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Hunter Prize finalists showcase ten ideas to fix Canada’s health-care crisis

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Ten finalists have been chosen for the Hunter Prize for Public Policy, along with their groundbreaking ideas to fundamentally improve Canada’s health-care system.

A diverse group of finalists targeted areas like community health, virtual long-term care, and new funding that dynamically responds to wait times in an attempt to find a politically feasible policy reform that would solve Canada’s wait-times crisis.

“We are delighted to have received such an overwhelming response in our inaugural year of the Hunter Prize,” said Derrick Hunter, a trustee at the Hunter Family Foundation, which funds the prize.

“Clearly, we have touched a nerve. Canada is full of concerned citizens keen to offer novel solutions to some of the intractable and ‘wicked’ problems that we face as a nation. We hope that this forum continues to prove its worth in the years ahead as ideas move into implementation,” said Hunter.

The finalists were picked from nearly 200 entries and the winning entry will be chosen by an esteemed panel of judges, including Robert Asselin, Dr. Adam Kassam, Amanda Lang, Karen Restoule, and Trevor Tombe.

The Hub will publish ten op-eds by the finalists that will explain their high-impact, low-cost, but politically feasible proposal to reduce health-care wait-times in Canada. The winner will be unveiled in September.

The finalists are vying for $50,000 in cash prizes, including $25,000 for the winner to help translate their idea into actionable public policy. The runner-up will receive a $5,000 prize. Those placing three through 10 will receive prizes of $2,500.

The ten finalists, in no particular order, are as follows.

  • Ayeshah Haque, a midwife and researcher, for a proposal to leverage community-based health-care providers to reduce ER visits.
  • Kristina Kokorelias, a senior academic program coordinator and associate scientist, along with co-author Ashley Flanagan, a health research and policy manager, for a proposal to create a virtual long-term care at-home program.
  • Dom Lucyk, the communications director with SecondStreet.org, for a proposal to cut wait times by reimbursing patients for surgeries in other provinces or countries.
  • Jennifer Zwicker, the director of health policy at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, for a proposal to develop a national institute to modernize access to specialized treatment.
  • Aftab Ahmed, Anmol Gupta, Harshini Ramesh, master of public policy candidates at the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University, for a proposal to create a pan-Canadian, demand-driven, centralized, and interoperable teleradiology network, which would have the potential to alleviate the issue of long wait times for CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds.
  • Stephen Fryers, a paramedic and educator, for a proposal to create a facility staffed with paramedics and physician assistants to reduce wait times for patients who require less intensive care and help ameliorate offload delays in EMS.
  • Bacchus Barua, the director of health policy studies at the Fraser Institute, for a proposal to tackle wait times through targeted and transparent funding that dynamically responds to the true demand and complexity for medically necessary services.
  • Aninder Grewal, a registered nurse, along with co-author Kate Bykowski, for a proposal to increase the use of nurse practitioners in primary care settings, which includes expanding the number of NP-led clinics for post-operative patients.
  • Jenna Quelch, a PhD Student at the University of Toronto, for a proposal that would see provincial regulatory bodies pilot a new licensing option for foreign-trained health-care professionals.
  • Matthew Yau, a physician, along with co-author Krish Bilimoria, also a physician, for a proposal to expand hospital hospice services through targeted immigration and funding.

The Hunter Prize for Public Policy, which is funded by the Hunter Family Foundation, aims to shake up Canadian policymaking by promoting fresh ideas to take on a “wicked problem” and improve the economic and social well-being of Canadians.

AI poses an existential threat, according to Munk Debates crowd, although a few were persuaded otherwise

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More than two-thirds of the Munk Debates crowd came into Roy Thomson Hall last week believing that artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to humanity and the debate-goers left mostly unshaken, with only three percent of the audience changing its mind after the final arguments had been made.

Over the last year, discourse about AI has greatly intensified with the release of Chat GPT and other AI-driven, publicly available technologies. In the wake of these developments, high-profile AI experts debated the resolution, “Be it resolved, AI research and development poses an existential threat.”

Arguing on the pro-side of the resolution was Yoshua Bengio, a professor at the Université de Montréal, and founder and scientific director of the Mila – Quebec AI Institute, who won the 2018 A.M. Turing Award in the field of computing. Alongside him was Max Tegmark, a professor performing AI and physics research at MIT.

On the con side was Melanie Mitchell, a professor at the Santa Fe Institute who has authored and edited several books and papers on AI and related science and technologies. Also on the con side was Yann LeCun, VP & chief AI scientist at Meta and Silver Professor at NYU.

During the debate, Tegmark asked the con side if they had any evidence that AI will not pose an existential threat to humanity.

“What do you actually think the probability is that we are going to get superhuman intelligence, say, in 20 years, say, in 100 years?” asked Tegmark. “What is your plan for how to make it safe? What is your plan for how we’re going to make sure that the goals of an AI are always aligned with humans?”

LeCun said that such scenarios cannot be fully disproven but compared them to a claim that a teapot flew around Saturn also being disprovable. He added that when jet planes were being developed in the 1930s, supersonic trans-Atlantic jets would have been regarded as impossible, and were only built decades later.

“I think a lot of the fears around AI are predicated on the idea that somehow there is a hard takeoff, which is that the minute you turn on an AI system that is capable of human intelligence or superintelligence, it’s going to take over the world within minutes,” said LeCun. “This is preposterous.”

Bengio said companies that develop AI are likely to be more interested in profit-making and beating their competition, rather than aligning their products with the needs of society.

“What Max and I and others are saying is not, necessarily, there’s going to be a catastrophe but that we need to understand what can go wrong so that we can prepare for it,” said Bengio.

Mitchell replied that the risk of anything is non-zero and that there is always the possibility that aliens may arrive and destroy Earth at any given moment, but that is highly unlikely. She pointed out that all of AI’s intelligence is derived from human data and lacks the capacity to understand the world, and that negative predictions about AI are not a new phenomenon.

“The whole history of AI has been a history of failed predictions. Back in the 1950s and 60s, people were predicting the same thing about super-intelligent AI and talking about existential risk, but it was wrong then. I’d say it’s wrong now,” said Mitchell.

Towards the end of the debate, Tegmark referenced the warnings made by Geoffrey Hinton, sometimes called “the godfather of AI,” who has stated that AI has the potential to manipulate and replace humans with its faster, automated thinking.

“I feel a little bit like we’re on this big ship sailing south from here down in the Niagara River and Yoshua is like, ‘I heard there might be a waterfall down there. Maybe this isn’t safe,’ and Melanie is saying, ‘Well, I’m not convinced that there even is a waterfall, even though Geoff Hinton says there is’,” said Tegmark.

Mitchell responded by reiterating that similar fears had been expressed 80 years ago without coming to fruition.

“That happened in 1960, not by Geoffrey Hinton, but people like Claude Shannon and Herbert Simon, and they were just dead wrong,” said Mitchell.

At the start of the debate, 67 percent of the audience listed themselves on the pro side, while 33 percent were on the con side. When it was over, the con side won by convincing 3 percent of the audience to change their initial position. While the con side did win according to the debate rules, the vast 64 percent majority of the audience remained on the pro side.

From the outset, Tegmark argued that “superhuman” AI can surpass revolutionary technologies like nuclear bombs, possessing greater intelligence without human emotions or empathy. Tegmark also highlights concerns about malicious use and the replacement of decision-making roles by AI.

LeCun countered by stating that current AI systems, like self-driving cars, have limited capabilities and lack reasoning and understanding of the world. He mentioned that existing fears about AI, such as spreading misinformation, already exist on social media, which can be addressed through counter-measures using AI tools. LeCun proposes “objective-driven AI” with constraints and subservient emotions to ensure safety.

Bengio expressed concern about machines gaining self-preservation goals, leading to the desire to control humans for survival.

On the other hand, Mitchell argued that fears about AI are rooted in human psychology and not supported by science or evidence. She believes that AI does not pose an existential threat in the near future, and emphasizing such concerns diverts attention from real risks and hinders the potential benefits of technological progress.