This article appeared in the InsideToronto.com and was published on December 9, 2016
Mayor John Tory announced Tuesday the Scarborough Southwest councillor is leaving his powerful Executive Committee, but he also named Holland the city’s first Advocate for the Innovation Economy.
The position is meant to steer Torontonians to better futures as technology, and artificial intelligence in particular, changes the way people live and work.
“The innovation economy is here to stay and if we as a city and a region are to succeed within it then we must be more effective and proactive in harnessing this period of great change,” Holland said in a release.
“From ride sharing companies to automated vehicles to commercial drones, the innovation economy will continue to change our lives.”
In a letter this week, Tory thanked Holland for taking the role, saying he wants to establish Toronto “as a place where new ideas and new industries can flourish.”
Among other things, he asked Holland to champion diversity, “including better representation of women” in high tech and knowledge sectors, help Toronto “attract and retain talent,” and work on “re-skilling initiatives” for people displaced by technological innovation.
A discussion hosted by Scarborough Community Renewal Organization at Centennial College’s Progress Campus on Thursday, Dec. 1, suggested it’s hard to predict how technology will change the city.
Former MPP Sean Conway chaired a group which submitted a report to Ontario’s Liberal government this summer, urging employers to adjust to technological change.
At the event, Conway asked the audience which jobs would be needed in 2030. “Think aging population. Think health care,” he advised, adding many older workers with “soft skills” will need technical retraining.
But Dr. Wendy Cukier, a Ryerson University professor and expert on disruptive technology, said trying to project trends beyond five years is a waste of time.
“About 50 per cent of jobs may disappear, we just don’t know which ones,” said Cukier, arguing people educated in humanities and social sciences may have a futures in technology too.
“If all you do is focus on science, technology, engineering and math, you’re focusing on men.”