2024 Week 12


⚙️ Work

In the D2L Steering Committee, we planned a transition of authentication systems from the deprecated CAS to the new standard Entra ID for this summer. It should work better and more reliably, but we’ll lose the ability to allow prospective students (who login using eIDs, which are not supported in Entra ID) into D2L courses.

I decided to stop tracking license renewals for campus platforms. I’m not responsible for them, don’t own the contracts, don’t have signing authority, and haven’t been successful in helping to nudge people to get renewals done before it becomes a last-minute panic. So, I’m letting go of the stress of trying to push string. It feels like a big weight off already. This is one of the things that has been distracting me from my main focus, and energy spent on this is energy not spent where it needs to be.

Lots of work on the learning spaces strategy front - both within the TI (starting to replace foundational tech infrastructure, and adding AV capabilities to the Atrium), and across the university (renovations to a half dozen classrooms scheduled for this summer, planning for significantly more next year.)

Starting to plan the 2023-2024 TI Learning Spaces Report™, which will have sections on Accessibility (including, hopefully, an accessibility audit of the classrooms in the TI), and our work to support our Indigenous Strategy (including an upcoming renovation project). The intent is that we’ll be able to use this report on TI classrooms to help improve classroom design standards for the university as a whole.

📚 Reading

  • Steven Gonzalez Monserrate @ MIT Press Reader: The Staggering Ecological Impacts of Computation and the Cloud. “The Cloud now has a greater carbon footprint than the airline industry. A single data center can consume the equivalent electricity of 50,000 homes.” At a time when we need to shift to renewable energy, The Cloud (and crypto and large language models and and and…) consume obscene amounts of energy, increasing demand and making the transition more difficult. We need to be reducing our energy consumption, but keep inventing clever new ways to use every last Watt available…

  • OpenQDA - an open source alternative to NVivo etc. Sounds interesting, but there is very little info available, and the website takes you to an account creation / login form without providing any info about who is providing the service, what will happen do your data, etc. Nope. I’ll keep an eye on this, but I would not upload any research data to it, because doing so would invalidate any ethics approval…

  • Taylor Swaak @ The Chronicle: AI Will Shake Up Higher Ed. Are Colleges Ready?. (including some quotes from Bryan Alexander)

  • Gary Smith & Jeffrey Funk @ The Chronicle: When It Comes to Critical Thinking, AI Flunks the Test. LLMs look like they’re understanding and analyzing and summarizing, but literally aren’t and can’t. But they’re so convincing that we all just nod and move ahead as if it’s a thing that’s happening.

    Real intelligence requires critical thinking and causal reasoning. LLMs cannot acquire these skills by finding statistical patterns in words they don’t understand.

    Of course, at some point, LLMs may be improved such that they “understand” words rather than just running statistical modelling on them. (And I can hear Stephen saying “how do you know that “understanding” isn’t compatible with “running statistical modelling”?) Regardless, pretending that LLMs currently understand anything means using the technology for things which are not appropriate - and not realizing it, because the output is so damned convincing.

  • Terminal Trove - a collection of “Text User Interfaces” (TUIs) to run in Terminal, where a full GUI would be overkill. There are some good ones in there, like gotop (which is installable via brew). via Brian Bennett on Mastodon.

🍿 Watching

  • ★★☆☆☆ Black Adam (2022). It was new on Netflix. It was not good. Oof.
  • ★★★★☆ 3 Body Problem (Netflix). I found the books tedious and awkwardly written, and am hoping it was because of the translation into English. I wound up hate-reading much of the trilogy - there were lots of interesting ideas, written poorly. The Netflix series has shades of Contact meets Ender’s Game meets Last Starfighter meets Ready Player One meets The Peripheral, with a touch of Cryptonomicon. I binged all 8 episodes, worried that D&D would crap the bed like they did with Game of Thrones. It was a decent adaptation (especially given my hate-reading relationship with the original). My biggest challenge in the story is how unlikely it would be for complex life to form on Trisolaris under such conditions, never mind a civilization capable of interstellar travel. Liu Cixin is a computer engineer, not a biologist. A minor nit to pick, given the scale and scope of the trilogy, but the story would have been stronger - and more plausible - without the whole “there’s 3 stars and it’s so chaotic” thing as a starting point. I’m curious how the rest of the story will be adapted. Assuming they get to all 3 books, there’s still lots of time for D&D to do their thing…

🧺 Other

  • I was mostly off-the-bike this week, with only 2 indoor rides. What should have been an easy zone 2 ride somehow turned into a mostly zone 4 ride? Which means I lost a lot of my cardio over the last couple of weeks. Thanks, stupid back.

🗓️ Focus for next week

  • Annual reviews for my direct reports.
  • Meetings. IKR?
  • Prepping for our presentation at the UCalgary Conference on Post-secondary Learning & Teaching, sharing the whole Architecture 700 work-integrated-learning video games studio course experience.
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