Canada’s technologists are having a moment — let’s hope our governments don’t wreck it
A quick wrap of the week in political economy news: Brexit finally broke Theresa May; Xi Jinping compared China’s trade war with the U.S. to the Long March, the gruelling, yearlong retreat by the Communist Party that ultimately led to Mao Zedong’s ascent to power; and Donald Trump released US$16 billion from the federal treasury to aid farmers suffering from the retaliatory tariffs that he provoked.
What a world. Thankfully, here in Central Canada, we’ve had the technologists to distract us from all of this nonsense. Tens of thousands of them converged in Toronto at the Collision conference (Seth Rogen, headliner) and in Montreal at C2 (Spike Lee, headliner), the annual assembly of artists, entrepreneurs, and world-changers created seven years ago by the leaders of Cirque du Soleil and Sid Lee, the global marketing agency.
And these days, where you find technologists, you find money. On May 23, Navdeep Bains, the innovation minister, attended C2 and then drove across town to give $49 million to a Montreal-based outfit called Imagia, which is fronting a group that intends to use artificial intelligence (AI) to process health data and keep many of us alive longer.
Bains was bouncing around this Liberal stronghold in red sneakers, but he still was upstaged: will.i.am, the co-founder of the Black Eyed Peas, used C2 as a backdrop to announce that his technology company, i.am+, had invested an undisclosed sum in Montreal-based Stradigi AI.
“I don’t want to be singing `I’ve Got a Feeling’ when I’m 70,” will.i.am said at a press conference.
We could screw it up, though. Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, did his part this week by cutting $24 million in funding for CIFAR and the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence.
Ontario needs to reduce its debt, but the province’s angry politics appears to be impeding the judgment of policy makers. The money the government erased from the budget funds work done in places that want nothing to do with Ford Nation, and Ford Nation made it clear in the election that it wants nothing to do with them.