Posted by Laura Rehrmann on Sep 25, 2019
Paying tribute to our main speaker, Brandon Lee, Consul General of Canada in Seattle, we opened with a song…”this land is your land from Nova Scotia to Vancouver Island.”  Mr Lee has been in Canada’s diplomatic corps since 2004, serving as ambassador to the Silicon Valley, and as strategic change agent for the World Health Organization and the International Red Cross.  His expertise is in diplomacy between sovereign nations and technology. 
He reminded us that since Canada is in an election season his comments did not reflect the government of Canada, but were his personal opinions.  He said that world politics are changing and that in the Canadian view, the US is an unreliable partner.  Structures of institutions, alliances and global rules are being questioned around the world.  The American dream, and the global dream of a good education, job, healthcare and the opportunity to lead a good life are being challenged.  In addition, governments are being asked to do more with less and consumers are demanding increasing speed and the scope of response that they find in the commercial world.  Public service and bureaucracy has an (negative) emotional charge. 
These profound attitudinal changes within our communities and sectors (for profit, non profit and government) come just at the time that, in his opinion, collaboration between all the sectors is how we will maintain and improve our lifestyles.  Why is this critically important now?  Digital advances and the digital economy will drive enormous change in each sector and affect us all.
Currently, Artificial Intelligence (AI) simulates human intelligence  There are three types of AI: narrow, general and super.  What we experience now is narrow such as our Alexa type devices.  But what is coming is much more advanced as in the recently published research that found that humans and computers are equally adept at detecting some disease states.  The future of super AI is beyond our imaginations, but probable in the next 10 to 50 years.  Governments need to prepare now for the actual “Terminator” and other dramatic changes appearing in our lives.  Computers will have the capability of processing five billion bits per second of information while we humans can process 200 bits per second.
He also highlighted the third type of AI: deep fakes.  Deep learning by a computer involves two engines: one creates and the second one validates.  They are continuously learning through algorithms pitted against each other.  He gave as an example that the speech he was giving to us could be recorded and altered and President Obama’s face could replace his and the mouth movements would be identical.
Consul General Lee asked that we all become involved in understanding what technology is capable of and how fast it is moving.  He said that we need everyone to read and learn about technology and reminded us that our life experiences are essential in moving to new digital forms.
What do these rapidly changing technologies mean for all of us?  The digital economy is a reality and there will eventually be 40 mega regions in the world which benefit while those outside of them will suffer.  There are about 23 of these mega regions now (San Francisco to San Jose, CA or NYC to Boston, for example).  Vancouver (Canada), Seattle and Portland, what has been called Cascadia, has the opportunity to become a mega region based on population, GDP and geography.
He closed his remarks by stating that the job of governments is to protect people and their country by scaling technology in human, inclusive and diverse ways to build our communities and sustain our environment.
In response to  a variety of thoughtful questions he said that the adoption of technology is inevitable and today our phones are more powerful than the computers that sent Neil Armstrong to the moon.  We can begin to understand the efficiencies to gain from technology, but the direction of the technology is not known.  Do not be overwhelmed, pay attention and read and learn because our life experiences are essential to shaping the future of technology, he said. 
Government's job is to be patient and aim for a slow second.  Government can’t pivot and if it tries to use Facebook’s well known mantra, 'go fast and break things,' it will get it wrong," he continued.  “Governments should be guiding rather than regulating.” 
Ray Cullom, CEO of the Performing Arts Center Eastside (PACE), was introduced during our short program.  After 30 years in the arts as an actor, director and developer of performance spaces around the country and the world, he arrived in 2018 to develop PACE, a building he believes is best positioned to change and shape performance.  He is working to invent completely new and immersive art forms driven by the region’s use and understanding of technology. 
Nancy Cahill gave an inspiration to remind us that we should not compare ourselves to others and used the ugly duckling who becomes a swan as illustration.  She said you are made to be you.  Ask, who can I encourage in this moment? 
Jan Levy introduced new member David Park, VP of business development for Juniper Capital.  The complete introduction is included in this issue. 
We left the meeting energized, cautioned, and slightly overwhelmed by the technology changes that are now affecting, and will continue to affect every sector from government, business, the arts, and each of us in our daily lives. 

Thank you Totem Reporter Laura Rehrmann

Media Sponsors