Doug Griffiths (contributed photo).

Red Deer will soon have to adapt to driver-less vehicles, online health care

Big changes are coming fast, says speaker Doug Griffiths

Nevermind marijuana legalization and angst over a local supervised drug injection site — much bigger changes are coming down the pike for Red Deer and other municipalities.

How about the delivery of on-line education and health care and driver-less, electric-powered vehicles, said Doug Griffiths, former Alberta municipal affairs minister and author of the book 13 Ways to Kill Your Community.

The pace of change over the next 15 years will outpace all the “collective changes” that came down over the past century, predicted Griffiths. How municipalities adapt will determine their live-ability in the mid-2000s, he added.

Griffiths, a former Conservative MLA for Battle River-Wainwright, is now CEO of 13 Ways, Inc., a company he founded to help struggling North American communities. He will speak at a Thursday, June 14, gala for the Central Alberta Economic Partnership (CAEP).

The two biggest changes, he sees on the horizon are on-line education and on-line delivery of health care. Griffiths finds the computer health model — in which patients are seen by a doctor-on-call on-line — particularly fascinating.

A device is already being developed that can be plugged into any USB outlet and monitor such things as your blood pressure and a breath sample. “It’s like a real-life tricorder from Star Trek,” said Griffiths, referring to the science-fiction Starfleet device used by Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy to diagnose diseases and collect bodily information from a patient.

He cautions municipalities about getting involved in long-term, expensive projects without careful consideration of how the ground is shifting.

With all the on-going research into autonomous vehicles, Griffiths is boggled that Edmonton and Calgary still lobbying for billions of government dollars to expand their C-Train and LRT systems. By the time the engineering plans, community consultations and construction projects are done, “half of all vehicles will be electric, solar-powered. You’ll be able to drive across town, or picked up by an Uber vehicle for $2.”

Part of good preparation is ensuring that staff are willing to adapt to a new norm that’s scary because it’s unfamiliar, he said. The other part is recognizing the changes that matter the most to your community.

“You have to pick the ones that make you unique” — and then capitalize on the marketing opportunities. Griffiths envisions some communities banning all non-autonomous vehicles because they will have no traffic signs and lights, “and you can’t drive and cause chaos in our city.”

Others might do the opposite and preserving the right of motorists to drive their own cars in their city.

While some of this may seem as futuristically imperfect as the predictions of the experts of the ’70s who anticipated we would all be enjoying lives of leisure right now, Griffiths said we shouldn’t give up on this idea.

He noted Bill Gates is suggesting the government tax robots that are replacing workers to help pay for a universal living wage.

For more information about the CAEP gala at the Holiday Inn, Gasoline Alley, please visit CAEP’s Facebook page.

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