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Posts Tagged ‘extinction

How might artificial intelligence (AI) prevent us from destroying ourselves? The seventh episode of this YouTube Original series provided some insights on how AI could help prevent animal extinction, famine, and war.


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Take the battle against ivory poachers. Trap cameras take photos of anything that moves. They capture images of elephants, a host of other animals, and possibly the occasional poacher. But manually processing the photos for poachers is so time-consuming that it might be too late to save the elephants.

However, an AI-enabled camera, one with a vision processing unit, detects people and sends only those photos immediately to the park rangers. This gives the rangers more time to intercept the poachers.

In the second segment of the video, the focus shifted to the meat that we eat. Like it or not, animal husbandry contributes to climate change by taking away natural resources and emitting greenhouse gases. If we are to shift to not-meat but not rely on Impossible Burgers, what alternatives are there?

One is an AI called Giuseppe that does not reconstitute meat and creates the perception of meat instead. It analyses how molecules in all foods create taste and texture, and recommends blends of analogues from plants.

NotCo, the company that uses Giuseppe, has already created NotMayo, NotMilk, and NotMeat. The video featured the development of NotTuna.

The third part of the video focused on predicting earthquakes. Like the poacher detection tool, sensors collect more noisy data than useful data. AI can be trained to recognise cultural sounds like transportation and construction, and distinguish those from a possible earthquake.

The final segment asked a broad question: Might AI be able to prevent disasters, unrest, or wars that stem from our misuse of natural resources?

To answer this question, a small company in the USA collects satellite images and relies on AI to identify and differentiate objects like solar panels and riverbeds. With AI as a tool, the company makes predictions like the output of cultivated crops in a year.

The predictions extend to man-made infrastructure and natural water sources. The example featured in the video was how measurements of snowfall could be used to predict water supply, which in turn correlates to crop yields.

If the snowfall was low, farmers could be advised to plant drought-resistant crops instead. If unrest or war stem from food or water shortage, such predictions might inform deployments of food aid before trouble erupts.

The overall message of this video countered the popular and disaster movie narratives of human-made AI running amok and killing us. Instead, it focused on how AI actually helps us become better humans.

I watched the video of Michael Berman sharing his thoughts on the evolution, revolution, and extinction of LMS. He shared his video at his blog.

The video is 25 minutes long and done in the style of a talking head, so it took some ploughing through to watch it in one sitting.

Berman made a few salient points about LMS before getting to the main topic:

  • LMS might only offer new ways to do the things we have already done before
  • The people who decide which LMS to adopt tend to favour the least disruptive solution
  • Those who create LMS grew up at a different time and have different expectations compared to the learner-users of LMS
  • Complaints about LMS: complex and clunky (unnecessarily complicated ways to do simple things), good for content repository but not for interactive pedagogy, closed environment (info does not flow in or out of the course)

You need to need to get to 13-minute mark of the video before getting to the heart of the topic.

LMS are likely to evolve to be more user-friendly and more mobile-friendly. At least, that is the promise that providers like Blackboard make time and time again. Slower moving LMS providers could also play catch up by relying on cloud architecture for more responsive updates and including “big data” analytics.

However, for a revolution to take place in LMS, there must be a truly learner-centric focus and design. For this to happen, the central element is not the course but the learner who can seek out learning resources. The revolutionary LMS functions to help make those connections. It becomes less hierarchical (instructor to student) and flatter instead.

This led Berman to suggest the possible extinction of LMS. Such a connective tool already exists; it is called the Internet! So why do we need LMS? Instead, he posited that we could rely on the “power of pull”. I see this as just-in-time, just-for-me creation of ad hoc groups and resources for learning.

Berman cited an exciting example from University of Mary Washington’s Domain of One’s Own where all users get their own space and connect with each other if they wish to. It was the closest thing he observed to a revolutionary LMS.

I have never been a proponent of LMS because they place too many limits (logical, pedagogical, infrastructural, financial, etc.) on an institution. They are slow ocean liners trying to navigate multiple shallow tributaries when what most people need are nimble boats.

Here is data to back my claim.

Phil Hill created this graphic on the state of LMS in “the Anglosphere – the US, UK, Canada and Australia”.

The players that are growing include Canvas, Moodle, and Desire2Learn. These are open source and/or have adopted more social and mobile strategies.

Blackboard is still a dominant player. But even without expanding the graphic above (dark grey), it is evident that its market share is shrinking.

Berman and Hill present just two perspectives on the state of LMS. They do so with research and data-informed conclusions. These are processes that any of us would use before we invest in something like a house or car, so why not an LMS?

So if you are from an institution that already has an LMS, give some serious thought about the likely evolution of the LMS and see if you can live improved usability but the same lock-in and pedagogical stagnation over the long term.

If you are from an institution that has yet to adopt an LMS, I advise you not get one. Contact me and we can have a chat on how you can skip several legacy problems and deal with the problems worth having. These are the problems of learner-centric design and being part of a new solution instead of contributing to an old problem.


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