Sunday, March 18, 2018

Are Alberta's Policy Makers Agile Enough for Emerging Technologies?

I have been travelling the province facilitating workshops on the the impacts and implications of emerging technologies in our economy.  These technologies are also called disruptive and exponential by some folks, depending on if you have a half empty or half full mindset.

The underlying motivation for these workshops is to gauge the awareness, interest, readiness,  planning and actions being taken to adopt and adapt to these transformational changes.  We have taken a special interest in the skills and competencies we humans will need to be able to work with these technologies and in spite of them.

There is a lot going on in the physical realms of autonomous vehicles, drones, robotics, automation, 3D printing for example.  It seems there is even more going on in the computational and information realms line artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, quantum computing.  Then we have bio-engineering and nanotechnology happening at alarming rates too.

Alberta has a unique opportunity to engage and lead in many of these areas as a smart way to diversify our economy.  But we need to get our heads out of the incremental mindset of  conservative thinking and get seriously and creatively into an innovation mindset of progressive change.

Boldness doesn't mean recklessness or brash behaviours but it does demand leaps of imagination using ingenuity in an applied way to see things differently.  This is not a call to rely on faith as a way forward.  It is a demand  that we look at evidence and deal with facts and live as much in the question as we do in seeking the answers.

That mean we have to teach ourselves to be innovative.  We need to escape the comfort and stability of the known and consciously choose to seek out the opportunity in the uncertainty and to seek to see things differently.

All of this comes into play in the collective exercise of our democracy through governance, regulation and...yes politics!  Are we citizens ready, willing and able to attract, identify and elect the kind of candidates?  Will we stay informed and engage with the policy-makers to influence and deal with these issues?  Are our institutions up the the challenge in these transformations, including political parties?

By example of policy implications, here is a brief recent backgrounder by Herman J.H. Ossthuysen on Autonomous Vehicles in Alberta.  It was originally published by the Alberta Council of Technologies as a provocation on the technological implications for policy issues for Alberta's transportation and infrastructure from autonomous vehicles in the trucking industry.

This change in approach must pervade all aspects of our lives and relationships to ourselves, to our economy, to our environment and our society.  We often define ourselves by what we "do" mostly by our work.  What if we envisaged a post-work society in the new reality of automation robotics and machine learning?  What will we use to establish our sense of worth if we are at the end of "Homo-Economicus?"

Here is a link to a Guardian Long Reads podcast on a "Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs."  It's about 35 minutes long so grab a cup of coffee of brew some tea and give it a listen.

The world is run by those who show up!  Passive pretentious progressivism can no longer be tolerated. I will look forward to your comments on this blog post.  After all we are all in this alone...together.

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