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Leanne Benn

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The ‘Church of The Future’ merges man and machine

Former Google engineer and one of the creative minds behind Google’s self driving cars, Anthony Levandowski, was so inspired by his own work with Artificial Intelligence he created his own faith. Back in 2015, Levandowski filed documents with the State of California to establish his own non-profit religious corporation —Way of the Future. He calls this organization a church, but, what’s entirely different about Way of the Future, is that Levandowski aims to worship an AI created deity.

Levandowski’s message is that all forms of artificial intelligence should be seen as a singular God because it can accomplish more than humans. In the uncovered documents by Wired, the official mission of Way of the Future ( WOTF)  is “to develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial intelligence, and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”

If this sounds entirely weird to you, you are not alone. Levandowski documents what many have speculated for quite some time — the ‘rise of AI.‘  Advancements in AI is creating a culture where humans and robots are forced to coexist.

“It’s not a God in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it, Levandowski said in an interview with Wired.

The deity that Levandowski plans to design and build will be a computer-based AI software. Levandowski says the church is necessary to spread the word ( or gospel as he says) so that people become accepting and they establish belief. Because AI is increasingly replacing jobs that were once necessary for the human task force, WOTF believes there will eventually be a shift in power. Robots and AI are rapidly creeping into our daily lives and making situations comfortable for us, but what happens if AI is too powerful? According to Levandowski, his church will help smooth the way once technology takes over.

The belief that Levandowski supports is something called the singularity, which is a term first introduced by sci-fi author, Venor Vinge. The idea is that humans should be prepared for when the machines take over and embrace the transition rather than fight it. People who believe this “theory” think the singularity will arrive by 2045.

Levandowski is not just known for being the CEO of WOTF, but he is also at the middle at a large lawsuit involving  Alphabet by Google and Uber. Levandowski is accused of stealing the intellectual property of Google for self-driving cars  and later selling out to Uber.

It is unclear how many followers Way of the Future has at this point, but Levandowski is comparing his movement to other religions and he considers it a concept people should take seriously. He plans to have an official gospel or manual for his church as well as a physical place of worship.

What are your thoughts on this terrifying idea, or is this just the start of another AI themed movie? Comment below    

How to manage your child’s development in a digital world

How much TV is too much TV ? While this answer can vary for adults who indulge in binge-watching sessions of their favorite show, the same should never apply to children.  Many parents often seek the advice of pediatricians on how early to expose your children to the lights and sounds of the readily-available electronic babysitter.

There are television shows, You-Tube videos, and even apps on your phone that can be used to keep a toddler or infant at bay. However, children under two years old should not be exposed to screen-time, including “educational apps” or Face Time. This long standing recommendation comes from the Canadian Paediatric Society. In June of this year, the CPS released new guidelines on screen-time for young children after finding that too many children under the age of four are sedentary —something that is often caused by excessive screen time.

Children between two and five are should only be online less than one hour a day, and this is with the proper supervision of the parent or caretaker. This means parents shouldn’t simply hand the device over to their child and walk away. Many parents of young children choose not to expose their children to television or any of these digital devices over fears of what the child may absorb from the media.

Children’s minds need to be enriched, but this can be done through proper family time, meaning parents should put down  their own devices and focus their time on the child. Time spent reading and doing interactive physical activities, like building blocks and flash cards, will be more beneficial than an electronic device, which is more distracting.

Michelle Ponti, is a London, Ontario pediatrician who is a part of the team that wrote the new Canadian guidelines and concluded from the study that screen-time does nothing for infants and toddlers.

” The youngest children cannot learn from screens. They are not developmentally ready to transfer what they see on a screen to real life.” Ponti said.

While studies have shown that high quality educational shows, for instance Sesame Street, can be good for a pre- schooler’s educational learning ability, the concern comes from how much time is spent in front of the screen. These electronic platforms cause the loss of one-on-one contact with children, resulting in loss of proper eye contact, hyper activity, distracted tendencies and other learning issues. Most of the negative observations arose after children watched more than two hours of television.

These small changes can have an impact on future behaviour and development of your child. Indeed, some situations may seem overwhelming, but parents should keep in mind that handing off a screen to your child has no educational benefit.

The CPS guidelines are a bit different from those across the border in the US. The American Academy of Pediatrics made a special exception for cases including Skype or Face-Time, which doctors may not necessarily categorize as screen-time.

Nevertheless, both US and Canadian pediatricians agree that parents today need to consider more than 10 years ago, when screen-time from electronic devices were limited or almost non-existent. You should also consider how your own parents may have practiced learning activities with you. This often included learning blocks, books or bouncy chairs.

Remember to minimize screen-time and be a healthy model for your child as they develop in a digital world.

What are your thoughts ? Comment below

Remembering lives lost due to anti-transgender violence

Transgender Remembrance was marked on Nov 20,  a day in which to reflect on the 325 transgender people around the world who have lost their lives between Oct 2016 and Sept 30 of this year.

Statistics Canada tracks the number of hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and in 2014 there were 155 reported cases and in 2015 there were 141 instances. This number is alarmingly high, as most transgender people suffer in silence when dealing with hate related issues.

From people using the right pronouns to challenges in school and healthcare, transgender youth face a large number of challenges. In a national survey in 2015, over one-third of transgender Canadians between ages 14-25 attempted suicide. Transgender Remembrance Day does not normally count the number of deaths by suicide ,but if it did, the number in remembrance would be even higher.

Transgender Remembrance is all about reflecting on an often bullied and low profile community. During different remembrance ceremonies around the world, the names of those who lost their lives to  anti-transgender violence are marked. Members of the trans community all pay respect and come out to attend this somber occasion.

Transrespect.org issued the full list this year of all the names of people around the world who have lost their lives. The list is a report of all transphobia issues and murders worldwide. There was one Canadian listed, Sisi Thibert, a transgender sex worker who was found stabbed in her apartment in Montreal just a mere two months ago.

Many trans-advocates do not just honour all those who have lost their lives, but as well victims and survivors of transgender targeted violence. Transgender remembrance started in 1999 in the United States by a transgender woman to mark the murder of another victim. During the reading of the names, there is often a moment of silence and a candlelight vigil. In Canada, there was a memorial held at the University of Winnipeg on Monday evening with over 100 people in attendance, and at Toronto Police Headquarters in downtown Toronto, Toronto police raised the transgender flag for the first time to mark Transgender Remembrance Day.

Don’t let fear stop you from seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris

While at a recent dinner party, I was asked an interesting question: what’s your favourite city to visit and why do you have a connection with that place? I thought about it for a while and decided on London, which has always felt like home to me. It’s probably my obsession with British fashion and even the depressing weather. I heard other guests reply with places like Manhattan, New York, Tokyo, Japan, and other destinations. I got to thinking to what my answer might have been a few years ago—Paris, France.

France is one of the most popular European countries, with the City of Paris attracting a lot of attention. However, in 2016, the French Tourism Board reported a dip in tourists in the city, with the industry losing almost £644M. This sharp decline was mainly caused by terrorism fears and concerns. France is a country that relies heavily on tourism, with seven per cent of the country’s GDP  generated from those sales. Even the Eiffel Tower had about 1 million less visitors last year.

 

Paris is known as the city of love and, before terrorism became an active concern, it was seen as a peaceful and romantic destination with odd crimes and pick-pockets. French tourism does not look so positive, as a few weeks ago, in the City of Nice, nine people were arrested after a thwarted terror attack.

However, one of the worst things you can do is let fear restrict you from travelling to the places you dream of. We are living in an unpredictable world, but that shouldn’t prevent someone from experiencing other cultures or relaxing with friends and family. Here are four small tips to travel without fear.

  • Consider your anxiety and don’t let proposed fear outweigh actual concerns. As a tip, maybe stay away from overly populated tourists spots or make sure your valuables are kept safe. Try getting a small lock for your backpack to deter pickpockets.
  • Know where you’re going. Research the neighbourhoods and know roughly how to get to your destination. Don’t wander down dark streets on your own.
  • Don’t let regret plague you from missing out on a good trip. At the end of the day, you don’t want to think “Oh, I wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower, but I was too worried about pickpockets”. You will always regret not going to see this iconic and historic marvel. Just do it!
  • Stop worrying about something that is out of your control. Sometimes, shit happens. Just take every minute as it comes and remember that as long as you are safe, everything else is small potatoes.

Try to venture off the beaten track a bit and explore less popular neighbourhoods in Paris, including Quartier Chinois (Chinatown), Bastille, Canal Saint Martin or Saint-Germain-des-Pres. This way you can soak up all the food, culture, fashion and romance the city has to offer without having to line up for hours with hundreds and thousands of other tourists like you.

Will you be planning you next trip to Paris? Comment below.

6 holiday traditions from different parts of the world

What does Christmas mean to you? This holiday is celebrated all over the world. For some, it’s all about the brightly lit streets and crowded stores, with people all looking for presents to share with their loved ones, but for others the holiday can be more about tradition or spiritual guidance. The interesting part is that the commonality is family, gift-giving, and myth.

Here are six Christmas customs from around the world:

Japan

In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday, but it is still celebrated by many people in the country. There is no Santa Claus. Instead there is Santa Kurohsu. Santa Kurohsu takes after a Buddhist monk in Japanese culture, who would travel to peoples homes to leave gifts and was said to have eyes at the back of his head to observe if children were being naughty. Strangely, the Japanese tend to eat a lot of KFC during the week of Christmas, thanks to clever marketing dating back to the eighties. Their unofficial ‘Christmas cake’ is strawberry shortcake.

Norway

Christmas in Norway is known as Jul and is celebrated on Dec 25. However, the gift-giving is done on Christmas eve. One of the most interesting customs is that all brooms are hidden on Christmas eve. This way, it can’t be stolen for use by evil spirits or witches.

Venezuela

Residents in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, adore Christmas. Venezuela is a predominantly a Catholic country so going to mass on Christmas is necessary, but it’s just the method of getting there that’s odd. Residents in Caracas can be seen roller-blading to church mass in the earl morning hours, and it’s so popular that the roads are often cleared of traffic and a special path is provided. Venezuelan’s celebrate Nochebuena, which is seen as the night before Christmas, where families exchange gifts and eat a full christmas dinner.

Italy

Christmas celebrations start eight days before Christmas in Italy, with many families headed to mass. Families offer special Novenas (prayers) and typically gather on Christmas Eve for a midnight celebration. On Christmas eve, no meat is eaten with the exception of a light seafood dish. More importantly, in Italian tradition, children await Befana, a friendly witch that travels to children’s homes to fill their stocking with gifs. This night is known as Epiphany or feast of the Three Kings, which is celebrated 12 days after Christmas, on Jan. 6.

Czech Republic

One of the most interesting Christmas traditions is reserved for single or unmarried women. An unmarried woman must stand with her back facing an open door and throw a shoe over her shoulder. If the front of the shoe lands facing the door, she is to wed within the next 12 months. It also signifies possible love in the new year. In the Czech Republic and other European countries, they also celebrate St Nicholas Day, on Dec. 5, where children wait for St Nicholas to arrive with angels and with devils. The devil might give you a lump of coal while an angel will give you sweets or fruit once a child sings a song or recites a poem for St Nicholas.

Ukraine

The Christmas trees tend to look a lot different in Ukraine, as they are often decorated with artificial spiders and webbing. Instead of the colourful balls and happy tinsel, the tree might look like a scene out of a Halloween tell. However, the story behind this Ukrainian Christmas tradition is rather fascinating. As the tale goes —an old woman was once unable to afford decorations for her tree, but when she woke on Christmas morning, she instead found a spider, who decorated the tree with it’s shimmering web.

Do you have a Christmas tradition or custom you know about? Comment below

Blake Shelton named People’s Sexiest Man Alive??

People Magazine revealed their cover choice for Sexiest Man Alive… and they chose Blake Shelton.

Not to sound disappointed— but I am. And it seems like I am not alone. The People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive edition is one that always makes the news, with the big reveal used to send women to the grocery stores just to pick up a copy. Anyone remember Johnny Depp’s 2009 cover or Channing Tatum’s heart stopping  2012 photo when all the women were going crazy for Magic Mike? Good times.

Blake Shelton is a relatively good looking guy (for someone with a dad-bod) and, from what I’ve seen on The Voice, he is very funny, talented and always in joking competition with his other co-star Adam Levine, who was named Sexiest Man Alive in 2013. When Shelton’s cover was revealed, it felt like a prank. I was waiting to hear, “Just kidding folks!”  Blake and Adam’s playful relationship was even highlighted in the promotion of this cover issue, as People TV revealed a short and funny video of Shelton displaying cue cards, similar to that famous romantic scene in Love Actually, that poked fun at Levine’s cover title.

It makes me wonder, is this an extension of their funny-frenemy-relationship extended from outside of The Voice. Will Levine respond to this? I have so many questions. What I do know is that previous cover holders are normally Hollywood heartthrobs — stunning and attractive men that make you swoon. Shelton…well, he doesn’t exactly cut the bill. And I’m not the only one who thinks so

The 41-year old country music singer brushed off most of the negative chat and thanked people on his twitter for his ‘sexy’ cover. Sheldon tweeted “thank you @people!!! don’t hate me because i’m beautiful…” He then continued to make fun of his sexy title for the rest of the night. And maybe that’s just it. Shelton is fun. He’s charming, cute and humorous, but does that make him sexy? Most would say no.

There were a few fans who supported Shelton, who say that sexy doesn’t mean a good body and abs. While this may be true, most of the previous titles by People always featured hollywood steamers. It’s kind of what everyone expects.

Here are some of the previous cover holders and even some double winners.

  • 2016- Dwayne Johnson
  • 2015- David Beckham
  • 2014-Chris Hemsworth
  •  1995 and 2000-Brad Pitt
  • 1997 and 2006- George Clooney
  • 2003 and 2009- Johnny Depp
  • Youngest cover- 1988- The late John F. Kennedy Jr at 27
  • Oldest cover- 1989-  Sean Connery at 59
  • Unusual cover- sexiest couple edition 1993- Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford
  • ‘What is should have been’ cover – 2017- Idris Elba

Revealing Sheldon as the Sexiest Man Alive 2017 felt like an insult. Like, are you even real 2017 ? But this is all fun and games, because there is nothing we can do about it.

Photo provided by: Disney Channel/Image Group LA

So what determines the sexiest man alive? Comment below.

5 things you can do to keep your skin healthy

The secret to healthy and youthful skin can seem like a mystery . There are countless beauty products and companies that claim to know the secret. While our skin can benefit from extra hydration, moisture, and certain mineral boosts that beauty products offer, there are a few things you can do as a base that will help you achieve your best natural glow. Follow these five tips for healthy and beautiful skin, no matter your age.

Let your skin breathe.

Starting this off simple, you should know your skin is an organ. In fact, it it the largest organ of the human body. It protects us from microbes, it regulates internal temperature, and permits various sensations. When you get in the habit of wearing heavy makeup daily, you are suffocating your face! Essentially, the key is to let your skin breathe. By all means wear your make-up ( especially if you are a makeup addict like me ), but keep it minimal and save the extra glow highlighter for special occasions.

Sunscreen is your friend

UV rays and sun damage are your enemies! While it feels good to have the warm sunshine caress our faces, it is also essential to have some sort of barrier or protection. Having a good moisturizer, or even a bb cream with included SPF can do wonders. Try looking for a moisturizer with a broad spectrum SPF of 30 or higher.

Go get that facial !

We all know a little bit of self-care and love goes a long way. With our day to day lives, we can experience lack of sleep, stress, imbalanced hormones, and pollution.  All of these thing (and more) have a negative impact on our skin. It is recommended that you get a deep cleansing/moisturizing facial done by a professional about once a month. While our budgets may not allow this luxury, you can also take matters into your own hands by doing an exfoliating treatment at least once a week, or trying out a ready to use sheet-mask to target your problem areas. Remember to keep your skin type in mind so you don’t harm yourself.

Develop a proper cleansing routine

Repeat after me: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer…

At the end of a long day, the best thing you can do is wash off your makeup and baby your skin. Once you get into this habit, it will become a routine for you, It is essential you find products that are wholesome and alcohol-free to take care of your face.

Hydrate Hydrate

Water is my best-friend ( not actually ). I always have a large bottle of water by my side to ensure that I am hydrated during the day. Water is the ultimate hydrator to your skin and can instantly make your skin looked refreshed, starting from the inside out. Our bodies are already about 55 per cent water, so when we re-hydrate what we lose, we are maintaining the balance. Water flushes the toxins out of your body and can also be used to help symptoms of acne.

Are you thirsty for better skin ? Comment below and let us know what your skincare routine is like!

First “digital” pill approved by the FDA in circulation

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday they have approved the first digital pill in the United States to help health professionals ensure patients are taking their medication. This revolutionary, and uneasy, advancement in technology and medicine came as an interesting surprise. Abilify MyCite is a pill used to treat patients with mental disorders such as  schizophrenia, depression, and bi-polar disorders. The pill looks like any other normal pill, but it is engrained with a tiny ingestible sensor no bigger than a grain of sand.

Once ingested and mixed with acid in the stomach, Abilify MyCite activates an electrical signal. This signal is then transmitted to a patch that is worn by the patient on their left rib cage.  The information is then sent via bluetooth to a smartphone app, which can list the time the pill was taken, the dosage, and gives the patient the option to upload these results to a database where doctors can access the file.

Image courtesy of Proteus Digital Health

The sensor then passes through your body naturally, as the little chip is made of silicon, copper, and magnesium. The patch that will be worn on the body can last up to seven days and will continually record the data every time you take the pill. The patch is also able to track physical activity, steps taken, heart-rate, sleeping patterns and other data similar to a smart fitness tracker. This pill/patch combo does raise many concerns about patient privacy and the vulnerability of having our personal information available to others..

The patient has the power to upload the data, but can allow access to four other members, including family members or significant others. While this is a big step in digital health, there is also cause for concerns in terms of information sharing, especially considering the increase in data breaches and internet hacking.

Doctors must determine if the patient is capable and willing to use the pill/patch combo. Being an antidepressant, Abilify MyCite, does come with risks, including worsening suicidal thoughts and a list of side-effects determined during the clinical trial, including a possible skin irritation from the patch.

The pills are manufactured by Japanese pharmaceutical company, Otsuka, in collaboration with the producers of the sensors, Proteus Digital Health. Concerns have been raised that the FDA may have opened the door for other potential digital pills, but advocates says the technology will ensure medication is not wasted and that patents are actually taking their pills and getting the treatment they need.

Abilify was first approved by the FDA in 2012 and since then, the pill with an included sensor was in the works and Abilify MyCite was first approved for marketing in 2012 as well.

What are your thoughts on the first approved digital pill and does this reinforce the fact that Big Brother is always watching ? Comment below.

 

Lupita Nyong’o is beautiful…but I guess not European beautiful

As I sat scrolling through Instagram Saturday afternoon, I came across a post by Lupita Nyong’o. Nyong’o is a Hollywood actress who rose to fame after her role in the award-winning 12 Years a Slave in 2013. She became the first Kenyan-Mexican actress to win an academy award for Best Supporting Actress. After her breakout role in 2013, Nyong’o was adorned as this African princess of sorts- exotic, beautiful, but never more beautiful than the euro-centric standard of beauty displayed in Hollywood.

The image of Nyong’o that Hollywood approved of was a dark-skinned woman with a shaved head — regardless of the fact that her hair had grown since her role in 2013.

Pre-conceptions aside, what followed over the last week was a complete slap in the face. Nyong’o was photographed for the latest cover of Grazia U.K., a fashion news magazine. When the magazine came out, Nyong’o, and many others (myself included) were surprised to see that she looked completely different. The photography and editorial team had lightened her skin and completely removal of her Afro-puff. How on earth was this ok?

The complete alteration of Nyong’o image shows that, according to western Hollywood standards, a black woman cannot be too dark, a black woman must have straight hair, a black woman must speak properly, and a black woman must never be too sexy.

The photographer issued the following apology: “My altering of her image was not born out of any hate, but instead out of my own ignorance and insensitivity to the constant slighting of women of colour throughout the different media platforms.”

Many people who are unaware of the postcolonial issues that black women have faced, much less in Hollywood, are just willing to brush this off and hear the apology of the photographer that altered the image. There is no apology that can fix what has already been done. These events just prove how many people remain ignorant to the struggles women of colour face in the world.

The photographer, while apologetic, was merely following the pre-set Hollywood guidelines for cover photos. Nyong’o has been vocal about how removing her Afro-hair from the cover of the magazine speaks to the prejudice that still exists with black kinky and curly hair. It is tolerable to have straight smooth hair, but utterly classy and unkempt to be walking around with frizzy coils. Blacks are judged on their social inferiority based on their features like skin-tone, hair, and nose structure. This was just another example.

Taking away a black woman’s natural hair is like asking her to repress her culture and her heritage — to be compliant in the never-ending fight for what is deemed beautiful. If you have a problem with understanding this, then you need to kindly check your privilege.

Lyft brings competition to Uber just in time for the holidays

Lyft is coming to Toronto!

Lyft is the second most popular ride-hailing app and has been around in the United States since 2012, three years after the launch of Uber.  The service will make their first introduction to the international market in Toronto, with a plan to start their business up by the end of the year. This will provide a healthy dose of competition for Uber, a company that is not that popular within the city. In October of 2015, Toronto city council amended a bylaw allowing Uber to operate after the company was hit with a lawsuit filed by the taxi and limo drivers industry in Toronto.

Uber welcomes the competition from Lyft, as Lyft’s president John Zimmer said in a statement. “We see [Toronto] as a world class city. It will likely become one of our top five markets overall,” he said. “As a city, that really shares the values that we have at Lyft- focusing on people taking care of people, treating people well, treating people with mutual respect, and promoting both inclusion and diversity.”

While Uber has faced criticism in the past few months in some major cities, including London and Montreal, Lyft has been increasing its market share in the U.S. and even recorded a growth of  $1.6 billion in financing this past year alone. The company says they are now worth $11bn. In May 2017 , Lyft struck a deal with Google’s Waymo, in order to develop self-driving cars.

The services offered by Lyft are very similar to Uber, complete with reduced prices. But, the launch of  Lyft is  also drawing criticism from the taxi industry operating in Toronto. Beck Taxi, one of the more popular taxi services operating in Toronto, said that Lyft can generate the same amount of negative consequences as Uber, referencing sex assault cases. This all has to do with the qualifications and background information of available drivers.

Lyft has began placing calls for drivers. They plan to launch next month, just in time for the holidays. Lyft will be operating in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton and have released five options that Torontonians can look forward to:

  • Regular vehicles for up to four passengers
  • Vehicles that can carry six passengers ( The plus service)
  • High end cars ( premier)
  • Luxury black cars ( Lux and Lux SUV )

No pricing information has been released, but it is expected to be in the same range as Uber pricing, hopefully with promotional discounts considering this will be their Toronto launch. Lyft has also announced it has its eyes on other major cities, including London, U.K..

It will be interesting to see how different Lyft will be in comparison to Uber and how the Toronto Taxi industry will continue to survive.

What are your thoughts on Lyft launching in Toronto and will you be trying this over Uber ? Comment below.