And now my summary of Saturday at Can-Con. I’m going to do the same thing I did with day one and just list a few important points from each panel or presentation. Again, this is just a list of things I went to!
Against my personal Saturday morning preference, I was out of the house just past 9:30 for a 10am presentation on Changing Climate: What You Might Not Know by Mark Robinson (of the television series Storm Hunters). I shouldn’t have felt bad, though, because Mark had just spent most of the week in Florida covering Hurricane Michael. Mark is so interesting and has such amazing experiences and insights to share. So here are a few:
- it is too late to stop climate change, we need to focus on adaptation
- focusing on single events or small changes as examples of climate change is a terrible idea, because they can’t be necessarily directly attributed to it (exacerbated, etc but not directly caused by)
- social, political, and other similar impacts of climate change can drive political unrest, migration, and so on (this is the ‘unsexy’ side of climate change, as opposed to the record hurricanes and similar)
After that, I went to “This is What Really Happens in a Fight” with Erik Buchanan, S.M. Carriere, Pat Poitevin, K.W. Ramsey, and Linda Poitevin (Moderator). This was a very interesting discussion on how fictional fights (mostly on screen) differ from actual fighting. My takeaways:
- generally, people are out after one good hit (hockey fights go on so long because it is hard to get power behind your punches while on skates)
- if your opponent has a weapon and you don’t (especially a knife), RUN
- in books, don’t go into extreme detail, short punchy (ha ha) sentences convey the right sort of thing
Then it was “AI and Language Preservation” (Leah Bobet, Jason Harley, Jay Odjick, Tamara Vardomskaya, Derek Künsken (Moderator)): I was really looking forward to this one. It is such an interesting, broad, and emerging topic, the panel was only able to touch on some of the issues and I was left with more questions and ideas than I had at the beginning (which is a good thing!). Key ideas I was left pondering:
- the way words and phrases can be so culturally bound that it is difficult to explain to non-speakers, let alone incorporate into an AI conversational partner or other application; and further to this, does the relationship to language change if we learn if from an AI/machine?
- the question of whose version of a language is ‘preserved’ (a word which connotes a static, dead thing rather than a living, changeable, variable language); we don’t speak in language, we speak in dialect, idiom, friend groups, inside-speak with partner, etc
- the idea of artificial emotional intelligence, which would transform and systematize empathy
That was heavy, so I followed it up by going to “20 Ethical Questions from Star Trek” (Lynne Sargent, Robert J. Sawyer, Madona Skaff, Adam Shaftoe-Durrant, Eric Choi (Moderator)). This was a good mix of Star Trek fans with an ethicist (Lynne) with only a slight exposure to it. I especially enjoyed my day job coming into it with mentions of the Geneva Conventions and the International Criminal Court. Most of the discussion moved amongst specific examples from the various series that I’m not going to summarize at length, but particularly interesting points were made around the relationship between Starfleet and the Federation and the issues surrounding humans reproducing with other species (seemingly without a lot of initial thought as to the possible consequences for the mother and/or child).
I ended the day by going to two worldbuilding panels The first was on Human Economies, with Madeline Ashby, Geoff Hart, and Hayden Trenholm (Moderator). Some of the ideas raised were:
- what would a fully developed post-capitalist (post-scarcity) society look like (no, there was no final agreement on this)
- the cultural shift from a traditional/scarcity model to a post-scarcity world (which is essentially what we are living in now, the issues with scarcity that remain are primarily related to distribution)
- the roles of war and inequality
And then the next panel (and last one for me for the day) was on Cities (Phoebe Barton, Katrina Guy, Jean-Louis Trudel, Ed Willett, and Jerome Stueart (Moderator)). This was a wide-ranging discussion, touching on the elements that comprise a city, as well as more philosophic talk. The main points for me were:
- how cities on Earth have generally tended to not be built from scratch, but rather they grow and change over time and can be in the same place that previous cities were
- those cities that have built/planned from scratch, individually (ie Brasilia) or mass produced (such as has happened in China)
- in some areas and societies, cities were moved as needed (whether after months or years or whatever)