Spark

 
 

Spark

Spark brings you the latest in technology and culture. With an eye on the future, host Nora Young guides you through this dynamic era of technology-led change, and connects your life to the big ideas changing our world right now.

Updated: Fridays
Download episodes from this podcast for: 6 months
Visit Show Site: http://www.cbc.ca/spark

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461: D-I-V-O-R-C-E

The Netflix movie "Marriage Story" has received lots of recognition, including six Oscar nominations. Critics and viewers are entranced by its realistic look at a couple who want to split up amicably, but are swayed by those around them, including lawyers. They end up in a vicious legal battle that might never have happened if they had been presented with an alternative. Separation and divorce are common in Canada. But whether you're married or common law, have kids or cats (or both!) splitting up is never an easy thing. Now, though, new online services and tech tools aim to make the process easier. They range from online mediation, to apps that help with co-parenting. The overarching goal is to keep the process of splitting up and co-parenting *out* of the court system. To simplify and demystify the whole process. And that's what we're exploring on this Spark podcast. Guests this week: Rebecca Jaremko Bromwich is a lawyer and the National Diversity and Inclusion manager at Gowling WLG in Ottawa, and is affiliated with Carleton University. She recently concluded a study examining how technology generally and apps such as OurFamilyWizard are changing the way separated and divorced parents co-parent. Chris Bentley, the former Attorney General of Ontario, is the managing director of the Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University, which helps improve access to the legal system and provides free online resources to separating and divorcing couples. Jenny Friedland is a lawyer and mediator in Toronto, who helps couples "exhaust the hate" and try to separate without resorting to litigation.

Download 461: D-I-V-O-R-C-E
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460: The Future

If we've learned anything in the tech world over the last decade, it's the folly of not taking the long view. So the start of a new decade seems like a good time to talk "big picture" with Lord Martin Rees, one of the world's most prominent scientists. His most recent book is called "On the Future: Prospects for Humanity." In a full-episode interview, Sir Martin and Nora don't just look decades ahead, but also millions of years into human future.

Download 460: The Future
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459: Canada, Communications and a new decade

With phone scams on the rise and 5G around the corner, how well are we prepared for the 2020s? A feature interview with CRTC Chair Ian Scott.

Download 459: Canada, Communications and a new decade
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458: Weird and Wonderful AI

How making AI do goofy things exposes its limitations: In her book, "You Look Like a Thing and I Love You," Janelle Shane eposes the pitfalls of AI dependence. Also, Musician-turned-AI-researcher David Usher talks about ReImagine AI, he effort to make a better machine-human interface.

Download 458: Weird and Wonderful AI
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Special: Rest and Recharge

We revisit conversations with people who've dedicated their research to helping us rest, recharge and return to nature.

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457: Technology and Oppression

New technology often gets talked about as a neutral object. But technology has politics. It's designed and used by humans. And humans have priorities and beliefs and blinders. This week on Spark we're look at how technology can be used to both liberate and empower. We're going to start with the civil rights movement in the United States. Charlton McIlwain is the author of Black Software: The Internet and racial justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter. He explains to Nora how the development of computing technology was used to suppress African Americans during the civil rights movement, and beyond. But he also describes how, as a community, Black people were able to harness technology and bring issues of systemic racial injustice to national and international attention following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In the second half of the show, we look at tech innovation beyond the boundaries of Silicon Valley and the broader Global North. Ramesh Srinivasan, the author of Beyond the Valley: How Innovators around the World are Overcoming Inequality and Creating the Technologies of Tomorrow, talks to Nora about several projects in Africa and South Asia where innovators, often working with discarded materials, are creating inspiring technology—in defiance of the large corporations in the U.S. and China.

Download 457: Technology and Oppression
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456: Walden, revisited

Henry David Thoreau's book, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, is a seminal work of literature—and one of the greatest arguments ever made in favour of simple living. This week on Spark we're revisiting Walden, and looking at its elegant relevance for today's world, as more and more people seek respite from their technology-addled, fast-paced lives.

Download 456: Walden, revisited
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455: On Failure

Failure is having a moment in the tech industry. What can that teach us about our limitations and how we measure success?

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Special: Unintended Consequences

A roundup of Spark stories from the past that explore the unintended consequences of new technology.

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454: Shaking up the Status Quo

The internet offers a huge amount of information, usually for free. So how has that affected the institutions we have traditionally learned from: our schools, colleges, and universities? How does it affect health care?

Download 454: Shaking up the Status Quo
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453: Disability design

People with disabilities want to be participants in design, not recipients of design.

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452: The case against predictability

Everything we do is analyzed, measured, and quantified to create a model of us online, which then tries to influence our behavour. But how accurate is our quantified self?

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451: The Impersistence of Memory

From following GPS directions to not having to memorize anyone's phone number, it's been ages since we've had to remember things! But is that bad for our brains? This week, a look at how the internet has changed the way we know and remember.

Download 451: The Impersistence of Memory
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Special: Smart Homes

A roundup of Spark stories from the past year that explore the past, present and future of smart home technology.

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450: Synthetic Food

As we seek to feed a growing global population, new food technologies are opening up a world of synthetic food production: from synthesizing products at the molecular level, to stem cells grown to create flesh, to farming⁠—and eating⁠—insects. But how many innovations will move from pricey experiments in the lab to your plate?

Download 450: Synthetic Food
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449:The evolution of disinformation

It's election season in Canada, and this week on Spark we're taking a look at the how tools used to mislead people have developed through history.

Download 449:The evolution of disinformation
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448: Designing for Dementia

More than half a million Canadians live with dementia—and that number is rising. From urban planning to smart home technology, we look at some of the innovations that can support people living with dementia, as well as their caregivers.

Download 448: Designing for Dementia
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447: Rethinking Craft

If digital tools mean everyone's a dj or filmmaker, do those tools devalue or replace skill and craft? What does craft actually look like in an age of digital reproduction? And combining a love of craft with activism, for a new era of "craftivism."

Download 447: Rethinking Craft
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446: From Sea to Sky

A look inside the black boxes of two of the hidden systems we rely on every day. Inside the complex world of weather forecasting, and a deep, deep dive to the bottom of the ocean to explore the dizzying array of undersea cables that make up the backbone of the internet.

Download 446: From Sea to Sky
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Spark 445: How We Talk

Season 13 of Spark begins with a look at how communication has changed thanks to our use of digital and mobile tools. From emojis and abbreviations to how we talk to our virtual assistants, how do we talk to each other today?

Download Spark 445: How We Talk
[mp3 file: runs 00:54:10]


The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Ten: AI and Us

Our virtual assistants aren't ready to give advice Do you talk to your smart speaker? Heather Suzanne Woods is an assistant professor of rhetoric and technology at Kansas State University. She's studied how humans use language to make sense of technological change and why people seem to have a relationship with their devices. 'Digisexuals' and the rise of human-android romance A look at how more and more people are identifying as "digisexuals," a new term describing those whose primary sexual identity comes through the use of technology. Ian McEwan on his new book, Machines Like Me In his latest novel, Machines Like Me, Ian McEwan tackles AI, a love triangle, and our all-too-human messy morals. Set in an alternative UK in the 1980s, where real life computer pioneer Alan Turing is still alive, and has led a technical revolution bringing hyper-realistic robots to daily life, the novel raises questions of what it means to be human.

Download The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Ten: AI and Us
[mp3 file: runs 00:54:09]


The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Nine: New Perspectives

How to make your own computer: embroider it, of course! Irene Posch is an artist who uses textiles to explore electronics. She and Ebru Kurbak recently designed an embroidery 8 bit computer, using historic patterns of gold embroidery and beads. Taking birding to the streets Google's Street View has yielded a trove of information, from illicit activities to acts of great kindness. And it turns out the service is really good for an activity usually done offline: birding. Nick Lund, a writer for the National Audubon Society and creator of the website, The Birdist, explains his latest avian adventure: Google Street View Birding. Girls Scouts introduce 'cybersecurity' badge Step aside Baton-twirling Badge! Some branches of The Girl Scouts in the U.S. now have a new cybersecurity patch. Spark host Nora Young speaks with Girl Scouts Nation's Capital troop leader Hillary Tabor and her 11-year-old daughter Maya. She also speaks with Krysta Coyle, the Girl Guides of Canada's Guiding Ambassador, to hear what the organization is doing to engage Canadian girls in STEM. 'Gaming' the system to discuss climate change Fortnite, is the most popular streaming game in history. More people watch gamers play Fortnite on the Twitch streaming service than watch NFL football. That gave oceanographer Henri Drake an idea. He created "ClimateFortnite," in which he and other climate scientists play the game and also answer questions about climate change using the in-game chat. Could this trojan-horse style of education in a gaming environment be an effective way to teach and reach people? MIT qualitative sociologist T.L. Taylor, who has focused on internet and game studies for over two decades, explains the interrelations between culture and technology in online leisure environments.

Download The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Nine: New Perspectives
[mp3 file: runs 00:54:08]


The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Eight: Smart Cities

Confused by 'smart city' hype? This expert explains what it is and why we should care As cities around the world begin integrating technology more deeply into urban infrastructure, it's still not clear what people mean when they talk about "smart cities." Urban sustainability professor Andrew Karvonen talks about how to define smart cities, as well as some concerns critics have about the so-called cities of the future. Most Canadians skeptical about smart cities when it comes to their privacy Earlier this year, a survey found that 88 per cent of Canadians are concerned on some level about their privacy when it comes to smart cities. Researcher Sarah Bannerman says that governments need to step up when it comes to protecting people's data. No single company should have a monopoly on building smart cities, tech entrepreneur says If a smart city's infrastructure is built by a single corporation, it may end up being like like a technological walled garden, which could harm collaboration and innovation, says Kurtis McBride. To protect privacy, there need to be limits on smart cities' surveillance A panel at a security and privacy conference in Victoria, B.C., earlier this year, discusses how a smart city can be efficient, safe and open. Speakers include former Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian, David Izzard, the Architecture & Cyber Security Manager for the City of Surrey, BC, and Andrew Clement, a member of the Waterfront Toronto Digital Strategy Advisory Board. What living in a hyper-connected city means for human beings Canada Research Chair in the Internet of Things and OCAD University professor Alexis Morris says people need to be at the centre of smart cities with contextually aware public spaces.

Download The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Eight: Smart Cities
[mp3 file: runs 00:54:09]


The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Seven: Mixed Emotions

A new opinion in the social media echo chamber could close it even tighter Disrupting our social media echo chambers with an opposing view may seem like the best way to reduce political polarization. But sociologist Christopher Bail from Duke University found it can actually entrench people's views and opinions even more. Be it resolved that your next debating opponent may be ... beyond human! Can AI be taught to mount a convincing argument ... with no time to prepare? IBM's Project Debate AI is focused on building a conversational artificial intelligence capable of engaging in continuous, stimulated debate. This week, it lost in a debate with Harish Natarajan, a World Universities Debating Championships Grand Finalist. Harish tells Spark host Nora Young what it was like to debate and defeat an artificial intelligence. It's okay to cry on Instagram On Instagram, it can often seem like people are displaying an art directed, perfectly lit, ideal version of their lives. But now some see it as a place to reveal their full selves -- tears, warts and all. Aimee Morrison, an associate professor of English and Literature at the University of Waterloo, talks about what she thinks is behind this trend. Reclaiming boredom in digital culture Boredom is, well, boring. But it plays an important role for us. Boredom can open us up to the question of meaning and other deeply philosophical perspectives. But today, we look for a way out of boredom by endlessly scrolling and swiping. In his new book, philosopher Mark Kingwell argues that we're in a political economy of 'neoliberal boredom' fueled by our digital devices.A new opinion in the social media echo chamber could close it even tighter Disrupting our social media echo chambers with an opposing view may seem like the best way to reduce political polarization. But sociologist Christopher Bail from Duke University found it can actually entrench people's views and opinions even more. Be it resolved that your next debating opponent may be ... beyond human! Can AI be taught to mount a convincing argument ... with no time to prepare? IBM's Project Debate AI is focused on building a conversational artificial intelligence capable of engaging in continuous, stimulated debate. This week, it lost in a debate with Harish Natarajan, a World Universities Debating Championships Grand Finalist. Harish tells Spark host Nora Young what it was like to debate and defeat an artificial intelligence. It's okay to cry on Instagram On Instagram, it can often seem like people are displaying an art directed, perfectly lit, ideal version of their lives. But now some see it as a place to reveal their full selves -- tears, warts and all. Aimee Morrison, an associate professor of English and Literature at the University of Waterloo, talks about what she thinks is behind this trend. Reclaiming boredom in digital culture Boredom is, well, boring. But it plays an important role for us. Boredom can open us up to the question of meaning and other deeply philosophical perspectives. But today, we look for a way out of boredom by endlessly scrolling and swiping. In his new book, philosopher Mark Kingwell argues that we're in a political economy of 'neoliberal boredom' fueled by our digital devices.

Download The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Seven: Mixed Emotions
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The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Six: Sound and Music

Conserve The Sound preserves the sound Daniel Chun and Jan Derksen run a film design and communication firm, based in Germany. But they're also interested in preserving vanishing and endangered sounds. They created Conserve the Sound, an online museum of vintage sounds. From rotary dial phones to a Polaroid cameras, the site documents sounds from the past before they completely disappear from our daily life. How an AI can help you play piano like Glenn Gould Piano Genie works using a neural network to create a predictive algorithm. Instead of predicting what word you're likely to type next, it predicts what note typically follows the notes that you have played already. It does this based on a database of classical music it has been trained on. How to find humpback whale songs using AI Oceanographic researchers collected hundreds-of-thousands of hours of underwater recordings to study humpback whales in the South Pacific. But sifting through it to isolate whale calls would take about 19 years. That's why Google comes teamed up with the N.O.A.A. to help out. Research Oceanographer Ann Allen, describes how machine learning is now helping researchers sift through this sea of audio data to help them track whale populations. Cheese that's been exposed to music tastes different One cheese wheel listened to "The Magic Flute". One to "Stairway to Heaven" and another got A Tribe Called Quest's "Jazz (We've Got)." Yet another cheese just hung out in silence. Swiss cheesemaker Beat Wampfler tells Spark host Nora Young why he played a 24-hour loop of music to wheels of cheese and whether it had an impact on the flavour. Is there a playlist in your DNA? Music streaming giants are removing the curator and replacing it with data — and not just any data — your DNA. Spotify and Ancestry are teaming up to provide consumers with playlists curated by a users DNA and ethnic lineage. Deezer researchers used AI to curate playlists based on mood. But critics, like Toronto-based music journalists Eric Zaworski and Sajae Elder, think it might be kind of creepy and an invasion of privacy.

Download The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Six: Sound and Music
[mp3 file: runs 00:54:39]


The Spark Guide to Life, Episode Five: Ethics

Why it's wrong to take pictures of strangers You see it all the time on social media. Someone sees another person doing something stupid or looking ridiculous. They take a discreet photo and post the stranger's image to their feed, usually to the amusement and occasional mockery of their followers. With the ubiquity of smartphone cameras, you can do this, but should you? Lauren Cagle argues "surveilling strangers" amounts to policing people's behaviour and limiting our own ability to explore our identity. Restaurants need to meet set standards, why not tech platforms? Following Facebook's most recent data breach, many have suggested that tech giants like social media platforms should be regulated as 'information fiduciaries' and act in the best interests of their users. Jonathan Zittrain, Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, discusses what that would look like for platforms like Facebook. Why Computer Science Students Need Mandatory Ethics Shannon Vallor teaches ethics and emerging technology at Santa Clara University. Her classes typically have lots of computer science and engineering students in them, and it may be the only real ethical training they get. These days, they are clamouring for more ethics education. Why Canadian universities need to teach computer science ethics By and large, computer science programs in Canada don't require students to take ethics courses. As we hurtle into an era of artificial intelligence, Catherine Stinson argues we need to make ethics mandatory in university. Neural networks that power AI systems largely came from Canada Canada has become a centre for AI research thanks work being done here on neural networks, which use some of the ideas from neuroscience to help computers learn. One of the researchers behind these systems is Universite de Montreal professor, Yoshua Bengio. In a sit down with Spark host Nora Young, Bengio explains how the research developed, where it is going, and some of the dangers AI could pose.

Download The Spark Guide to Life, Episode Five: Ethics
[mp3 file: runs 00:54:39]