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“Artificial Intelligence is Canada’s Game”

We recently sat down with canada@150 alumni Michael Karlin. In the podcast, he speaks to the foresight tools he learned in canada@150 and how it shaped the work that he does today looking at Artificial Intelligence and the Automation of work for Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Chief Information Officer Branch, where he specializes in Digital Service Policy and Strategy.

In the interview he takes listeners into the future of work. He provokes listeners to think about the importance of foresight in designing policy that can ensure the political class is able to “run the ship far into the future”.

Transcript available below:

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My Future of Work

It was the third day of a seemingly ceaseless workshop, and I was exhausted. We were all exhausted. And yet there was also a sense of exhilaration, of elation in the room. The three Socio-economic Inclusion (SEI) teams were gathered to refine our policy challenges and opportunities, sharing ideas shaped by our diverse individual interests and expertise, and respectfully debating contentious issues, when it occurred to me: Work could be like this. This was work: engaging in deep critical thought, challenging ourselves and each other, questioning the questions, and attempting to find answers.

I went to Winnipeg to dive deep into the future of work, and I ended up experiencing a very clear vision of what I hope my future of work will look like: building connections with deeply inspiring colleagues, openly sharing diverse perspectives, freedom to express dissent, and always space to laugh. We entered the program as individuals from across the Federal Government, varied in life and work experience, and cohered as a team, free of hierarchy or pretense. We approached problems in a way that none of us could have on our own, or working within the silos of our home departments and agencies.

I now recognize what I was seeing. One of the first weak signals shared by a Canada Beyond 150 colleague expressed shifting notions of diversity and inclusion. While baby boomers and Gen X view diversity as equal representation and protections regardless of gender, race, religion, or ethnicity (among other identity factors), for millennials, diversity is the integration of myriad backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, and bringing them all to bear upon a single problem. And where earlier generations understand inclusion as a moral imperative to make space for diverse individuals in a workplace, for millennials, inclusion is a much more active concept. For this generation, inclusion refers to an openly collaborative environment that values different ideas and perspectives, and actively draws them in. Further, millennials know that these forms of diversity and inclusion have strongly positive impacts on an organization.

This may be the greatest insight I have gained from my participation in this program so far. Work can be like this. Work should be like this. What we can accomplish when we truly value diversity and inclusion, when we actively work to draw out multiple perspectives, is not only staggering, it is beautiful.

Building Bridges

At the time I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but while I was in Winnipeg there was this certain song on loop in my head. From the time I woke up, throughout our discussions with various Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners in reconciliation, and well into the evening visits to museums and over dinners, it just kept playing. Unlike some of those less than pleasant earworms that can get in there – It’s A Small World anyone?! – this was a pleasant companion to underscore my days. It wasn’t until I stopped to reflect, that I realized this song’s lyrics were providing me with key kernels of wisdom for breaking open the present conversations I was having on Indigenous reconciliation. The song? Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel.

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Thoughts from a Shirtless Man in a Sweat Lodge

I have been wearing glasses all day, every day, for 19 years. I don’t do anything without them, and feel vulnerable when I see the world through my weak, bare eyes. But last week, in Winnipeg, I didn’t need my glasses to see where my work was going on the Canada Beyond 150 project.

My team and I were recently in Winnipeg, for the mid-project meeting and stakeholder interviews. Our group works on the theme of reconciliation. As part of our learning experience, we participated in a sweat lodge ceremony that was hosted by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). Kevin, from the NCTR (located on the University of Manitoba campus), made us feel at ease, and taught us about the centre; its mission, members, and the facility. There, I had my very first smudging, to cleanse the mind and prepare me for the conversations we were about to have with each other and our hosts. The dried sage was lit and extinguished, and my hands guided the smoke over my head, face, heart, and body.

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Live. Tweet. Learn.

It was not unlike many mornings in the office, save for one thing. As I sat sipping my coffee, responding to emails and completing my daily work, a stream of Twitter notifications lit up my screen. I was left thinking: what had I posted that could possibly generate so much interest? New to the whole idea of tweeting while at work, I was a little apprehensive about checking for fear of falling down a rabbit hole. But I did, and quickly realized the traffic was on a Canada Beyond 150 tweet I had made a few weeks back while I was working with my group in Ottawa. A tweet demonstrating a snippet of the ideas that had sprouted from one conversation and that was taken out of context – not an entirely surprising occurrence on Twitter.

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Live blog from Winnipeg: What’s keeping everyone up at night

Once the intention was set, the conversation turned to focus on policy. Policy, according to Stuart Forestell, one of Canada Beyond 150’s project team designers, is the answer to the question: “what should we do?”.

The room was presented with a scenario concerning an individual with some challenges. The story was designed to help guide the discussion in a focused manner on the traditional and emerging policy tools that can be used or considered. We talked about what can be done, how a shift can be communicated to individuals, businesses, and lawmakers, and what the possible consequences may be.

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Live blog from Winnipeg’s mid-project working meeting: Setting the intention

“As you are learning, we are learning too.”

This was one of the first things the Canada Beyond 150 group heard this morning; a fitting description of the program and the journey so far.

This morning, the discussion was around the pivot point: the shift from foresight and the ideas of many possibilities, into the complex world of concrete considerations, recommendations, and applications.

Given everything heard, learned, taught, and examined over the last few months, what can now be applied to the work participants are doing in their service to Canadians at their respective departments?

What lies ahead is a positive vision of a fully engaged workplace, helped by the knowledge and experience gained by each participant. It’s the time to engage, have conversations, ask, learn, listen and have fun.

Next Stop: Winnipeg

Our participants have set a course for Winnipeg, Manitoba, where they will hold an important work meeting where the teams will start to explore policy challenges and their possible solutions. The participants will also take advantage of this meeting to share their analysis of the theme they studied.

Why Winnipeg?

As Doug Collins said, to change a team you need to change its comfort zone! A comfort zone is like a bubble, a universe that is familiar to us. It’s safe, but it stops at the unknown. It’s important to push the limits in order to grow. The decision to hold the mid-project meeting in Winnipeg was deliberate—first of all, we wanted our participants to meet outside of the National Capital Region, get out of their comfort zone or “bubble” and get comfortable with the unknown to help their professional development.

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Life as a Professional Guinea Pig: Living the Experiment

Retrospectively speaking, my first seven years in the public service have followed a random path: I’ve segued from real property corporate reporting, to IT projects and portfolio management, to working as a Free Agent acting as a federal regulations policy analyst. I’ve also worked on side projects for the government that were driven by my personal passions and interests (like workplace giving, mobile app development, and connecting people through youth networks). As I moved from junior analyst, to project manager, to supervisor, and enjoyed the experiences these positions offered, I realized diversity of experience has been the name of my game, and that experimentation (whether I was the tester or the tested) has been the defining element of that game.

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Policy is an answer…

… to the question, “What should we do?”

We have answers to what we must do. Those are laws and regulations.

And we have answers for how we should do things. We observe, listen, and consult; we engage and design.

Research gives us facts about what we could do, and various approaches to doing it. Analysis tells us whether those approaches are any good or not. They can be qualitative, quantitative, experimental – you name it. But that’s what they do.

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