Photo by Catherine Goce

By: Evonne Syed

The topic of integrating artificial intelligence and robots into the workforce rouses the concern of anyone wishing to enter the job market, and the same goes for postsecondary students.

Fortunately, the future is optimistic for students as automation is not expected to prevent graduates from attaining their career goals.

In fact, the rise of automation actually improves career prospects for university graduates, as it is creating a new job market. Forbes Magazine reports that artificial intelligence is predicted to create 58 million jobs as 2022 approaches.

As the popularity of automation systems and the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace becomes more widespread, there will be more and more people required to actually build and develop these systems.

This will open up opportunities for those who wish to enter the fields of robotics and information technology. BBC News anticipates the prominence of data analysts, social media specialists and software developers, as a result.

For this reason, while one may argue that automation has resulted in the elimination of certain jobs, the introduction of automation in the workforce is actually creating more jobs and opportunities in our current digital age.

Luckily, McMaster University has many programs to equip students with the necessary skills to flourish in our digital age. The recent construction of the Hatch Centre shows McMaster’s testament to students advancing in these fields.  

Even if one is not interested in working in the field of automation, that does not mean that they are otherwise at risk of being unable to obtain a job. There is an increasing demand for “human skills” in the workforce since these skills are what distinguish robots from actual human beings.

University graduates tend to seek out careers that require a higher level of education which simply cannot be programmed into automation systems. It would be way too costly and time consuming to teach a robot the knowledge a person has acquired from their post-secondary education.

There are also plenty of skills, academic and otherwise, that students learn and develop through their time at university. Education and experiential opportunities prepare students to apply their knowledge in a variety of situations.

For example, critical thinking skills and problem solving are transferable “soft skills” that employers seek and students develop during their time at university.

Some jobs require humanistic qualities, which are simply not possible for a machine to replicate. For instance, no matter how much technology advances, robots may never be capable of understanding human emotions and experiences.

The interpersonal skills, empathy and compassion that people develop by interacting with one another are skills that are beneficial for the work environment. These skills equip anyone to thrive professionally as the future of the job outlook changes.

Technological advancements such as automation will inevitably impact life as we know it, and that includes changing our work environments. However, these changes are not inherently harmful and the possibilities for post-secondary graduates remain promising.

Students must be proactive, take initiative to educate themselves as much as possible and work on developing these skills. Provided that students make the most of their university experience, and are willing to undergo some extra training to keep their learning sharp, robots are sure to have nothing on them.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

By: Ashlynn Labinaz

The results of the recent McMaster Students Union presidential election were released on Jan. 24, with Josh Marando becoming president-elect. Jeffrey Campana came second in the polls, with Madison Wesley and Justin Lee placing third and fourth respectively.

Given our current state of affairs, these results beg the question: did social media impact the outcome of the MSU election?

The simple answer? Yes. When investigating the social media accounts of the candidates, all four individuals created Facebook and Instagram campaign accounts, posting platform content to build a larger following and campaign support.

When comparing the Instagram accounts of all four candidates, the winning Marando had 618 followers, Campana had 512 followers and Lee had 15 followers. Wesley’s deactivated account could not be used in this comparison.

Overall, there appears to be a clear association between the candidates’ social media presence and their election success.

I believe this correlation is attributed to the candidates’ engagement with their followers on social media. Marando, for example, created a new Instagram account dedicated to running his campaign. He posted ten different times over the course of the election, highlighting different events he attended and campaign promises he intended to fulfill.

Conversely, some of Marando’s opponents did not rely as heavily on their social media presence, posting only a handful of times on Instagram.

The MSU Elections Department also acknowledged the importance and presence of social media in the presidential election. On the elections page, there were two appendices: one with candidacy rules and another six-page Appendix A, containing social media regulations that candidates were required to follow.

This appendix was tediously written and included an explanation of how to post on every major social media platform to ensure that no candidate had an unfair advantage.

Clearly, the MSU Elections Department understood the importance of regulating social media during elections in order to avoid potential problems related to digital campaigns.

One increasing problem on the world stage, for example, is the propagation of “fake news” — that is, disseminating information that is intentionally wrong with the goal of swaying thought and opinion. Clearly established social media regulations for candidates is therefore an important step towards addressing election misinformation.

Despite any potential negative consequences, social media platforms have important benefits during elections. Specifically, social media allows voters to make more informed decisions.

In a digital age where information can be retrieved in a matter of seconds, many have become apathetic towards researching electoral candidates. Social media then provides a fast and easy way for voters to learn about candidates’ platforms.

For example, Marando featured an Instagram post highlighting the key points of his campaign. This post took less than a minute to read and provided a basic understanding of his platform, allowing students to easily inform themselves.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bs0tWePBOU6/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

The easy access to this information also facilitates one’s ability to compare different candidates and their platforms.  

Social media in elections also provides a platform for direct dialogue between candidates and voters. Throughout each campaign, the MSU presidential candidates were posting, tweeting and sharing. Every social media platform allowed candidates to receive messages from the public, which ultimately encouraged political discourse.

Overall, I strongly believe that social media acts as a useful campaign tool in elections that future MSU presidential candidates should definitely take seriously.

Although some may argue that his popularity won him the election, I attribute Marando’s success to his effective social media strategies. By consistently posting succinct summaries of his campaign goals, Marando was able to spread his message to students in a simple and accessible manner.

In addition, with the increasingly influential nature of social media in elections, students should become more informed and equipped users of these platforms.

Marando used social media to his advantage to help him win a presidential election. Similarly, students should recognize social media’s extensive and far-reaching value as a necessary election tool in this new digital age.

 

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Valentine’s Day serves as an annual reminder that I will likely, one day, turn into a cat lady. This concerns me for a couple of reasons, the most important being that I despise cats. If their condescending, territorial stares aren’t enough to detract from their appeal, then consider that they’ve been known to eat their dead owners’ bodies. Valentine’s Day might incite oozing feelings of passion for some, flowery declarations of love for others or even just a general indifference. Whenever Valentine’s Day swings around, I usually think of myself not alone, per se, but surrounded by two dozens of cats all feeding on my decaying body. Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

Perhaps you'll spot the obvious flaw my brain tends to miss when it conjures up these imaginary soap operas. If I don’t like cats, then I don’t have a problem because I’ll never actively decide to own a cat in the first place–let alone two dozens. No one sane would, which is maybe where the parasite Toxoplasma gondii comes into play. T. gondii alters rodent neural systems so that a rat becomes attracted to the scent of cats (specifically, cat pee) and is more likely to get eaten. Once in the feline digestive system, T. gondii can happily complete its life cycle. That’s not all: T. gondii has also been shown to use humans as hosts.

Although largely asymptomatic in humans, some have suggested T. gondii is to blame for extreme ailurophilic (cat loving) behaviour. The more cats you own, the more waste they produce and the greater the likelihood of T. gondii infecting your brain. It’s a very convoluted kind of feedback, and without any empirical evidence, hard to accept as anything but a conspiracy theory. Along with the cats comes the “crazy”: despite the minute number of historical cases, studies of people with an acute T. gondii infection show they exhibit psychological symptoms that resemble schizophrenia.

The association of female cat owners with the “crazy cat lady” stereotype only reinforces the unequal perception we are trying so hard abolish: that a person’s worth based on their achievements ... cannot compare to the worth of someone who has established a committed relationship.

A pseudoscientific basis for the “crazy cat lady” phenomenon, however, still fails to explain its inherent association with a pathetic and fornlorn soul, particularly one who lacks enough social skills to find a significant other. My friend recently recalled an instance where she had been playing Neko Atsume on her phone, a highly addictive game where the player purchases products to attract and collect a variety of virtual cats. When her brother saw this upon passing by, he commented (I imagine, in a snarky “you should punch me in the face” tone) on it being good preparation for her real life.

No one denies that my friend's story made for a good laugh, but her brother's association of a cat lady with spinsterhood, and ultimately, failure, is proof that a stigma still exists surrounding solitary living.

Yes, the world has come a long way in terms of recognizing that a woman can be successful in both self-acceptance and her career, even if it means she is not romantically involved, but it is essential that we continue to move away from outdated ideals as a unfounded basis for criticizing other people.

The association of female cat owners with the “crazy cat lady” stereotype only reinforces the unequal perception we are trying so hard to abolish: that a person's worth based on their achievements, such as someone who puts their career first, cannot compare to the worth of someone who has established a committed relationship. Everyone is unique, and as we all have different ideas of what makes us happy, it is far from our place to judge someone by the traditional standards of a fulfilling life.

When I say Valentine’s Day serves as a reminder of my probable future as a cat lady, what alarms me is not literally being forced to live alongside domesticated animals so much as the irrational fear of growing old and dying alone. With Valentine’s Day approaching, we tend to forget that we are constantly surrounded by the people (and pets) we love. So love the things you love without reserve. Love yourself (although not in the way Justin Bieber suggests). If that makes you “crazy,” then so be it. All the best people are.

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For the Spring/Summer 2015 season, a variety of fashion houses ushered in a series of fabulous campaigns featuring an unusual selection of models.

Dolce and Gabbana’s nonnas took center stage with black lace and beautifully adorned handbags. On their heads sat elaborate gold and red crowns. The aesthetic of the advertisements was Italian culture meets Spanish matador. Of course, there’s nothing more Italian than nonnas, and arguably nothing more fashionable than Dolce and Gabbana’s creations.

Céline’s campaign featured an ultra-chic and minimalist photograph of 80-year-old American writer Joan Didion. Her oversized glasses and simple black sweater captured the streamlined essence of the house. At Saint Laurent, 71-year-old Joni Mitchell was photographed channeling a 1970s-inspired ensemble, complete with an acoustic guitar and a black wide-brimmed hat.

Although this was certainly not the first time fashion houses used older models in their campaigns, the campaigns have been consistently visually stunning, embodying the aesthetic of the house, while also being culturally relevant. For example, for Fall/Winter 2012, Lanvin featured Jacquie Tajah Murdock, who was 82 at the time. In what can only be described as classic French elegance, Murdock stunned in a jewel-toned dark blue peplum outfit. Her untouchable glamour was the centerpiece of the campaign, which spoke to years of Lanvin’s Parisian charm.

With Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar featuring models like 83-year-old Carmen Dell’Orefice and 84-year-old Daphne Selfe, it’s clear that the industry is beginning to recognize how wonderful diversity in age representation is, both for consumers of the images and the producers of the content.

There is no doubt that representation of diversity in fashion advertisements is certainly a point of contention and a serious issue that reflects a problem in both the industry and society in general. Photoshopped images that erase signs of imperfections on seemingly flawless young models are hardly symptoms of progressive ideals of beauty. The absence of older women in fashion culture and media is part of the harmful paradigm of impossible standards of what society deems as beautiful and desirable.

The images that Céline, Dolce and Gabbana, Saint Laurent, and Lanvin have produced are critical to the inclusion of older women and key to incorporating widespread representation in fashion. The campaigns are not kitschy or campy. They aren’t presenting age as an underlying joke, or putting these women on display to criticize. The campaigns are stunning and genuinely speak to both the models and the fashion house. These women are not only beautiful, they are cultural icons.

Most importantly, these advertisements destroy the culturally engrained narrative that older women are not fashionable. Fashion does not have an expiration date.

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