‘Ottawa’ William Watson: CV in Hand, 35 Million Horns are Tooting so Not to Get Cut by Robots and Algorithms
Inspired by Post reporter Tristin Hopper, I’ve just applied to be a senator. It’s easy, though I hope you don’t try until after I’ve secured my own seat. The FAQs on the very helpful application website say it takes 15 minutes to fill out the online form. So far, unlike Hopper, I’ve only been able to register, not complete my dossier. The current round of applications closed August 4. Plus, in Quebec our seats are allocated by the district you live in and mine doesn’t have a vacancy at the moment. I suppose I could buy a tiny clapboard cottage in one that does. Eventually write off the costs of an Ottawa residence. But I haven’t yet.
Registering means providing name, address, and phone number and swearing you’re not a robot. Robots are OK to replace auto workers, it seems, but not senators. Actually, the worry must be that robot trolls will create false accounts. Could it really be that asking a robot if it’s a robot tricks it up? I bet we soon will have robots smart enough to tell an online form they’re not a robot. Putin’s robots can probably do that already.
Apart from establishing my status as not a robot, the online registration form naturally asked if I’m indigenous, visible minority, female and/or LGBTQ. Under “other” I put Scottish Canadian, which used to carry weight in this country but not anymore. I figure putting just “Canadian” would be read as politically aggressive.
I’m not actually confident of becoming a senator. The “Merit-based criteria established by the Government” are, in order: gender, indigenous and minority balance; non-partisanship; knowledge requirement; personal qualities; and, finally, “qualifications related to the role of the Senate,” which could be experience in government, service to one’s community and/or recognized leadership and an “outstanding record of achievement” in my “chosen field of expertise.”
I’m in trouble on gender, indigenous, and minority balance, though in fact nothing in the Constitution talks about “the Senate’s role in minority representation.” I’m extremely non-partisan, having condemned over-reaching governments from all three major party brands. I do have a little knowledge of this or that. Others will have to vouch form my personal qualities. Regarding sober second thought, I am sober most of the time and always at work. And I have second thoughts, sometimes third and fourth, on just about everything just about all the time.
Half the applicants said they were interested in human rights, only six per cent in public infrastructure and livable communities
How strange that “qualifications related to the role of the Senate” should come last on a list of requirements for being a senator! But it’s the nature of our age. (I wonder if that observation makes me Senate-worthy or disqualifies me.)
I should admit I’m applying for a Senate job mainly because I figure I won’t get very far in my application for the Supreme Court. There’s not yet a website for that but one apparently is coming: People certainly are going to be allowed to apply. Personally, though I’ve never studied law I have watched many, many lawyer shows and thought a lot about fairness. It might be useful to have someone from outside the lawyers’ guild weigh in on decisions from time to time.
I’m too old to apply for the prime minister’s new youth advisory council. There’s a website for that. Or there was. The deadline has passed. According to CTV News, more than 30,000 young Canadians started their applications, with more than 9,000 putting in the 8 minutes, 33 seconds needed on average to complete them.
It’s all well and good and wonderfully open that Canadians can now apply directly for these jobs. But it presents its own problems. More than half the applicants to the youth advisory board said they were visible minority, close to a third that they were LGBTQ. In other words, they were a starkly unrepresentative sample.
Maybe on issues they do reflect young people. Half said they were interested in human rights, only six per cent in public infrastructure and livable communities, and only 2.1 per cent in pay and pensions. Pensions are never a passion for young people but you’d think Canadians of every age would be interested in livable communities.
There was a time in Canada when if you distinguished yourself in one way or another but didn’t want to toot your own horn — an activity widely viewed as crass — someone would seek you out to become a senator or supreme court justice or adviser to the prime minister. Yes, it may have led to stifling old-boyism. But now here we are, 35 million of us, CV always ready for uploading, applying for everything that comes up. Maybe that will work better. Personally, I find the sound of 35 million horns tooting deafening and sad.
And you know who’s going to do the first cut. Not an old boy. Not an old girl. A computer algorithm: a robot.