Conference of Montreal:
A cut above most gatherings, the event offered three days of enlightened discussions to 4300 participants
By Jean-Luc Burlone
Discussions and speeches in this type of event often reflect, in many ways, where we stand with current issues. For instance, Quebec’s Premier was embracing change in the spirit of the times – mindful of his government Act respecting the laicity of the State that divides Quebeckers between those who can and those who cannot be what they are. Populists in several democracies that lack able statesmen to build social cohesion promote such a divisive vision.
Others stress issues to correct them. The Secretary-General of the OECD, for instance, reminded us that 60% of youth did not vote at the referendum on Brexit. This fact awakens us all to the danger facing democracies when disinterest takes ground. It is noteworthy that President Obama used every possible occasion to solicit young Americans to vote for their future. The right to vote is the very arche (ἀρχή) of democracy.
Technology was abundantly discussed. Nine discussions, relevant to artificial intelligence (AI), reflected the importance of that game-changing factor. For example, we learned how efficiently AI teaches languages as it allows for flexible lessons that can meet the schedule, ability and level of knowledge of each pupil. We were also reminded that AI is not a superior tool than a book to teach reading.
Technology was abundantly discussed. Nine discussions, relevant to artificial intelligence (AI), reflected the importance of that game-changing factor.
In health radiography, AI diagnoses issues more rapidly and more surely than the average practitioner and in transportation, it can increase safety and eventually safely replace some drivers. In finance, however, robots underperformed humans recently; Stocks rocky month saw humans beat the machines, as the Financial Times reported in its June 10 issue.
There is a repertoire of over seven hundreds types of robots, each with its own specific functionalities but their superiority depends on the requirements of the job. The more demanding and the more specific we are about our needs, better-suited robots will become.
But it is hardly realistic to expect a fully automated future; after all, it is humans that feed AI and our data today has more value than our past ones. Our enthusiasm for technology may entice us to believe in fantasies that befit Hollywood productions (Terminator and the like). We forget that technology is a marvel of mathematics and that AI is not a sentient being. Technology only replicates what we do and extends what we are, including our biases.
In Embracing Change, the Conference of Montreal has pushed most discussions beyond their conventional wisdom, raising the awareness of its audience to the complexities of our era.
Of course, technology facilitates transactions, particularly in developing countries that lack communications modes. It improves the quality of life and increases people’s overall wellbeing. But innovation is not progress and a reality check raises questions: Is Facebook more user-friendly than a phonebook to find the telephone number of a new acquaintance? Are business repertoires on the Internet reliable? Who checks them?
Similar advanced and disturbing thoughts were made about most issues raised at the conference. In Embracing Change, the Conference of Montreal has pushed most discussions beyond their conventional wisdom, raising the awareness of its audience to the complexities of our era.
Image: courtesy of Conference of Montreal
Jean-Luc Burlone, Ms. Sc. Economy, FCSI (1996)
Economic Analysis & Financial Strategies