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"Data is the new air."

Five simple words, spoken by Matt Loeb, CGEIT, FASAE, CAE, captivated the audience of top association CEOs and industry suppliers at the 2019 CESSE CEO Meeting, framing a conversation around the impact of artificial intelligence on the future of work.
Five simple words, spoken by Matt Loeb, CGEIT, FASAE, CAE, captivated the audience of top association CEOs and industry suppliers at the 2019 CESSE CEO Meeting, framing a conversation around the impact of artificial intelligence on the future of work. Research and exploration of AI is far from new in the scientific and engineering association space, but as AI becomes more accessible and intertwined in our daily lives, technology will also influence workforce development and the association management profession.

During the session, John C. Havens, Executive Director of the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, shared perspectives on ethically-aligned design, advising that we welcome advancements in intelligent systems only to the extent that it advances humanity in an appropriate and fair way. According to Havens, “it's a great time to rethink what it means to be human. We should not delegate decisions to a machine unless we are confident that the machine we have built shares our values.”

Christina Colclough, Director of Digitalisation and Trade, UNI Global Union, expanded on John's commentary, asking the audience the thought-provoking question, “Would you have the job you have today, had an algorithm been responsible for hiring you?” She explored the potentials and pitfalls of AI as it applies to associations, advising that organizations looking to add AI into their toolset engage in deliberate planning and careful evaluation. Colclough recommends including workers in these processes to properly weigh the technology against the current workers' skill sets, ensure the workers are able to adapt and command the technology as intended, and to resist the path of super-surveillance of members, which may contribute to what she termed “the absurdity of the algorithm” in decision making and delivery of services.

There are varying levels of AI adoption in scientific and engineering associations and among their members, but one delegation of attendees at the CESSE CEO Meeting was more than ready to engage in this conversation. Business Events Canada, CESSE's Premier Partner, is a trusted source for knowledge and current developments around AI research and the intersection with association meetings. Canada is one of the first countries to have a national AI strategy. Canadian research institutes have been developing the foundation of AI technologies for over 30 years, building Canada's data-driven research capacity, the substructure of AI. This strong academic infrastructure evolved into a flourishing commercial ecosystem with Canadian start-ups implementing AI in fields as diverse as Fintech, business analytics, life sciences, autonomous vehicles, and CleanTech, creating data-driven solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems.

Becoming a world leader in the development of ground-breaking technologies that allows computers to observe, learn and adapt at mind-boggling speeds didn't just happen by serendipity. Curious researchers, scientists whose work was supported by world-class academic institutions, a future-focused government who helped fund innovation clusters, a thriving start-up scene, and perhaps the most Canadian of all attributes: the willingness to come together for a common purpose, have all helped place Canada in the lead of the global AI race. 

Caroline Bessega, chief scientific officer for Montreal's Stradigi AI, was recently quoted in the Financial Post, saying, “In the future, AI is going to be as normal and as natural as the electricity in this room right now. Nobody is going to talk about it because everyone is going to use it and have it.”
 
With this path forward made so clear, associations should strive to serve as a model for the appropriate and ethical use of artificially-intelligent systems, building upon the trust members place in associations and our shared belief that, regardless of technological advances, there will always be a need for a skilled, well-networked, human workforce.

Why Canada for AI?
 
There's a reason organizations like the Collision Conference chose to relocate North America's largest tech conference to Toronto, or why the North American version of World Summit AI chose Montréal for its landmark event. Canada is not only home to some of the world's best technologists, but it has a welcoming innovation culture with global reach. Learn more about Canada's AI ecosystem.
 
University of Alberta scientists are using a machine-learning model to determine data clarity of satellite imagery to better (and more quickly) predict man-made & natural disasters like landslides and earthquakes.
 
Opus One software lets grid operators understand and manage the massive amounts of data needed to control a system powered by thousands of individual solar panels and wind turbines.
 
Clearpath Robotics, born in a basement in Waterloo, is today a leading maker of research robots and unmanned vehicles used in research labs in 40 countries.
 
Kraken Technology's sonar-imaging and robotics technologies help researchers see very small objects on the sea bed from very long distances. 
 
Fluent AI's patented voice recognition solution enables natural language interactions with voice-operated systems and works with most languages and accents.

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