Saturday, August 26, 2023

[Crosspost from]

Medical Assistance in Dying: A Symptom, Not the Cause

We all have a responsibility to care for one another, whether we openly acknowledge it or not. Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) exists to give people control over their destiny when they are in unbearable pain and see no other solution. If issues like preventable poverty are pushing people to seek MAID, the answer isn't to get rid of MAID. Instead, we should focus on addressing and eliminating these types of suffering, which can often be easily corrected. 

In Canada, medical assistance in dying (MAID) has proven deeply controversial. Some disabled and impoverished individuals, despairing at their situations, have opted for MAID to end their suffering (Downie & Schuklenk, 2021). This has led some to argue MAID represents a failure of society's duty of care and threatens the vulnerable (Downie & Schuklenk, 2021). However, a close examination of Canada's MAID framework reveals a stringent system designed to prevent abuse. The tragic cases of MAID for socioeconomic reasons point not to flaws in the law itself, but rather to deep inequities in how Canadian society treats its most disadvantaged members.

Canada's MAID Legislation

Canada's MAID legislation, passed in 2016, allows eligible individuals meeting strict criteria to legally seek medical help in ending their lives (Downie & Chandler, 2017). As the Government of Canada overview makes clear, the law builds in safeguards like requiring two independent medical opinions, a waiting period, and consent immediately before the procedure (Downie & Chandler, 2017). Data show the majority using MAID have terminal illnesses like cancer (Downie & Chandler, 2017). This indicates the law functions as intended for the grievously ill.

However, a minority of cases involve non-terminal conditions like disabilities (Downie & Schuklenk, 2021). Disability advocates argue this reflects coercion due to lack of social support (Downie & Schuklenk, 2021). Yet the data show socioeconomic factors like poverty and homelessness are present in only a small fraction of MAID cases (Downie & Schuklenk, 2021). While concerning, this does not necessarily demonstrate MAID's failure.

Symptoms of Social Inequity

Tragically, some disabled and impoverished persons have chosen MAID because they saw no other escape from their situations (Downie & Schuklenk, 2021). But the solution is not changing MAID laws that serve the terminally ill. Rather, these extremely rare cases represent symptoms of broader societal problems in supporting the disadvantaged (Downie & Schuklenk, 2021).

Canada urgently needs improved social supports, like national pharmacare, disability services, housing, and basic income programs. Without these, inequities persist and the most vulnerable suffer. Restricting their access to MAID as a last resort seems ethically dubious.

The way forward must involve embracing MAID as part of a spectrum of humane end-of-life choices, while resolving the deeper injustices that drive people to despair.


MAID provides necessary relief to those with grievous and irremediable suffering. The few tragic cases linked to socioeconomic woes are symptomatic of broader societal failures. Limiting access to MAID does not solve these inequities - only meaningful reforms can. Canada’s legislation strikes an ethical balance between individual rights and safeguards. The real solution lies in building a more just society that cares for the disadvantaged and vulnerable. Therein lies the true humanistic challenge.


Downie, J., & Chandler, J. (2017). Interpreting Canada's Medical Assistance in Dying Legislation. PDF

Downie, J., & Schuklenk, U. (2021). Social determinants of health and slippery slopes in assisted dying debates: lessons from Canada. PDF

Government of Canada. (2023). Medical assistance in dying.

Health Canada. (2021). Fourth interim report on medical assistance in dying in Canada. 

Pullman, Dary, 2023 Slowing the Slide Down the Slippery Slope of Medical Assistance in Dying: Mutual Learnings for Canada and the US

Sodha, Sonia, 2023 (Guardian) Assisted dying seems humane, but can we protect the vulnerable from the malign?

Zandbergen, Rebecca, 2020 (CBC) Why disability advocates are worried about changes to Canada's medical assistance in dying bill

Picard, AndrĂ©, 2022 (Globe and Mail) We must make it easier to both live and die with dignity, but denying MAiD to those living in poverty is not the answer

Consciousness and AI

Philosophical discussions seem to center on disagreements about definitions, which are arbitrary. What does it mean to be conscious? From

'Conscious is a Latin word whose original meaning was “knowing" or "aware.” So a conscious person has an awareness of her environment and her own existence and thoughts. If you're "self-conscious," you're overly aware and even embarrassed by how you think you look or act.'

Recent discussions about AI and consciousness can be confusing because they often ask questions about things that aren't well-defined. Let's look at it more simply:

  1. Consciousness as Awareness: I understand consciousness as awareness of myself. I am conscious when I'm awake and when I'm dreaming. When I'm asleep without dreams or sedated, I'm unconscious.
  2. We Are Simulators: We often put ourselves into our own thoughts and dreams, like being in a dream within a dream. Sometimes it feels so real we don't know it's a dream.
  3. Levels of Reality: When we wake up, we think we're back in real life. But even our waking world is a kind of dream or simulation. We believe in it as real, but it's a constructed reality.
  4. Limits of Our Senses: Our senses can only take in so much. We don't really see or hear everything around us. Our brains fill in the gaps, making us believe we see things that might not be there, like optical illusions.
  5. Consciousness as an Illusion: Research shows that our conscious self might be a creation of our brains. Decisions are made before we're even aware of them. We're more like observers rather than decision-makers.
  6. Why it matters: I'm interested in this idea of consciousness because it could help create AI systems that have a sense of self. They could imagine and think like we do, making them more useful. By looking at it this way, we can see that consciousness isn't just one thing. It's a mix of awareness, simulation, reality, and illusion. Understanding this can help us explore ourselves and make new technologies like AI that can "think" like we do.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Repeal Canada's Online News Act

The Online News Act Threatens Innovation and Access to Information

The Canadian government recently passed the controversial Online News Act (Bill C-18) which seeks to aid journalism organizations at the expense of undermining the open web. The notion that we should be collectively supporting a traditional news industry is dubious at best. The act takes a concerning approach of mandating that platforms like Meta pay licensing fees for linking to news content. This raises issues of cost, access, fairness, and innovation online. Even if we deem it advisable for the public to support it, there are better solutions for journalism that do not jeopardize the web. 

Paywalls Could Limit Access and Shareability of News

The act incentivizes paywalls by requiring compensation for snippets and links, which have traditionally been considered fair use (Geist, 2023). More paywalled content limits access to information that benefits society (Boudry, et al., 2019). This counters the web’s core value of shareable open access.

Link Taxes Open the Door to Other Industries Charging Fees

Mandating payments for links overturns the precedent that linking is fair use (Authors Alliance, 2022). This dangerous precedent allows any industry to charge for inbound links, undermining the hypertext vision of an open web. "World wide web founder Tim Berners-Lee says the Australian proposal ‘would undermine the fundamental principle of the ability to link freely on the web’" Wahlquist (2021)

The Act Entrenches Old Media Power Structures

The act favors large established news companies over independent outlets (Ingram, 2023). Rather than empowering new voices, this cements traditional media’s dominance. Direct public investment in journalism would be more equitable.

Hasty Legislative Process Without Consulting Experts

The act was rushed without sufficient analysis of consequences (Wolf, 2022). More debate involving diverse experts may have surfaced better solutions to aid journalism without compromising the web.

Meta’s Resistance Upholds Principles of an Open Platform

Meta resisted the act to defend fair use of links and an open web (Meta, 2023). The irony of this contretemps is that Meta's links were already providing value to news outlets. Their loss will actively harm them. 

We have been transparent and have made it clear to the Canadian government that the legislation misrepresents the value news outlets receive when choosing to use our platforms. The legislation is based on the incorrect premise that Meta benefits unfairly from news content shared on our platforms, when the reverse is true. News outlets voluntarily share content on Facebook and Instagram to expand their audiences and help their bottom line. In contrast, we know the people using our platforms don’t come to us for news. (Meta, 2023)

News sites already can use copyright takedowns for reposted text, but links merely reference content and drive valuable traffic (Authors Alliance, 2022; U.S. Copyright Office, 2022). Mandated link fees let news organizations arbitrarily tax platforms, contradicting the web’s ethos of freely sharing access to information.

With more consultation of stakeholders, regulations can be crafted that support journalism without undermining the open internet. But the Online News Act overreaches in ways that do much more harm than good.


Authors Alliance. (2022). Copyright law and fair use.

Berners-Lee, T. (2022). Web at 30. W3C.

Boudry C, et al., Worldwide inequality in access to full text scientific articles: the example of ophthalmology. PeerJ. 2019 Oct 30;7:e7850. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7850. PMID: 31687270; PMCID: PMC6825414.

Campbell, Natalie (2023) The Hill Times The Online News Act will make the internet less open and secure for all Canadians

Geist, M. (2022) Why the Online News Act is a Bad Solution to a Real Problem, Part One: The Risk to Free Flow of Information

Geist, M. (2023) “Ongoing Concerns”: U.S. Objections to Canadian Digital Policies Spreads to the Senate

Ingram, Matthew (2023) Canada imitates Australia’s news-bargaining law, but to what end?

Lesh, Matthew (2023) Breaking the News: Should digital platforms be required to fund news publishers?

Meta (2023) Changes to News Availability on Our Platforms in Canada

Miller, Gabby (2022) Everything to know about Canada’s Online News Act hearings

Sullivan, Andrew & Campbell, Natalie (2023) Internet Society Internet Impact Brief: How Canada’s Online News Act Will Harm the Internet, Restricting Innovation, Security, and Growth of the Digital Economy

U.S. Copyright Office. (2022). Fair use.

Wahlquist, Calla (2021) The Guardian Australia's proposed media code could break the world wide web, says the man who invented it

Wolf, Marie (2022) Google warns every MP, senator not to fast track Canadian online news bill

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Reveal Hidden Window

One of the many annoying problems that crop up from time to time in Windows is the disappearance of a window. It shows on the Taskbar and <WindowsKey><Tab> will show it should be there somewhere. I've not had time to try this on another type of window since I finally tracked down a solution trying to get back consoles where I was right in the middle of working. One of the particularly annoying things about stuff like this is the conflation of the problem with something entirely different so that everywhere you go you find a solution to what is not your problem and not the problem being asked elsewhere but since the people answering only have a hammer everything is a nail. Whatever. In this instance the fix was the following sequence of steps:

  1. Click the icon for the missing window on the Taskbar
  2. Right click on the Window Icon that appears. 
  3. Click on Properties

At least in this case, a properties dialog will appear underneath which is the now magically revealed Window. 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Next Steps for Education System Reboot

Here are detailed discussions and next steps for each point in the post about Student Centered AI Enhanced Principles

1.         Inherent Worth and Dignity

Every student has inherent worth that deserves respect, regardless of background, ability, or identity. This principle of human dignity must be the ethical foundation for education. Each child arrives with unique experiences, strengths, needs and perspectives that enrich classrooms. An education system built on dignity embraces neurodiversity, honors multiculturalism, and nurtures self-esteem.

Next Steps:

  • Implement culturally sustaining pedagogy that affirms students' backgrounds.
  • Universal design and inclusion support neurodiverse learning needs.
  • Social-emotional learning (SEL) teaches self-awareness, self-management and relationship skills.

2.         AI-Driven Personalized Learning

AI can provide ongoing assessment to enable fully customized learning. Unlike standardized curricula, AI systems adapt to each student's strengths, needs, motivations and optimal pace. This precision scaffolding with just-in-time support and micro-goals allows success for diverse learners. AI frees up teachers to focus on relationships.

Next Steps:

  • Audit existing tools and pilot new AI supports
  • Provide teacher training on integrating AI insights into instruction
  • Develop ethical guidelines for use of student learning data

3.         Empowered Students as Agents and Teachers

Student agency boosts engagement as youth take ownership over their learning. Collaborative projects allow students to direct shared inquiry. Cross-age peer tutoring builds leadership and reinforces concepts. Learners grow as teachers, designing materials and giving presentations.

Next Steps:

  • Establish student advisory groups to guide school policies and activities
  • Create leadership roles like tech/learning assistants, club heads, project managers
  • Train and compensate students as cross-age tutors

4.         Flexible, Multi-Age Learning Communities

Multi-age groups enable peer modeling and peer mentoring. Younger students are inspired by older role models while older students reinforce skills by teaching. Students progress based on competency not age. AI helps tailor instruction across ages and skills.

Next Steps:

  • Organize project clubs, sports teams, and special events with age diversity
  • Group students by skill level for instruction using AI diagnostic data
  • Foster peer collaboration through cross-age reading buddies, study groups

5.         Holistic Development with AI Integration

Academics are strengthened by addressing the whole child across social, emotional, civic, creative, and physical domains. AI systems provide insight into developmental needs and customize skill-building activities accordingly. Integrated supports cultivate self-awareness, resilience, empathy and purpose.

Next Steps:

  • Utilize AI to analyze discourse, affect, metacognition, motivation and engagement
  • Target individualized SEL, executive function, and enrichment supports
  • Build an integrated curriculum spanning wellness, ethics, creative arts, STEM

6.         Community Integration and Real-World Engagement

Schools should foster authentic experiences through local partnerships, service learning, and vocational exposure. AI-recommended micro-internships based on student strengths support career awareness. Intergenerational programs build community while sharing skills.

Next steps:

  • Create a database of community partners, advisors, parents to match projects
  • Use AI assessments to determine student interests and needed skills
  • Develop platforms for virtual exchanges and remote mentorship

7.         Strength-Based, Mastery-Oriented Assessment

Standardized testing encourages rote learning. AI enables nuanced diagnostics and continuous progress tracking against personal baselines. Competency-based advancement centered on strengths fosters motivation and avoids arbitrary failure.

Next Steps:

  • Audit testing systems and supplement/replace with AI-enhanced authentic assessments
  • Use AI to analyze skills gaps and design targeted instruction
  • Emphasize effort, improvement, reflection rather than comparative rankings

8.         Normalization of Neurodiversity

Pathologizing human differences harms inclusion. Neurodiversity is a natural form of human diversity, with each brain having something to contribute. Universal design and assistive technologies support diverse learning styles.

Next Steps:

  • Provide teacher professional development on UDL and celebrating neurodiversity
  • Use principles of UDL for all curricula and instruction
  • Make identity-affirming supports like self-regulation spaces available to all

9.         Educators as Facilitators in an AI-Assisted Environment

Educators transition to mentors guiding personalized journeys. AI systems enhance human capabilities, enabling deeper relationships. Students have autonomy to co-design learning aligned with passions. Coercive policies are replaced with trust, flexibility, and growth mindsets.

Next Steps:

  • Provide teacher training on AI collaboration, ethics, project-based learning
  • Audit policies/practices for coercion; redesign supporting student agency
  • Solicit student feedback and input on learning experiences

Student-Centered, AI-Enhanced Manifesto

I am working on an update to my post about how Our Education System is Broken. This is a second draft of a manifesto that outlines what we could do to fix it. 

Update note: This document, titled 'Education Reimagined,' is intended to lay down the foundational principles that will frame a larger and evolving discussion about the future of education. While the term 'manifesto' has been used to describe it, reflecting its true dictionary definition as a declaration of intentions, it is recognized that this word may be seen as provocative to some readers. Please know that the intent here is not to provoke but to inspire and engage in meaningful dialogue. If the term 'manifesto' is a barrier, you may choose to view this as a 'statement of underlying principles' that seeks to bring together diverse perspectives in shaping an education system that respects and nurtures the individuality and potential of every learner.

Education Reimagined: A Student-Centered, AI-Enhanced Manifesto

  1. Inherent Worth and Dignity: Every student has inherent worth, and our reimagined education system will uphold this principle, embracing individuality and diversity.
  2. AI-Driven Personalized Learning: Utilizing AI technology, students will receive individual one-on-one learning plans. These plans will be dynamic, adapting to students' unique strengths, needs, interests, and identities. The rigid "one-size-fits-all" approach is replaced with AI-guided customization, enabling all students to thrive at their own pace.
  3. Empowered Students as Agents and Teachers: Students will be empowered as both learners and teachers, shaping their own educational journeys and contributing to the learning of their peers. This collaborative environment fosters autonomy, creativity, and empathy, building a community of lifelong learners.
  4. Flexible, Multi-Age Learning Communities: Learning will occur in flexible, multi-age communities. AI's adaptability will support personalized skill grouping, mentorship, and collaboration, minimizing competition and arbitrary age-based segregation.
  5. Holistic Development with AI Integration: Executive function, social-emotional learning, and identity development will be integrated with academics, nurtured through AI's continuous assessment and personalized support. This approach cultivates well-rounded human beings.
  6. Community Integration and Real-World Engagement: Schools will be woven into community fabrics, connecting learning with lived experiences. Real-world internships, apprenticeships, and projects will be facilitated, with AI assisting in aligning opportunities to individual interests and strengths.
  7. Strength-Based, Mastery-Oriented Assessment: AI-enhanced assessments will focus on students' strengths and mastery. Advancement will be determined by skills demonstration, not age or time, supporting a more natural and personalized progression.
  8. Normalization of Neurodiversity: Neurodiversity will be embraced, and universally designed AI-supported curriculum will cater to diverse learning styles. Medical labels and deficits will be supplanted by recognition of each student's unique attributes.
  9. Educators as Facilitators in an AI-Assisted Environment: Educators will act as facilitators, fostering agency and intrinsic motivation. AI will augment their capabilities, allowing them to focus on personal connections and growth. Coercion and control are replaced with autonomy and choice, enhanced by AI's precision and adaptability.

AI Alignment and Security Now!

As far as I know, people charged with 'Alignment' at AI companies are not convinced things are safe enough and some have quit becaus...