All Posts

AI, Climate Action and Equitable Healthcare: What we learned at the February 2024 <i>Maclean's</i> Ideas Summit

Written by

Worried about AI replacing jobs or Canada lagging in climate action? On February 28, 2024, Maclean's convened influential thinkers for its third iteration of the Ideas Summit to share insight into some of the most pressing issues facing Canadians today. Held at Toronto's StartWell Event Studio, the evening’s compelling conversation featured an introduction by Maclean's Editor-in-Chief Sarah Fulford, a keynote address by Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow and a panel discussion moderated by publisher Jason Maghanoy.

The Ideas Summit is made possible by presenting sponsor Uber Canada, as well as supporters: Microsoft Canada, Amazon Canada and Fitzrovia. It will return on May 2, 2024, with a focus on "Power."

Here’s what we learned:

Idea #1: Embrace the mundanity of AI

There is a lot of fear mongering when it comes to AI; think doomsday scenarios of robots taking over the world. But according to John Weigelt, national technology officer at Microsoft Canada, AI is far more mundane. Every day we are using more AI, Weigelt explained. Examples include maps and navigation, banking and rideshare apps. Understanding how these tools work can help us overcome the fear, paving the way for Canada to become a leader in responsible AI development and adoption.

Idea #2: We’re beyond carbon reduction, now

Phil De Luna, chief carbon scientist and head of engineering at Deep Sky, thinks we aren't reducing our emissions fast enough. There's a growing recognition of the need to remove emissions from the atmosphere, not just reduce them. While the carbon tax may seem burdensome, the actual impact is relatively low, Phil explained. The focus should be on holding corporations accountable for their emissions and sustainable business practices.

Idea #3: Support an app-based workforce

The rise of app-based services like Uber has created income opportunities in Canada. Moving forward, a collaborative effort between governments and companies is crucial. Laura Miller, public policy and communications leader of Uber Canada emphasized the need to create a modernized labour framework that establishes minimum standards for platform workers while preserving the flexibility that attracts many people to these jobs.

Idea #4: Building for equitable healthcare

Effective healthcare hinges on understanding a patient's cultural background. Dr. Teresa M. Chan, founding dean of Toronto Metropolitan University School of Medicine and vice-president of medical affairs, highlighted the importance of robust public health systems and collaboration between communities and healthcare providers. By revamping curricula to include courses on cultural sensitivity, health equity, self-care and understanding the realities of the healthcare system, Canada can empower its future doctors to make a real difference.

Idea #5: Think of AI as collaborator vs. a competitor in the arts

In the film industry, there’s a wave of anxiety about the potential of AI to automate jobs traditionally held by humans. Clement Virgo, a leading Canadian film director, balances these concerns with a belief that as long as the artistic vision remains firmly in the hands of human creators, AI will ultimately serve as a collaborator rather than a competitor. This optimism stems from the film industry's proven track record of adaptation, in which it has consistently embraced new technologies while ensuring the human element remains the driving force behind storytelling.

Idea #6: Nurture our Canadian talent

Financial backing is just one piece of the puzzle for a thriving Canadian film industry, according to Magda Grace, head of Prime Video, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. While local investment is critical, a successful film industry hinges on continuous investment in training and development programs. This ensures a pipeline of skilled professionals and empowers emerging creators to bring their stories to life, solidifying the foundation of a successful film industry.

Idea 7: The need for human-led change

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow believes that the city's core issue lies in prioritizing people's well-being. This requires not just technological solutions, but also a strong political will to make tough decisions and allocate resources towards crucial areas like affordable housing, education, mental health services and public transit.

Get ticket information for the May 2 event. Sign up for the Maclean’s newsletter here.

Share this post