Category: Omnium-Gatherum

When the train runs you over, it’s not the caboose that kills you.

The caboose here is the submersible Titan which imploded with all five souls aboard on its way to visit the RMS Titanic, resting 12,500 feet below the sea.

We’ve since learned that the CEO of OceanGate Inc. which owned the Titan, viewed safety not as a costly, time-consuming necessity, but as a trivial pursuit, the enemy of innovation, a complete waste of time.

In this way, Stockton Rush is much like the anti-vaxxers who not only don’t believe the laws of physics, but dismiss them because they interfere with their political and financial agendas.

Two Canadians have led the way in calling out Rush for what he was: an aging tech-bro driven by fame and fortune, with all the moral ballast of Elizabeth Holmes.

Meanwhile…

Happy birthday to 0.48 percent of the world’s people

Canada is 156 years old today. But saying we’re a young country is like saying we’re a small country. We’re neither. We’re middle-aged, and with 40 million people, 157 countries are smaller than us and just 36 are larger.

I often say to my superlative-obsessed American friends that we may not be the best country in the world, but we’re easily the luckiest. One big reason is that we share our bed with America. We’re also hard to invade, because we’re so far from anywhere else, except America of course. But hey, if the US can’t have a civil relationship with Canada, who can they have one with?

Sure, we have lots of problems. But we also have a national pension scheme that’s second to none. While our health-care system is fraying, at least we have one. And parts of it work superlatively: Toronto General is the 4th best hospital in the world, Sick Kids is the world’s top children’s hospital. Which makes living in downtown Toronto another lucky rabbit. Which could be why so many people from outside are immigrating here. Oh, and one reason Canada shot so fast to 40 million people is that we opened our doors to more than a million immigrants a year. Last year, it was 1.05 million, compared to 1.5 million who emigrated to America in 2021 which has 10 times our population.

But the best luck of all is to be born or raised in a country where the odds of getting shot are tiny, the chance of going to university are better than anywhere in the world, and the chance of living a long and useful life are high and rising.

So raise a glass to the slightly paunchy, often hesitant country where “We’re pretty good!” is our national anthem.

Meanwhile…

Jesus had two dads, and He turned out okay.

The Pride Parade is on Sunday, June 25. Toronto’s parade is one of the world’s largest, and oldest, founded in 1972, nine years before the infamous bath-house raids.

It wasn’t always a party. In 2001, the Rev. Brent Hawkes, then the senior pastor at Toronto’s Metropolitan Community Church, performed the first legal same-sex marriage in the world. He wore a bullet-proof vest. When he retired in 2017, he created Rainbow Faith and Freedom to combat the rising tide of anti-gay rhetoric and regimes around the world. Sadly, he was ahead of his time. Today, it’s illegal to be gay in 66 countries, and in 12 of them you can be executed for being gay.

This reminded me that Canada’s population crossed the 40 million mark last week. That was a bit like seeing all the new skyscrapers in downtown Toronto. Were they there last week? Really? We’re growing by leaps and bounds because Canada has opened the gates to immigrants. In 2021, we took in 1.1 million people from elsewhere (compare this to 1.5 million for America which has 10 times our population).

What does immigration have to do with being gay?

Hard to say, but if I were gay and deciding to start a new life far away, I’d likely choose a place where tolerance reigns. Maybe not excellence, or productivity, or chutzpah where America beats us cold. But as Wade Davis noted: “Canadians are the nice couple living above the meth lab.” And more and more, we’re the nice gay couple living above that same lab.

Meanwhile…

The company you keep keeps you

It’s hard being a company these days. But harder being a corporate cause or reporting on it. Two letters this week showed why:

The first was about fair-weather friends. It seems lots of big supporters of Pride and the LGBTQ movement are turning tail because some of their stakeholders view this as “wokism gone mad.” So Phil Haid, the CEO of social marketing agency Public Inc. wrote to his clients and friends: “The discomfort that many brands and businesses are experiencing right now is because for a time Pride felt like a party that everyone wanted to be a part of. But please remember that Pride is a protest and has always been. It stands as a constant reminder of the work society needs to continue to do to become equal, equitable, and just.”

The second example was about money. The Logic reports in-depth on Canada’s innovation economy. It does this independently and very well. Each June, the gigantic Collision Conference comes to Toronto (helped along by millions in public subsidies), and this year its date follows a conference The Logic is organizing. When The Logic applied for media credentials to cover Collision, it was denied: Why? “Running other events that piggyback on our own is not something we support.” Now Collision is a Goliath; The Logic is a David, as is its editor-in-chief David Skok. So David wrote about it. After his column appeared, Collision caved and let The Logic in.

Meanwhile…

Fast-Checking. Fact-Checking.

All of us need to open a new folder on our desktops called “AI”.

Or “Eh-eye?” if we’re still not sure that artificial intelligence will overwhelm our 2,500-year-old ideas of reading and writing and creativity.

Into this folder, we should drop any article or video that catches our interest about the future of AI. We should fill it up once a week at least, no matter how despairing the prediction about AI is. Ever since ChatGTP made us aware that climate change is not our only existential crisis, I’ve been avoiding those who say we will soon be enslaved by our technology, and avidly reading those who say AI will be our salvation.

But at what other time in history have humans (at least those of us who can read and write) been able to not only be bystanders at the revolution, but players in it. Indeed, our participation is compulsory. We’ve all been drafted. So best that we at least learn what the rules will be, and how they’ll change because they’ll change faster than any other revolution in history. And for those of us who crave a ring-side seat to history, here’s your chance.

Meanwhile…

Mass-producing intimacy

All of us need to open a new folder on our desktops called “AI”.

Or “Eh-eye?” if we’re still not sure that artificial intelligence will overwhelm our 2,500-year-old ideas of reading and writing and creativity.

Into this folder, we should drop any article or video that catches our interest about the future of AI. We should fill it up once a week at least, no matter how despairing the prediction about AI is. Ever since ChatGTP made us aware that climate change is not our only existential crisis, I’ve been avoiding those who say we will soon be enslaved by our technology, and avidly reading those who say AI will be our salvation.

But at what other time in history have humans (at least those of us who can read and write) been able to not only be bystanders at the revolution, but players in it. Indeed, our participation is compulsory. We’ve all been drafted. So best that we at least learn what the rules will be, and how they’ll change because they’ll change faster than any other revolution in history. And for those of us who crave a ring-side seat to history, here’s your chance.

Meanwhile…

What happened then?

It seems that Whites will become a minority of Americans by 2045. This demographic reality is fueling the Great Replacement Theory that’s behind rising racial violence in the US.

I also learned that 32,000 Americans are imprisoned because of cannabis offences.

These two unrelated facts are connected in an odd and vital way to Canada and Toronto.

First, Whites became a minority of Toronto’s population in 2015.

What happened then?

Nothing. Even today, when 58% of Torontonians are not White, and when one in two Torontonians is born outside Canada, “nothing” is “happening”.

On October 17, 2018, cannabis was legalized across our country. What happened on that day and beyond?

Nothing. Young men, whacked up on grass, didn’t roam the streets terrorizing the population. Stoned-driving cases didn’t uptick. Even now, nearly five years later, the wisdom of decriminalizing cannabis isn’t polarizing our society. Frankly, not many of us give it a second thought.

I, for one, am happy to live in a place where nothing happens.

Meanwhile…

How many existential crises can one world take?

Last year, global warming shifted from a distant thunder to a run-for-your-lives house fire. Alberta readers take note. This year, AI shifted from a semi-literate teen to the predator next door, coming for our jobs, our kids and our brains.

But there is an upside to the end of the world. It will take some time for oblivion to arrive, and before it does, we can bliss out on a third existential event: the coming together of robotic technology and artificial intelligence.

I’d like you to meet my new friend Ameca. She’s…well, see for yourself. She may sound a little fey today. But give her and her fellow humanoid robots a few months and they’ll have advanced the way global warming and AI did, with us barely paying attention and then suddenly they’re moving in to the spare bedroom.

Meanwhile…

Slightly-cynical singles seek later-life love.

When my wife Jean was doing family medicine, many of her patients were smart, accomplished, kind and financially-secure women over 50 who had given up finding a mate because none existed.

“Have you tried dating online?” Jean would ask. Their eyes would roll and they would practically spit: “I would never do that. It’s so demeaning.”

Many of these women have turned out the lights on this issue. There are no men out there, so why waste your time looking? Just create a rich life where you don’t need them. Didn’t Gloria Steinem say a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle? Or you can select men for different uses, the way you would a spice from the kitchen cupboard.

Meanwhile…

Up Chuck and Di

That was a rude sign greeting Charles and Diana when they visited Vancouver to open Expo ‘86. I thought it was way over the line. But oh my, how the line for the Royals has changed. Hacked phones, pedo pals, vengeful duchesses, and tabloids full of scandals.

Back on June 2nd 1953, Queen Elizabeth’s coronation was in many ways the first global broadcast of an event. It was in black and white. Elizabeth’s funeral last September 19th was called “the biggest human event of all mankind” because it was seen by 4.1 billion people. This is no surprise. Despite Britain’s straitened prospects today, the British Empire remains the largest empire in human history. At one point, 23% of the world’s people lived under the Union Jack and it covered close to a quarter of the world’s land area including Canada and Canadians. So there’s a vast vestigial interest.

Some of you got up at 4 o’clock this morning to see Charles’ and Camilla’s coronation. I didn’t, not because I don’t love all that, but I can always catch it later. I also sense that this may be the last coronation any of us will see. So for today, let the pomp and circumstance, despite the looming judgement of history, go marching on.

Meanwhile…

Precision Persuasion

Saying you recommend rather than like something makes people 32 per cent more likely to take your suggestion. Using the word whom in online dating profiles makes men 31% more likely to get a date. Adding more prepositions to a cover letter makes you 24% more likely to get the job. And saying is not rather than isn’t when describing a product makes people pay $3 more to get it.

Those words are from Jonah Berger whose new book is a revelation that could spark a revolution. Magic Words: What to say to get your way is not about AI, or at least not just that. It’s about our reaching an inflection point in understanding the science of language. Says Berger: “Technological advances in machine learning, computational linguistics and natural language processing, combined with the digitization of everything from cover letters to conversation, have revolutionised our ability to analyze language.”

It’s clear where this is going, the same place cancer medicine already is. You and I can have exactly the same tumor, but you’ll get a different treatment than me, based on your DNA, your genes, age and gender. Today, you and I get different marketing pitches based on where we live, what we earn and where we spend. But tomorrow, marketers will know if you’re a “who” person or a “whom” person, an “isn’t” woman, or an “is not” man. Think of it as linguistic chemo, and…

Run for your lives!

Or should that be… run for your life?

Meanwhile…

Whither the weather?

A friend of mine who spent a year in Leavenworth said: “You can get used to anything.” But getting used to summer sunshine in March one day, followed by a brutal snowstorm the next, will take some getting used to. I get that our punishment for overwarming the earth is extreme weather. But I can see a huge uptick in the sale of suitcases, for example, so that we can put our summer duds in one and our winter ones in another when we go to Montreal for the weekend. Or when we pack our bathing suit in the trunk, to think: “Where’s my toque?” No wonder North Americans consume well over two-thirds of the world’s production of antidepressant drugs. It’s the weather.

Meanwhile…

RamsayWrites

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