Society & Culture

As artificial intelligence reshapes society, experts discuss how to make it transparent and accountable to the people it’s meant to serve.

10
January
2019

If you had to program a self-driving car, which option would you choose if only two were available: hit a pedestrian who suddenly appears in front of the vehicle or veer off into a baby carriage on the sidewalk?

It’s the kind of ethical conundrum that could shape artificial intelligence in years to come, and one of many the University of Alberta’s Geoffrey Rockwell has been pondering lately.

Earlier this month, the professor of philosophy and digital humanities joined a national brainstorming forum on the ethics of AI in Montreal, along with industry leaders, federal government officials and other academics, including philosophers.

They gathered to grapple with an industry currently worth US$7.4 billion, according to figures circulated at the forum, and expected to reach almost US$16 trillion by 2065—amounting to a seismic shi...

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17
January
2019

Culturally appropriate services for First Nations critical during wildfire evacuations, study shows

New U of A research first to look at why Indigenous people want to leave or stay in their community after mandatory evacuation notice.

Members of Indigenous communities faced with abandoning their homes during mandatory wildfire evacuations should have the option to remain in their traditional territory or other nearby Indigenous
09
January
2019

Study suggests tweaks to private sponsorship program for Syrian refugees

Employment support, language learning and culturally appropriate services should be built into private sponsorships to reduce disparity, researcher recommends.

Private sponsorship programs for Syrian refugees should require settlement services, such as support finding employment and access to language classes, rather than leaving resources entirely up to
03
January
2019

Digitization project aims to preserve Indigenous voices

Thousands of Indigenous multimedia recordings spanning nearly 60 years will live on through partnership involving U of A’s Sound Studies Institute.

Bert Crowfoot remembers the chill he felt the day he made a presentation to a communications class at Grant MacEwan University. He was playing a 15 year-old video featuring interviews with a
02
January
2019

Ukraine’s human rights are in precarious state, U of A law prof finds

Eroding judicial system one of several factors to blame for situation.

Human rights protection in Ukraine is currently in a precarious state despite a strong legal framework created after the country’s independence in 1991 and relatively robust practices enacted earlier
24
December
2018

The top 10 stories of 2018

A critical look at NAFTA, the fate of Scientology and an alarming sign of climate change topped this year’s most-read headlines.

1. COMMENTARY || Should Canada give up on NAFTA? Yes. Political economist Gordon Laxer argued that NAFTA amounted to little more than a “corporate rights agreement” that was preventing Canada from
21
December
2018

Graphic novels come of age with Man Booker Prize nod

Prestigious award nomination might signal a turning point for an underappreciated art form, says U of A professor who recommends 10 favourites with literary merit.

For the first time in its history, one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the world chose a graphic novel as one of its finalists. It was a literary breakthrough. The 2018 Man Booker
20
December
2018

The top 10 research stories of 2018

U of A researchers made promising inroads against cancer and MS, unearthed new insights into climate change and shed light on mysteries from ancient history to the far reaches of the universe.

1. Once thriving Church of Scientology faces extinction, says cult tracker High-profile celebrity defections, exposed secrets and rigid adherence to outmoded social attitudes could spell the end
19
December
2018

The top 10 ‘news you can use’ stories of 2018

From fitness and food to travel and health, U of A experts weighed in with a year’s worth of solid advice.

1. Everything you need to know about weight training For anyone daunted by the prospect of weightlifting, health-trend skeptic Timothy Caulfield and kinesiologist and strength coach Loren Chiu
19
December
2018

Why AI robot toys could be good for kids

A new generation of AI-powered robots could help children learn digital-age skills—and may even encourage empathy, says U of A machine learning expert.

A new generation of robot toys with personalities powered by artificial intelligence could give kids more than just a holiday plaything, according to a University of Alberta researcher. Unlike
18
December
2018

The double life of pine cones: from forest floor to Christmas decor

The humble seed-bearers are as important to religious traditions as they are to forests, say U of A experts.

For most of the year, pine cones are a nuisance to be raked off the lawn, but come Christmastime, they’re elevated in status, painted with gold and glitter and hung everywhere. Whether labelled as
18
December
2018

Christmas traditions have always drawn from many cultures, says religious studies expert

The celebration of Jesus’ birth was added on in the ninth century to existing new year rites.

Christians observe Christmas to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, but the origins of the seasonal ritual existed long before he is believed to have walked the Earth, according to those who study the history