Discussion topics

Listening: An AI software engineer

 

Watch this video and discuss it with your teacher.
 

 

Discussion: 
According to one of the news anchors, "While the AI tool represents a leap forward in AI technology, its makers say it's not here to replace human engineers but in fact to collaborate and let them focus on innovation." Do you agree with this, why or why not? Do Homework
Give a brief summary of what you heard in the video. Do Homework
How does Devin's capability as an AI software engineer compare to human engineers in terms of efficiency and accuracy? Do Homework
What potential advantages does Devin bring to the software development industry? Do Homework
What impact could widespread adoption of Devin have on global software development standards and practices? Do Homework
Do you think Devin would be useful in your job? Why or Why or not? Do Homework

A six-day work week in Greece

On July 1, 2024, Greece introduced a six-day workweek to reduce labour shortages and eradicate unpaid overtime. This law applies to industrial facilities and 24/7 services but it excludes tourism and food services.

While Greece sees this as a positive step, employee relations experts around Europe argue that the long working hours and inadequate rest will affect work-life balance and productivity. This decision is also quite a surprise because other European countries want to implement shorter workweeks.

Discussion: 
In your opinion, will the six-day workweek address or fail to address Greece's labor shortages? Do Homework
How do you think the new six-day workweek will impact the work-life balance of Greek workers? Do Homework
What are the potential economic benefits and drawbacks of extending the workweek from five to six days in Greece? Do Homework
How might the increase in working hours affect the productivity and job satisfaction of Greek employees? Do Homework
Discuss the workweek in your country with your teacher. Do you think the days should be reduced, increased, or remain the same? Why? Do Homework

AI or human-made?

Photographer Miles Astray submitted a human-made image "Flamingone" in an AI competition and won. Unfortunately when the organizers realized his photo was not AI generated, they disqualified him. Astray wanted to highlight the importance of questioning the authenticity of photos, videos and audios.

Following his disqualification, Astray had this to say, "I couldn’t live the life I’m living without technology, so I don’t demonise it, but I think its often a double-edged sword with the potential to do both good and harm.

 

Discussion: 
According to Astray, "[Technology] is often a double-edged sword with the potential to do both good and harm. Do you agree? Why or why not? Do Homework
In your opinion, can AI truly be considered creative, or is it merely following programmed instructions? Do Homework
Do you think it's fair to have a competition with both AI-generated and human-made images? Should these categories remain separate? Do Homework
Do AI-generated images pose a threat to human photographers.? Is it possible to have a balance of both? Do Homework
Is it important for audiences to know the origin of a piece artwork? Why or why not? Do Homework

Working in Finland

Finland is known as the world's happiest country. The country has a unique work culture which makes going to work enjoyable! Framery, a Finnish manufacturing company is one of the many companies that builds this work culture by making these five phrases a part of their daily work ethic:

  • "the person who asks questions will not stray away from the path"—this encourages open dialogue and respect for differing opinions,
  • "a crazy person does a lot of work; a smart person gets away with less"—emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance,
  • "put the cat on the table"—employees are advised to talk openly and honestly about difficult or awkward issues in the company,

  • "whatever you leave behind, you will find in front of you"—issues must be addressed the moment they arise, and

  • "going toward the tree with your back first"—plan ahead and consider possible outcomes before making a decision

These values help create a healthy work environment in which everyone has a sense of belonging, contributing to the overall success of the company.

Discussion: 
According to the article, Finnish people enjoy going to work. Does this surprise you? Why or Why not? Do Homework
Are any of the five values mentioned in the article a part of your company's culture? If not, which ones would you like to introduce? Why? Do Homework
In what way does emphasizing work-life balance influence productivity and employee satisfaction? Do Homework
How might a supportive work environment affect employee retention and overall company success? Do Homework
Describe workplace happiness and efficiency in your company. Do these need improvement? If so, how can they be improved? Do Homework

"What if Trump?"—"Moshitora"

Moshitora, a Japanese word that had slipped into the background has re-emerged as Donald Trump returns to the campaign trail. The word moshitora which means "what if Trump", was first used during the 2016 election. It reflects Japan's concerns about the implications of a potential second Trump term for US-Japan relations. 

Businesses also see Trump as a risk because of the protectionist policies that were put in place during his first tenure. As Japan foresees the possibility of Trump becoming president again, therefore, it's making an effort to talk to people close to him to make sure the US makes decisions that have Asia's best interests at heart.

Discussion: 
In your own words, describe "Moshitora" Do Homework
What are the potential implications for US-Japan diplomatic relations if Trump is re-elected? Do Homework
Why are Trump's protectionist policies particularly worrisome for Japanese businesses? Do Homework
What lessons can Japan learn from Trump's first term that could prepare it for potential policy shifts in a second term? Do Homework
In your opinion, is Trump's re-election as the president of the United States a good or bad thing? Why? Do Homework

Ippei Mizuhara pleads guilty

The story that had taken many twists and turns since March finally came to an end as Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter, pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud. He admitted that he stole nearly $17 million from the baseball star to cover illegal gambling debts.

Mizuhara also confessed that he evaded tax of more than $1million in 2022. He is yet to be sentenced, but it's said that he is likely to spend about 30 years in prison for bank fraud, and additional time for tax fraud​.

Discussion: 
Were you following this story? If yes, what are your thoughts on how it ended? If not, what do you think about this story on the basis of what you've read? Do Homework
Is the potential 30-year prison sentence an adequate punishment for Mizuhara's crimes? Why or why not? Do Homework
What measures could athletes like Shohei Ohtani take to prevent financial fraud by those they trust with their finances? Do Homework
How should organizations and society address gambling addiction, especially when it leads to significant financial crimes? Do Homework
Beyond imprisonment and repayment, what other forms of restitution or rehabilitation could be effective for someone like Mizuhara? Do Homework

Using posts to train AI

Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company plans on using public Instagram and Facebook posts to train AI from June 26. This includes posts, photos, and captions, but not private messages. The company will notify users in the UK and EU, making it possible for them to opt out by completing a form.

However, even if someone opts out, their data could still be used if they appear in other users' public posts. Meta emphasized that the only information that would be used is from posts not comments, for people over the age of 18. The main goal for this is to develop and improve AI research and product development.

Discussion: 
How do you feel about Meta using public posts to train AI? Do Homework
Should users be more concerned about their data being used if they appear in someone else’s public post? Why or Why not? Do Homework
What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of AI advancements using public data? Do Homework
How might this practice affect users under 18, even if their data is excluded? Do Homework
Should there be stricter regulations on how companies like Meta use public data for AI training? Why or Why not? Do Homework

A run across Africa

Imagine the possibility of running across the whole continent of Africa! Well, Russell Cook, known as "Hardest Geezer," proved that this is very possible by running the entire length of Africa. Even though he completed his race, he faced many challenges which include an armed robbery, visa issues and injuries.

He was determined to complete this run because he had struggled with mental health, gambling, and drinking. By taking on this challenge, he was able to make a positive impact by raising almost $1 million for charity.

Cook started his journey in South Africa's southernmost point on April 22, 2023 and completed it in Tunisia on April 7, 2024. The journey took 352 days, it was 9,940 miles (16,000km) long and he ran through 16 countries. When he completed his race, all he really wanted was a strawberry daiquiri​ to celebrate his huge accomplishment!

 

Discussion: 
Have you ever taken on a challenge similar to Cook's? If yes, discuss this with your teacher. If not, would you like to? Why or why not? Do Homework
What motivates you to keep doing something even if you face difficulties? Do Homework
The purpose of the run was to raise money for charity. If you were to do anything to raise money for a charity, which one(s) would you choose, why? Do Homework
To celebrate his accomplishment, Cook had a strawberry daiquiri. How do you usually celebrate after a huge accomplishment? Do Homework
How can people be encouraged to support charity organisations? Do Homework

Oceans heating up globally

Record ocean temperatures show that the seas are warming faster than expected, with significant impacts globally. Oceans absorb over 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases, and since March 2023, daily global ocean surface temperatures have set new records. February 2024 saw a full year of 1.5℃ surface air temperature warming.

This unexpected warming is causing widespread damage. For example, in 2023, the water temperatures off the coast in Florida were warmer than a hot tub, resulting in massive coral bleaching. Other effects include deep sea de-oxygenation and increased rainfall.

Michael McPhaden of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) attributes the record heat to rising greenhouse gases and a major 2023 El Niño event. Other factors include the 2022 Tonga volcano eruption and a 2020 mandate reducing sulphur dioxide emissions from shipping, which has lessened heat-reflecting clouds.

Discussion: 
Have you personally noticed any effects of global warming such as weather changes? Do Homework
How would an increase in weather patterns such as hurricanes and storms affect you? Do Homework
Would a rise in sea level affect an area that you are familiar with? How? Do Homework
What concerns do you have about any of the potential changes that could happen as a direct result of global warming? Do Homework

Boomerang employees

A "boomerang employee" is someone who leaves a company, often at a high level like a CEO, only to return to the same company later on in a similar leadership position. It's like throwing a boomerang: they leave, but they come back.

Some examples of boomerang CEOs include:

  • Steve Jobs: He co-founded Apple, left in 1985, and returned in 1997 to lead the company to unprecedented success.
  • Howard Schultz: The former CEO of Starbucks left in 2000 but returned in 2008 to help revitalize the company during a challenging time.
  • Louis Gerstner Jr.: He left IBM in 1993 but returned in 1997 as CEO, leading a significant turnaround of the company.
  • Michael Dell: He stepped down as CEO of Dell in 2004 but returned in 2007 to lead the company's transformation efforts.
Discussion: 
Do you know any famous examples of a boomerang CEO? Who are they and have they been a success? Do Homework
Do you work with any boomerang employees? How's that going? If you don't, would you like to? Why or Why not? Do Homework
Do you believe in second chances? Explain your thinking. Do Homework
Do you prefer to take the easy, fast path? Or do you prefer a challenge? How come? Do Homework

Sci-fi doesn’t have to be dystopian

The article explores the idea that science fiction doesn't always have to portray dystopian futures. It highlights authors who are crafting narratives that offer hope and optimism, challenging the prevailing trend of bleak visions of the future. By examining works of science fiction that focus on utopian or more balanced depictions of society, the article suggests that these stories can inspire readers to imagine alternative futures and explore the possibilities of human potential.

The article mentions several examples of hopeful stories in science fiction:

  • "The Dispossessed" by Ursula K. Le Guin: This novel presents an anarchist society on the moon, where people strive for balance and equality, offering a vision of a more just and harmonious future.
  • "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet" by Becky Chambers: This novel depicts a diverse crew traveling through space, focusing on themes of friendship, acceptance, and cooperation, offering a hopeful vision of humanity's future among the stars.
  • "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. Le Guin: In this novel, the protagonist journeys to a planet where people can change genders, challenging traditional notions of identity and society, and presenting a hopeful exploration of cultural diversity and understanding.

These examples showcase science fiction narratives that emphasize themes of cooperation, diversity, and social progress, offering readers hopeful visions of the future.

Discussion: 
How do hopeful narratives in science fiction contribute to broader discussions about societal values and aspirations? Do Homework
In what ways do authors use speculative fiction to explore utopian or alternative visions of the future? Do Homework
How does the portrayal of diverse characters and societies in science fiction reflect contemporary discussions about inclusivity and social justice? Do Homework
What role does the balance between hope and realism play in engaging readers with speculative fiction narratives? Do Homework
How might hopeful science fiction stories inspire real-world action or influence public perceptions of technological and social change? Do Homework

The geopolitics of AI chips

The article discusses how the production of AI chips could have significant geopolitical implications. These chips, which serve as the backbone of AI technology, are primarily manufactured in a few key countries like the United States and China. However, as AI becomes increasingly integral to various industries, other nations may seek to establish their own chip-making capabilities.

This shift could potentially reshape global power dynamics, as control over AI chip production becomes a crucial factor in determining influence and competitiveness on the world stage. In essence, the article highlights how the future of AI is closely intertwined with the geopolitics of chip manufacturing.

Discussion: 
How do you think countries can avoid relying too much on a few suppliers for AI chips? Do Homework
What are some ways nations can work together to ensure fair access to AI technology? Do Homework
Why is it important for countries to consider the ethical implications of AI chip development? Do Homework

Northern Lights spectacle

Over the past week, the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, have been visible in unusual locations across Europe and North America. These celestial lights are often limited to northern most territories and high-latitude regions. However, a massive G5 level geomagnetic storm event in space made it possible for the lights to be seen farther south. The Southern Lights, similar to the Northern Lights, were also seen in New Zealand due to its location near the southern pole.

For many travellers, seeing the Northern Lights is often at the top of the bucket-list. So, they visit places such as Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Alaska from different parts of the world. However, there is no guarantee of catching a glimpse of the magnificent lights, even during peak seasons. Fortunately, according to experts, 2024 is the best year to enjoy the unforgettable light show. 

 

Discussion: 
Have you seen the Northern / Southern Lights? If yes, describe your experience. If not, would you like to? Do Homework
How might the increased visibility of the Northern Lights impact tourism in traditionally popular viewing locations like Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Alaska? Do Homework
In your opinion, how does witnessing the Aurora Borealis impact individuals on a personal or emotional level and what makes it such a popular natural spectacle? Do Homework
Share one activity/event on your bucket-list with your teacher. Discuss why this activity/event is important to you. Do Homework
If you were to choose a country to visit from the ones mentioned in the article, which one would you choose? Why? Do Homework

Developing AI like raising kids

The article "Developing AI: Like Raising Kids?" draws parallels between nurturing artificial intelligence (AI) systems and raising children. It emphasizes the importance of early experiences, feedback, and the interplay between nature and nurture in both processes. Just as children learn from their environment, AI algorithms require diverse and representative data for robust development.

Feedback and reinforcement shape behavior in both children and AI, highlighting the need for careful guidance. Lastly, the article underscores the significance of ethical considerations in AI development, advocating for responsible stewardship to ensure positive societal outcomes. Through these comparisons, it illuminates the complexities of AI development and the need for thoughtful engagement with ethical and social implications.

Discussion: 
In your opinion, how does viewing AI development as akin to raising kids change our approach to creating and implementing AI technologies? Do Homework
How do you think feedback loops in AI development compare to those in child-rearing, and which do you believe is more critical for ethical and effective outcomes? Do Homework
Do you believe AI developers should prioritize ethical considerations over technological advancements? Why or why not? Do Homework
How do you feel about comparing AI systems to children in terms of nurturing and development? Do you think it's a helpful analogy? Do Homework
In your view, what role should governments and regulatory bodies play in ensuring responsible AI development, and how can they effectively enforce ethical guidelines? Do Homework

Will A.I. become the new McKinsey?

The article explores the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the consulting industry, particularly focusing on whether AI could replace traditional consulting firms like McKinsey & Company. It discusses the rise of AI-driven platforms and tools that offer data analysis, problem-solving, and decision-making capabilities comparable to those of human consultants.

While acknowledging the significant advancements in AI technology, the article also highlights the limitations and challenges AI faces in fully replacing human consultants. These include complexity of human interaction and the need for contextual understanding.

Additionally, it discusses how consulting firms like McKinsey are incorporating AI into their operations to enhance their services rather than viewing it as a threat. Overall, the article suggests that while AI will undoubtedly transform the consulting industry, it is unlikely to completely replace the role of human consultants in the foreseeable future.

Discussion: 
Does your company use AI? If so, how? Do Homework
How might the role of junior consultants evolve as AI takes over more data analysis and routine tasks? Do Homework
What skills and competencies will human consultants need to develop to work effectively alongside AI? Do Homework
What ethical considerations should consulting firms keep in mind when integrating AI into their services? Do Homework
What future developments in technology could potentially transform the consulting industry? Do Homework

Apologising in Japan

Japanese people often apologize to maintain harmony, regardless of fault. This is seen as a way of improving the atmosphere and maintaining relationships, not an admission of guilt. In contrast, Westerners often seek to identify the cause of a problem first. This can be seen as making excuses in Japanese culture.

When working with the Japanese it's advised to apologize first, then propose a solution or workaround, and finally, discuss who was at fault. The person in the wrong also has to explain what steps they have taken to prevent a recurrence. 

Discussion: 
Compare a typical Japanese apology with a typical Western one. Do Homework
Why might the Japanese approach of apologizing first, regardless of fault, be beneficial in a business context? Do Homework
Can adopting elements of another culture’s communication style be beneficial, and if so, how? Do Homework
Why is it important to understand different communication styles when doing business internationally? Do Homework
What can we do to improve communication with people from different cultures? Do Homework

Solo travel mistakes

Watch the short and discuss it with your teacher.

 

Discussion: 
Have you ever travelled alone? Tell your teacher the story. Do Homework
What are the rules in the video? Do you agree with them? Do Homework
Do you prefer to travel solo (if you have)? Why? Do Homework
If you have not travelled solo, would you? Why or why not? Do Homework
What's your travel style? Adventures or relaxation? How come? Do Homework

ChatGPT is a blurry JPEG of the web

A blurry image of a keyboard

OpenAI’s chatbot offers paraphrases, whereas Google offers quotes. Which do we prefer?

The article explores the capabilities and limitations of ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI, particularly in its ability to understand and generate human-like text. It discusses how ChatGPT is trained on vast amounts of text data from the internet, enabling it to mimic human conversation and provide contextually relevant responses.

However, the article also highlights the model's shortcomings, such as occasional inaccuracies, lack of understanding nuanced contexts, and potential biases inherited from the data it was trained on. Additionally, it delves into the ethical considerations surrounding AI language models like ChatGPT, including concerns about misinformation, manipulation, and privacy. Overall, the article provides a nuanced examination of ChatGPT's capabilities and the broader implications of AI language models for society.

Discussion: 
What does the title of the article mean? Do Homework
How can society distinguish between genuine and AI-generated content to combat the spread of misinformation online? Do Homework
What ethical guidelines should be established to govern the use of AI language models in content creation and dissemination to prevent manipulation and maintain trust? Do Homework
In what ways can policymakers and technology companies address privacy concerns associated with the use of AI language models while still fostering innovation and advancement in the field? Do Homework

Food trends in 2024

Professional chef preparing food in the kitchen

Food experts predict that food trends will be shaped by a desire for authenticity, environmental protection, and exciting flavors. They also believe that global flavors will be a big trend, with chefs creating dishes that reflect their diverse backgrounds. Asian ingredients, like black sesame and ube, will become more popular as people will start to appreciate the unique qualities of different Asian cuisines.

Sustainability will be a key focus, with companies creating alternative chocolates that don’t rely on cocoa, which is leading to deforestation. Other companies will try to reduce their water usage by creating products like waterless plant milks. These trends show a move towards food and drink that is not only tasty, but also kind to our planet.

Discussion: 
According to the article "...food trends will be shaped by a desire for authenticity, environmental protection, and exciting flavors". Do you agree? Do Homework
Do you think it's important for chefs to create dishes that reflect their diverse backgrounds? Why or Why not? Do Homework
Why is sustainable food becoming more popular? Do Homework
Are you seeing the trends mentioned in the article in your country or any country you have visited? Discuss this with your teacher. Do Homework
How can individuals and companies contribute to food sustainability? Do Homework

Energy use of AI

Plugging a light bulb into a socket

Artificial intelligence (AI) consumes a significant amount of energy, especially deep learning models, and in a few years it is expected that energy use will double. This energy consumption is due to the increasing demand for AI across various industries, which contributes to carbon emissions.

Efforts are being made to improve energy efficiency in AI, such as developing smaller models and optimizing algorithms. However, addressing the environmental impact of AI requires collaboration between tech companies, policymakers, and researchers to prioritize sustainability while advancing AI innovation.

Discussion: 
Are you surprised that AI uses so much energy? Why or why not? Do Homework
How can we make AI more energy efficient? Do Homework
What will be the environmental impact of the energy used by AI? Do Homework
Who should fix this problem? Tech companies, governments or researchers? Why? Do Homework
Can AI be used to help the environment or reduce emissions? How? Do Homework