Tag Archives: jobs

It’s Just a Survey, People!

I’m not sure whether you know this or not but a very long time ago I worked for the government. That’s right. I was a servant of the public and let me just say I have the utmost respect for those who still are. My job, somewhat ironically, was finding other people jobs. In good times it was a relatively simple job, in bad times it was a bit more complicated but either way, it was always a pretty busy job that took up most of my time during the day. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there wasn’t a little bit of slack. A few moments to gossip with my workmates about the latest scandals. You know. Some tongue wagging about who was going out with whom, and who knew, or perhaps more interesting, who didn’t know. And I’m certainly not going to deny that I may have played an extra game or two of Bejeweled on the computers set up in the lunch room for that very purpose (I told you it was a long time ago). But most of the time you could find me sitting behind my desk, welcoming each and every one of the people who were counting on me to help them out of what was often a rather unfortunate situation. So it was a busy little job. Which is why a recent news item baffled me just a bit. 

Bear with me now as I just need to backtrack here. Last week, like most everyone in this great country of ours, I received my instructions for completing the census questionnaire. It wasn’t a big surprise. After all, there have been a multitude of commercials on the TV reminding me that this very thing was going to happen and it would be my responsibility, as a good citizen, to do my duty and answer all of the questions asked. Those advertisements even went as far as explaining the importance of doing so as apparently, the programs and services you and I might access in the future depend on the answers we provide. Since, at the moment, I’ve got nothing but time on my hands, I figured I could spend a few of my precious minutes helping those who run this country figure out how to do the right thing. Honestly, that was motivation enough for me so one afternoon, after working on my jigsaw, I sat down with a coffee, a computer, the instructions and my guy, to get to the task at hand. Because that’s all I really needed. It all seemed so straight forward. At least that’s what I thought. 

You can imagine my surprise when, while watching the nightly news, I found out that someone, somewhere in those hallowed halls of Statistics Canada, decided there was a little something else we all needed to rev up our engines. It seems that we needed playlists. And not just a few. Many playlists. Each with many, many songs. Music to accompany the completion of the 2021 Statistics Canada Census. Now I don’t know about you but as much as I wanted to have a chuckle about this, I found myself overwhelmed by the number of questions that began swirling in my head. Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem becoming apprised of the many wonderful Canadian musical artists whose talents add so much to our lives. And if being part of a playlist means a few extra shekels for those hard working artists, in what we all know has been a really difficult time, you can count me in (swidt?). But I was still left wondering what in the world Statscan (that’s what we call them around here) wanted me to do with this treasure trove of Canadian music. Was I supposed to get up and dance once I figured out how many people other than myself lived in my house?  Break out in song because I was actually able to remember where my ancestors lived before they landed in this great country of ours? Recount the days of my youth as I listened to Trooper belt out “Raise A Little Hell”? Or perhaps wallow in a little self-pity as Ms. Murray crooned “Snowbird” reminding me of what I wasn’t this past winter. What exactly was this all about? And when did Statscan become the cognoscente for the Canadian music scene throughout the ages.

My interest peaked, I decided to delve just a little further into what exactly was going on and it was a fine thing to discover that our government wanted us to “experience the different facets of Canadian culture through the sounds of our celebrated musical talent”*. (Statistics Canada) Certainly a laudable endeavour, although since we do have a Ministry of Canadian Heritage I had to wonder if it was perhaps a bit misplaced. But digging a little deeper I also found that this rather extensive undertaking was also about time. That’s right. Time. You see, in Canada there are two types of census forms. The short one, that we all keep our fingers crossed we receive, and the dreaded long one that we don’t. Since we only get one and not the other it can sometimes be hard to discern which one we received. And, as a result, how long it will take to complete. Statscan has now come up with a way to help us out. We are told the short one will take only a few minutes. And the long one? Apparently about seven or eight songs from one of the playlists. Which only opened a whole other can of worms for me. Like which seven or eight songs? And wouldn’t they have saved a whole whack of time and energy by just telling me how long it would take in, oh I don’t know, minutes maybe? 

As a shallow person I’m not prone to judge others but I do have to wonder whether there’s someone walking the halls of Statscan with not quite enough to do. I know there are no more Bejeweled computers in the lunch room and maybe no one really cares much anymore about who’s doing what with whom, but surely there’s something more important to be done than putting together playlists for those of us who are dedicating, at most, a half hour of our day to complete a survey. I mean, it’s just a survey, people! Point us in the right direction and we’ll get it done. And if you really can’t find anything else to do, maybe give me a call. I know it’s been awhile but I might have a few tips I can share with you on how to find another job.

*Statistics Canada. “2021Census Soundtrack.” 2021Census Soundtrack, 2021, https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2021/ref/soundtrack-bandesonore/index-eng.htm. Accessed 12 May 2021.

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I am not a Robot

I gotta tell you. Writing a shallow blog these days is tough. There are just so many things that make it hard. Believe me. It’s not just about the “moron” (not my words) down south. He’s a problem but like many things, he too shall pass. Unfortunately there are more endemic issues we all face over the long term. Like climate change. Unless you have been living under a rock, and one that miraculously hasn’t been uprooted by a major hurricane, or bulldozed by those brave men and women fighting the extraordinary fires of late, it seems almost impossible to deny that our climate is, in fact, changing, leaving paths of death and destruction in it’s wake. And guns. I suppose not guns in and of themselves. But guns without controls. Guns that end up in the hands of people who, perhaps due to mental illness or, in my less benevolent moments, are quite simply horrible, decide to use them to take away hundreds and thousands of innocent lives. Lately that’s happened a lot. Honestly, it seems not a week goes by without some natural or unnatural disaster taking place and so it’s hard. Hard to be shallow in this world of ours.

Here’s the thing. I’m sure you understand by now that even though I am a self professed shallow person, I have feelings. Just like you. Well almost. So all this stuff bothers me too. Afterall, I am not a robot. Google knows that ‘cause I always check off the “I am not a robot” CAPTCHA on their sites. Which is a good thing since, to be brutally honest, I don’t really like robots very much. As a matter of fact, I find them pretty creepy. And if I must say so myself, I’m in pretty good company with the likes of Elon Musk, and my personal fav, Dr. Sherry Turkle, weighing in on what our collective future could hold with a bunch of tin men and women walking by our sides. Ok, they might not be made of tin but, make no mistake about it, they will be walking by our sides.  

I’m guessing that for some of you this revelation may come as a bit of a surprise. Because you might expect that if anyone was going to embrace the prospect of having a companion who, for all intents and purposes, looks and feels like you and me but remains unencumbered by the complexities of the human condition, it would be me. After all, we’re talking about a facsimile that will pretty much do your bidding without batting an eyelash, which, by the way, they will have. No questions asked. No drama. No feelings to hurt. Actually, no feelings what so ever. They’ll laugh when you laugh, cry when you cry. Out of bananas? They’ll get those for you without all the whining that would normally accompany such a request to the “real” people who reside in your home. With a robot by your side you could start to think that life had become that proverbial bowl of cherries. And I’m pretty sure they’ll pit those for you too. So what’s my beef? Why would the shallow gal feel so apprehensive about what is clearly touted as the next best thing since sliced bread? Well, here’s why.

Call me crazy but somehow I don’t cherish the prospect of sharing my life with an animate, inanimate object. Especially one that has a brain programmed to learn way more than my brain ever will. I’m an adult educator. I know all about lifelong learning. But this brings that concept to a whole new level. We’re not talking just about intelligence. We’re talking about artificial intelligence. This is not computer assisted learning. This is computers actually learning. Computers that are walking around your homes, businesses, playgrounds. Yep, there too. Computers that are getting smarter and smarter every day. Certainly smarter than you and me but also smarter than the smartest people we have among us. And they’re going to look a lot like us, although they are never going to get blemishes or wrinkles or big brown spots on their faces and hands. Elon Musk is worried that robots will take away our jobs. Rightly so. They can already teach themselves how to walk and talk and very soon they will be able to do what you and I do, only much better. Sherry Turkle worries that we have become so accustomed to interacting with devices that soon we won’t know what’s real and what’s not. Nor will we care. It’s a worry for sure. But I’m worried about a couple of other things.

Like guns. Guns and robots. We all know that guns are a problem. Guns in the hands of the wrong people are a bigger problem. Guns in the hands of robots? A problem perhaps too big to imagine. Here’s a scenario for you. A robot walks into a gun shop. Asks to buy a gun. Of course they do a background check. Not a problem. Robots don’t have backgrounds. It gets the gun. Now it tells its robot friends how easy it was. They all decide this is a really good idea and do the same. Remember.  There are hundreds and hundreds of robots who are smarter than us and have no real feelings. But now they have guns. Maybe they decide they don’t like people who are not as smart as they are. Or maybe they decide they just want to have some fun. You know. Like in the movies or the video games. I don’t know about you but this seems like a big problem and a pretty good reason to not like robots very much.

But that’s not the only reason I don’t like robots. It seems to me that if anyone or anything could be more shallow than me, it would  be a robot. A really smart robot. With no feelings. Smarter and shallower than me. I’m guessing that robot would never be stumped for ideas about what to write. No matter what’s going on in this world of ours. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to give this some more thought. Under the circumstances, getting a robot to write this blog might not be such a bad idea. 

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