Subscribe to the OSS Weekly Newsletter!

Register for the OSS 25th Anniversary Event

Minding the Future: Living in a High-Tech World

The 2018 Trottier Public Science Symposium: "Minding the Future: Living in a High Tech World"

Monday & Tuesday, October 29 and 30

All events will take place at the Centre Mont-Royal, 1000 Sherbrooke Street West (corner Mansfield)

Symposium Schedule

Monday | October 29

Roundtable session: 1:30pm - 3:00pm
Moderated by Joe Schwarcz

List of participants will be updated upon confirmation.

  • Tal Arbel PhD, Professor, McGill Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Director of the Probabilistic Vision Group and Medical Imaging Lab
  • Kenneth R. Foster PhD, Professor Department of Bioengineering
  • Ian Kerr PhD, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law, & Technology, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
  • Ada McVean, Science Communicator, McGill University
  • Doina Precup PhD, Associate Professor, McGill School of Computer Science and Lead of DeepMind Montreal
  • Derek Ruths PhD, Associate Professor, McGill School of Computer Science and Director of the McGill Centre for Social and Cultural Data Science
  • Joe Schwarcz PhD, Director, McGill Office for Science and Society
  • Alex Shee B.C.L., LL.B, Head of Office of the CEO, Element AI
  • Cameron Smith PhD, Professor Anthropology, Portland State University
  • Lorne Trottier MSc, Founder of Matrox, Trottier Public Science Symposium sponsor


Symposium: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Speakers: Dr. Doina Precup and Dr. Ian Kerr

Tuesday | October 30

Symposium: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Speakers: Dr. Cameron Smith and Dr. Kenneth Foster


Doina Precup | How Will the Artificial Intelligence Revolution Change Your Life?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has always captured our imagination, due to its potential to drastically change almost every aspect of our lives through new medical treatments, new assistive robots, intelligent modes of transportation, and much more. Recent and very rapid progress in AI has led to breakthroughs in a wide variety of specialized tasks, from image classification and speech recognition, to playing complex strategy games like Go. In this talk, Professor Precup will demystify some of the terminology of AI and explain why its impact is being felt so strongly now. She will describe some cutting-edge current work in deep learning and reinforcement learning, and also highlight some interesting open areas of inquiry which machine learning still needs to tackle.

Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science at McGill, Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and the Research Team Lead of DeepMind Montreal, Doina Precup is a world leader in artificial intelligence (A.I.) research and its application for positive impact. Dr. Precup's expertise is in reinforcement learning, a sub-field of AI which has developed at the interface of neuroscience and computer science, and which focuses on understanding learning through interaction with an environment. Dr. Precup also plays a central role in the development of the Montreal AI ecosystem.






Ian Kerr | Can Robots Invade Your Privacy?

Machines are getting pretty good at doing things by themselves. They can sense their environments. They can learn from the data that they have gathered or been given. And, they can make accurate predictions or sound decisions about people and things which can be acted upon without human intervention or oversight. As a result, robots and AIs are are starting to outperform human experts in an increasing array of narrow tasks, including driving, surgery, and medical diagnostics. This is fueling a growing optimism that robots and AIs will exceed humans more generally and spectacularly; some think, to the point where we will have to consider their moral and legal status.

But the law does not currently think about robots in this way. For example, when it comes to spying robots or Artificial Intelligence used by law enforcement agencies to conduct mass surveillance, privacy law generally applies only when some human comes to know what the robots know. Judge Posner, for example, has famously opined that robots and AIs cannot invade privacy because they do not posses a conscience, they are not sentient beings. Indeed, most judges and many lawyers share this view. Unless, or until, there are human eyes on the data, we don't need to worry about privacy.

Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology challenges this view from both a legal and ethical perspective. He argues that when the likes of Siri or Alexa are able to form reliable beliefs about us humans, and furthermore, able to act on those beliefs, the approach of Judge Posner and others leads to the wrong conclusion in law and in ethics.

Ian Kerr is the Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology at the University of Ottawa, where he holds a unique four-way appointment in the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Philosophy, and School of Information Studies. He is a pioneer in the burgeoning field of AI and Robotics Law and Policy and a global leader in the field of privacy. His ongoing privacy work focuses on the interplay between emerging public and private sector surveillance technologies, civil liberties and human rights. His recent work, including his book, Robot Law, studies the delegation of human tasks and decision making to machines with the aim of developing frameworks for the governance of robotics and artificial intelligence.

You learn more about Ian Kerr on his website or follow him on Twitter.


Kenneth R. Foster | Hype and Hope About Wireless Devices for Health Monitoring

Wireless devices - from the present-day fitness wristbands to the soon-to-be-on-the-market sensors that attach to the body and get read online, offer unprecedented opportunities for health monitoring and improvement. They also offer unprecedented opportunities for potential harm, such as hacking and invasion of privacy. How can we demonstrate the health benefits from these technologies, while at the same time mitigate their potential risk? Furthermore, can we? Kenneth R. Foster, from the University of Philadelphia will further explore these questions.

Kenneth R. Foster is Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. He received his Ph.D. in physics from Indiana University, Bloomington Indiana, USA, in 1971. From 1971-1976, he was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, doing research related to the interaction of microwave radiation with biological systems. Since 1976 he has been with the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Foster's research interests relate to biomedical applications of non-ionizing radiation - from audio through microwave frequency ranges to health and safety aspects of electromagnetic fields as they interact with the body. Dr. Foster also focuses on technological risk and the risk and benefit technology has on humans. He has published about 160 papers in the peer-reviewed scientific literature and numerous other contributions. He is currently Co-Editor-in-Chief of BMC BioMedical Engineering Online. He is Life Fellow of the IEEE, and in 2016 was recipient of the d'Arsonval Award of the Bioelectromagnetics Society for his lifetime work on the interaction of radiant energy on biological systems.


Cameron Smith | Spacesuits and Human Evolution

From the moment of conception, humans are protected by many barriers, both biological and technological. In space exploration, this is accomplished with spacesuits. Cameron Smith, a Professor of Anthropology at Portland State University, explores space suit design, fabrication, and testing, and has shown that we can improve much in future spacesuits by considering the long history of human evolution.

Cameron Smith has been a faculty member of Portland State University's Department of Anthropology since 1999, focusing on the human past, present and future. He has research interests in biological and cultural evolutionary dynamics, foraging culture, the anthropology of mobility, the evolution of behaviorally-modern cognition and the cultural and biological adaptations necessary for the settlement of worlds beyond Earth. Dr. Smith's works on the popular works on the anthropology of space exploration and settlement have appeared in Scientific American magazine and in his book Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space Colonization (Springer 2012). Dr. Smith has also spoken to NASA managers, consulted in the commercial space industry, and presented his lectures at Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, TEDX Brussels and TEDX Portland. Since 2008 Dr. Smith has been developing lighter, simpler cheaper space suit technology for the Second Space Age.

To learn more about Cameron Smith, click here.


Back to top