups." The work is broken down into four groups: nomenclature, databases, research methodologies, and data applications. The contributors manage to avoid many of the pitfalls of similar projects: for example, they're not bound to a specific definition of outcomes and accept that there may be different research methodologies (which, true to form, they suggest should also be represented as components). But you can feel the tension between the desire for consensus or something generalizable and the complex nature of the educational domain.

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Adobe’s hidden cancellation fee is unlawful, FTC suit says
Ashley Belanger, Ars Technica, 2024/06/18


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Adobe is one of those companies that has user-hostile business practices but for which there isn't really any alternative if you're a creative professional (and please don't lecture me about Gimp, which from the name on down exhibits a different sort of user hostility). I use Lightroom Classic to edit photos, and that's it.Adobe was always expensive, but now with subscription bundles (that never end) they've devised new means of extracting money from unwilling buyers. They've also streamed people toward their cloud offerings in an attempt to trap them there as well (and to collect their data, natch). I don't know of a good way out of this.

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Paper: Systemic Design Principles in Social Innovation
Fred Hebert, My notes and other stuff, 2024/06/18


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This article passed my way as a result of following Doug Belshaw's progvress in his systems theory course. It works on a number of different levels, and reaches, I think, exactly the right conclusion (which really does not require you to embrace systems theory at all): "As each complex problem situation is different, there is not one way of doing things and we must rely on adaptive practice, where practices are adapted to the problem context at hand. Such adaptations require every actor concerned to engage in a continual and mutual learning process."

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AI chatbots are intruding into online communities where people are trying to connect with other humans
Casey Fiesler, The Conversation, 2024/06/18


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So what is the role of chatbots in online communities. Some people would be quick to say 'none' and it's hard to disagree. Chatbots talking about their child that does not exist or offering to sell things that don't exist are definitely not welcome. They don't belong where "you want an answer from someone with real, lived experience or you want the human response that your question might elicit – sympathy, outrage, commiseration – or both." What we don't want, according to this article, is for chatbots to pretend they're human or have human experiences. They should, in other words, stay in their lanes.

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AI, Problem-Solving, and Visual Thinking | Brainstorm in Progress
Geoff Cain, Brainstorm in Progress, 2024/06/18


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I think this is a good way to think of it: "Picasso once commented on computers: 'But they are useless. They can only give you answers.' (But) when you are working with AI, getting the 'answers' is really the wrong way to use it, although in some limited ways, it can do that since it is also trained on Wikipedia. What it can really do well is to understand and express information through processes." This relates to Kye Gomez' Tree of Thought, "an approach to problem-solving that aims to map out the different paths and potential solutions to a problem." There's a lot of overlap with what AI does well: pattern recognition, iterative learning, non-linear thinking, and knowledge flow.

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Speculative futures for higher education
Sian Bayne, Jen Ross, International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 2024/06/17


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I'm not generally a fan of scenario-building as a method of futurism (my feeling is, if you're going to predict, do that, instead of watering it down with a list of possibilities). This paper though offers interesting reading not only through discussion of the possibilities but also in some (overly contrived) 'micro-fictions'. In the end, the authors write, "Speculative methods offer a space in which it is possible to discuss hope, but such hope needs to be active, strenuous and able to maintain itself in the face of the radical unknowability of our futures... In the context of such cultural devastation and historical rupture, the issue of hope becomes, for Lear, 'critical for an ethical inquiry into life at the horizons of one's understanding'. This maintenance of hope in the context of an unknowable future is what Lear calls 'radical hope', a 'daunting form of commitment: to a goodness in the world that transcends one's current ability to grasp what it is'."

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Neurodiversity and UX: Essential Resources for Cognitive Accessibility
Stéphanie Walter, 2024/06/17


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This is some discussion and a set of "resources to design for neurodiversity and cognitive disabilities (dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and autism) from WCAG guidelines to real-world expertise and practical tips." It's good stuff. But I can't help myself - can we draw a line between neurodiversity and learning styles? If you say learning styles don't exist, are you also saying neurodiversity doesn 't exist? But - manifestly, neurodiversity does exist. So what's the advice from learning styles sceptics - just ignore it then? So many writers take is as done and proven that 'there are no learning styles', but I honestly don't know what that means in practice (except maybe don't use Myers-Briggs tests any more).

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The Worst Website In The Entire World
Mathew Duggan, 2024/06/17


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There's more than a little foul language in this post, but from what I can see it's certainly deserved. After a few preliminaries (and for the record, I would wear that t-shirt), Mat Duggan gets down to the business of downloading VMware from Broadcom. Good thing he had a lot of time. "Honestly Broadcom, I don't even know why you bothered buying VMware. It's impossible for anyone to ever get this product from you. Instead of migrating from the VMware store to this disaster, maybe just shut this down entirely. Destroy the backups of this dumpster fire and start fresh. Maybe just consider a Shopify site." The very existence of this post should be an object lesson for anyone designing online services.

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How Learning Designers Are Using AI for Analysis
Philippa Hardman, 2024/06/17


This post overviews how AI supports learning design as defined by three major task areas:

  1. Understanding the why: what is the problem this learning experience solves? What's the change we want to see as a result?
  2. Defining the who: who do we need to target in order to solve the problem and achieve the intended goal?
  3. Clarifying the what: given who our learners are and the goal we want to achieve, what concepts and skills do we need to teach?

Each item is discussed in some detail and relevant tools and tasks are identified. Not a bad ppost.

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AI Plagiarism Considerations Part 1: AI Plagiarism Dectectors
Lance Eaton, AI + Education = Simplified, 2024/06/17


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Lance Eaton starts a three-part series on plagiarism detectors by setting up the background: "to say we have proof isn't accurate.  We have probability and unfortunately, we have probability that is impossible for the student to disprove since we don't get to actually look under the hood of the AI detector." So while "none of this means we shouldn't pursue what might be an anomaly in a student's work" it means "we have to do it by being in conversation with the student. Ideally, the conversation should be more discovery and observation of facts." Good post; I look forward to the rest of the series. Via Bryan Alexander.

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Sharing Openly About ShareOpenly
CogDogBlog, 2024/06/17


Alan Levine blogs about and describes Ben Werdmuller's tool called ShareOpenly. I wrote about it here. Basically, the idea was to create an easy 'share' button to share your link on Mastodon and other Fediverse sites. I have also been using ShareOpenly on my OLDaily newsletter - just look for the 'Share' link at the bottom of each post.

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Alignment Assembly on AI and the Commons — Outcomes and Learnings
Open Future, 2024/06/14


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I'm pretty sure I took part in this, at least at the earlier stages. There's a lot here, so I'll focus on the consensus: "This Alignment Assembly revealed three key areas of consensus. First, the prioritization of values beyond openness in considering the open movement's policies towards AI (related to principle no. 3). Second, the need for public investment in AI (related to principle no. 7). And third, the call for the open movement to make education about AI and its impact, and public-facing communication on AI a priority." What interested me even more than the outcome was the decision-making process.

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Why Getty Images and Picsart are partnering to train a new AI image model
Marty Swant, Digiday, 2024/06/14


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The argument that AI is violating copyright is being used mostly to eliminate it as competition; the question of whether it actually copies content (it doesn't) is moot. This is clear in this article, which describes an agreement whereby Picsart trains an AI model using Getty licensed images, creating a new image platform for both companies. The play is that this is legally safe - a clause risk-averse lawyers will embrace with enthusiasm. "the deal aims to provide "commercially safe AI-generated imagery" for creators, marketers and small businesses (and) it will offer customers commercial rights and indemnity for the images they create." It feels more like a protection racket than a service, even as it makes the hollow promise to develop "new ways to compensate the creators of the images used to train the AI model." See also this deal between Business Insider and OpenAI. The common foe shared by all, of course, is genuinely open access AI, which they would like to prevent as soon as possible.

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Firefox tips and tricks for creatives
Steve Flavin, 2024/06/14


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While most people in the world use Chrome, people who understand the web, I think, use Firefox (and of course I count myself among those). It's more secure, properly blocks advertising (with extensions like UBlock Origin) and won't let Google or Microsoft track you - important if you're working in what you would like to be a secure environment (it's funny how many people complain about surveillance culture but won't even take the basic step of using a more private browser). This post points to a few nifty features - including some new one for me: editing PDF files, screen capture

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Tim Crane on AI and Agency
Tim Crane, Majid D. Beni, The Brains Blog, 2024/06/14


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Agency is key to understanding learning. Agency here is thought of as "deliberation, choosing between options, and bringing reasons to bear on what we do." This video interview (no transcript, sorry) asks the core question, can AI exhibit genuine agency? Humans, thought of as machines, certainly can, but what about 'artificial' machines? We can't rule it out without evidence or a good argument. But can a computing machine exhibit agency? Here, the need for evidence is on the other side: there's no good reason to assume such a machine would achieve agency. "Understanding is not producing a string of symbols," which is what we have today. There are questions of, for example, consciousness. And nobody has been able to say with any clarity what the endpoint of an artificial intelligency with agency would look like. It has to act in order to pursue some goal. But what would a system-generated goal look like?

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Team support
David Truss, Daily-Ink by David Truss, 2024/06/14


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Very short post with the following message: "If you want to know how good a team is, watch them when things are tough. See how they support one another." But I'm here for the image, which though it's probably AI-generated, really works for me.

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