The Pulse: May 18, 2023

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A large crowd sits in rows under blue and purple lights while awaiting a presentation during Amii's first AI week.

Upper Bound conference offers insight into AI

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

Edmonton's second annual artificial intelligence conference will offer non-experts a glimpse behind the tech-world curtain as it brings industry professionals together to explore advances in the field.

Upper Bound, organized by the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), runs from May 23 to 26. It will include presentations on AI's integration into areas such as food production and health, a family-friendly debate featuring Rapid Fire Theatre, and a variety of demonstrations, speeches, panels, and mixers for people of all levels of AI literacy.

"It's a really low-risk way to hear from some experts and to hear more dialogue directly from the community building this technology," Stephanie Enders, Amii's vice-president of product, told Taproot. "There really is a welcoming community here, and we hope to see everybody at Upper Bound."

The conference comes at a time when public awareness of machine learning and artificial intelligence is much higher than it was when Amii ran its first AI Week in May 2022. A large language model called ChatGPT went viral after it became available for public use at the end of November 2022, and the world is both curious and concerned about its potential impact.

Upper Bound won't be shying away from these kinds of concerns, Enders said. "We need to have really open dialogues around the concerns and some of the true mitigation of risk that we need to do as we're developing these technologies," she said.

The community events at the conference are meant to help people understand how the world is changing. It's an opportunity, for example, for students to explore "the areas of study that they might be interested in in high school and university to set themselves up for a career in AI," while equipping parents to "have knowledgeable conversations at the dinner table about things like ChatGPT when it comes to their homework," Enders said.

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Headlines: May 18, 2023

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • The city activated its extreme weather response on May 17 due to poor air quality caused by smoke from wildfires burning across the province. It will be in effect until May 19, but the activation timeline is subject to daily changes because of rapidly changing conditions. Air quality in Edmonton worsened on the morning of May 17 and was considered "very high risk" by Canada's Air Quality Health Index, before changing to "high risk" by 3pm. The extreme weather response involves opening all city facilities to people who need respite from the smoke and distributing N95 masks to social agencies to provide to people who need protection. The city encourages Edmontonians to reduce exposure to the smoke by closing windows and doors to all vehicles and buildings as much as possible during poor air quality periods.
  • City manager Andre Corbould told council he has found $15 million in savings by reviewing the city's budget projections, which had previously estimated higher-than-expected spending on enforcement related to homeless encampments, and fuel and utilities. The city also brought in higher revenues than expected due to an increased property tax base and more people using transit and recreational facilities than anticipated. Council tasked the city manager with finding $60 million in cuts, without affecting core services, during last year's budget talks.
  • An Edmonton Police Service officer fired a gun on the evening of May 16 after responding to "a white Dodge Ram truck actively smashing into other vehicles in the area of 117 Avenue and 102 Street," according to a news release. Police said the driver escaped and attempted multiple armed carjackings before being arrested on the morning of May 17. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is investigating the incident.
  • The Parkland Institute released a report called "Failing to Deliver" that found the UCP government's Alberta Surgical Initiative has diverted resources away from public hospitals and reduced provincial surgical capacity. The initiative, referred to in the report as a "significant expansion of for-profit, corporate health care," was introduced in 2019 under then-premier Jason Kenney and continues to be promoted by Premier Danielle Smith as a way to improve surgical capacity. "Alberta has now among the worst performance in reducing wait times in Canada," said report author Andrew Longhurst, who attained the data through freedom of information requests and statistical analysis.
  • Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland said he plans to stay on for the completion of his contract, which concludes after next season, but can't comment on his commitment for 2024 and beyond. Holland, like many players and fans, expressed disappointment over the Oilers' playoffs elimination. He said the "key pieces" are there for the Oilers to succeed but that he plans to make "tweaks" to the roster.
A masked man on a bike accepts a paper bag of bagels from a young woman in a parking lot

Montreal bagel fundraiser nears the finish line

By Nathan Fung

An Edmonton fundraiser for Jewish teens is hoping to match a record for the greatest number of bagels shipped from the St-Viateur Bagel Shop in Montreal.

The B'nai Brith Youth Organization is selling St-Viateur bagels by the dozen as part of its Bagels for Breakfast campaign. Proceeds will go towards the organization's programs, which include leadership training for youth in Grades 8 to 12. Orders close on May 22, and will be ready for pickup on June 14 at the Edmonton Valley Zoo parking lot.

Tammy Vineberg is the fundraiser's chair. This is the third time she's organized the event, with the first fundraiser coming about in 2020 after she saw a news story about a woman in Toronto who had 2,000 St-Viateur bagels shipped to her doorstep.

The second fundraiser in 2021 saw orders placed for 1,440 dozen bagels — that's 17,280 bagels or five pallets worth — which Vineberg said set a record for bagels shipped from the storied Montreal shop. The effort also raised $14,000 for BBYO.

Vineberg wasn't able to do the fundraiser in 2022 because she couldn't find someone to ship the bagels overnight. But this year, the Edmonton International Airport helped connect her with CargoJet, allowing the campaign to return for a third year.

Currently, orders have been placed for 1,017 dozen bagels. But with a few days left before sales close, Vineberg is "very, very hopeful" she'll meet that 1,440 dozen target.

"It would be great to raise that amount of money again for the teens, and... just to say that we did it again!"

Photo: The Bagels for Breakfast campaign will again be shipping thousands of bagels from Montreal to Edmonton, as it did in 2021. (Supplied)