AI Can be Used for Good

Leila Toplic, Lead for Emerging Technologies at NetHope

Top Takeaways from the 2019 SingularityU Global Summit

3. AI Can be Used for Good

Amir Banifatemi, General Manager at XPRIZE, Cameron Birge, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft and Tess Posner, CEO of AI4ALL, joined moderator Leila Toplic, Lead for Emerging Technologies at NetHope for a panel discussion on day two.

Kicking off their discussion of ways we can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) for good, Toplic began with some examples. AI can help us make decisions faster, in the event of an emergency. It can help us to reach more people with information and services, such as refugees, and can help us predict and prevent outbreaks, such as ebola.

“Young people are hungry to make a difference, and AI is a rocketfuel for that.” – Tess Posner


“AI for good is about using AI to solve some of society’s toughest problems,” Toplic said. “It can help us move the needle on all of these different challenges.” In fact, it applies to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

Tess Posner explained that AI4ALL is focused on increasing the diversity and inclusion in AI. “Young people are hungry to make a difference, and AI is a rocketfuel for that.” Working with high school students, she sees them using the technology to solve problems they care deeply about, such as addressing water quality issues.

While AI may be tempting to use, it is important to consider the implications of the technology, and whether it is actually needed. “AI has become such a shiny buzzword, that it’s often touted as the solution to anything. In reality, it’s a great tool, but you have to make sure it’s actually needed.”

Microsoft’s Cameron Birge agreed, adding that “in this space, if you go wrong, you can really harm a lot of people.”

Birge pointed to AI’s opportunity to free up resources. “It’s not necessarily that AI tools are going to replace a person, it’s about coming in and supporting and freeing up those resources,” he noted. “Nonprofits don’t have a lot of resources.”

All panelists agreed that is is crucial to include key stakeholders in the development of the project, and ensure diversity of expertise in the room. “It’s not only important to build diverse teams, but also consider diversity in the product development process,” said Posner. “Are you including the voices and stakeholders who are going to be impacted by the solutions?”

Alberta’s Tech Boom

Alberta’s Tech Boom

The province’s rise on the tech and innovation scene

When it comes to tech and innovation, Canada as a country has been recognized as a leader. In recent months, big cities such as Toronto and Montreal have been heralded as innovation hubs. Yet Alberta is one province that is leading the way in AI, big data and healthcare.

Health & Research

Innovative health technology is poised to become a key economic driver for Alberta’s economy.

There are innovative startups, such as Wello, a virtual healthcare service that provides 24/7 on-call support. Mehadi Sayed’s company Clinisys was founded in 2011. He was recently approached by Microsoft with a deal to advance the field of cloud-based electronic medical records. The company now operates across four provinces.

At the centre of the health innovation movement is Health City, which is comprised of individuals working in the private and public health, economic and technology sectors. The organization works towards leveraging local expertise and supporting homegrown businesses.

In Alberta, there is no shortage of cutting-edge research facilities. Edmonton is home to the headquarters of the Alberta Health Services (AHS), the country’s largest province-wide, fully-integrated health system.

Dialog, Stantec and PCL are collaborating on a new $1.4 billion cancer care facility and academic centre in Calgary. The Calgary Cancer Centre will become the largest cancer treatment and research facility in Canada and the second largest in North America. It is scheduled for completion in 2024.

For close to two decades, InnoTech Alberta has operated a successful research and development (R&D) program on cannabis. The program provides support to Canada’s hemp industry, including the testing of new varieties, hemp processing research and development of new products. Testing for moulds, bacterial contamination, pesticides and heavy metals takes place at the Bioanalytical Laboratory in Vegreville.

The recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada is expected to create more research and development opportunities in this field.

                                                                    Alberta is a leader in healthcare and research

World-Class Institutions are paving the way

The province of Alberta benefits from a highly skilled talent pool, with the highest proportion of people working in natural and applied sciences and related jobs in Canada. Universities are a driving force behind health innovation, as the province boasts world-class medical programs.

This year, The University of Alberta’s Faculty of Nursing was named second in Canada in the latest Maclean’s rankings of Canadian universities. The school is recognized as a leader in life-sciences research. According to the magazine’s survey of best programs, a number of the school’s other programs placed in the top five: biology, business and environmental sciences, engineering and mathematics.

The University of Calgary has the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) Rockies, a mentoring and financing program for massively scalable science-based companies. The program began in 2012 at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and, since its inception, more than 1,000 founders representing more than 500 companies have participated in the program.

                                           The province is home to a number of Universities boasting excellent programs

The AI Revolution

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one area in which Canada is excelling, and the Canadian Government offers its strong support to keep the country at the forefront of this field. This includes the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, a $125 million commitment to help retain and attract top AI talent and companies that use AI.

The Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) is one of Canada’s three centres of excellence that was established through this strategy. Located in Edmonton, the Institute works in the areas of AI, human-machine interaction, medical imaging and robotics. Since its inception in 2002, more than 200 technologies have been created, including algorithms, architectures, theories, methodologies, approaches and applications.  The institute is home to Dr. Richard Sutton, one of the global leaders in AI.

The world has been taking notice. In 2017, Google announced the opening of DeepMind Alberta, its first international AI research centre. One of the world’s leading AI research companies, DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014. Other major companies such as Uber, Amazon and  Microsoft are looking to Canada as a viable option.

Although the country is gaining international recognition, we have an abundance of homegrown talent and benefit from support and collaboration.

Edmonton, Alberta is the future home of the 2019 SingularityU Canada Summit. Join us on April 23-24 as we celebrate tech and innovation in Alberta and across Canada. Tickets are on sale now!

The Modernization of Education

The Modernization of Education

Technology’s Impact in the Classroom

Many of us can remember the technology-free classroom. First, we were being reprimanded for passing notes, and soon after for cell phone use. As kids head back to school this month, they enter a classroom different from former times. Technology in the classroom is now being fully embraced, with laptops now commonplace. Since the Toronto District School Board’s WiFi rollout was completed in 2016, all schools in the board now have wireless networks. The board has a $3-million annual technology budget.

Traditionalists might argue that in today’s tech-obsessed world, reliance on even more technologies is detrimental to young minds. Then there is also the possibility of abuse of technology and inappropriate use of social media.

On the other hand, it’s a digital generation, and with the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses, the need for more tech becomes all the more imperative.

How do parents feel about this? In a recent survey from Microsoft and YouGov, 60% of parents were ‘optimistic’ about the role technology is going to have in their child’s life as they get older, while 30% felt they were ‘unsure’ or ‘scared. 86% of parents said that tech in school, such as computer use and educational software, was beneficial to their child’s education.

Learning beyond the classroom

Educational videos may be soon a thing of the past, if not already. The Education on Board Program allows Australian teachers to sail on marine research ship RV Investigator. They are able to enhance their STEM knowledge and content, and conduct live webinars to their classrooms. They also plan to incorporate their experiences at sea into their lessons. This allows learning to be more interactive and applicable to the real world.

This semester, biology students at Arizona State University can use student loan payments to pay for virtual reality headsets. With the goal to “provide students with real-world experience,” students have the option to use these headsets to complete the course’s lab requirements.

person wearing VR headset

Can spot weaknesses

Microsoft, a company applauded for modernizing the classroom, recently unveiled new technology. One example is Snap + Core First, a symbol-based communication application to help those with speech and language disabilities express themselves.

Recent research predicts that the use of AI in the U.S. education sector will grow 47.5 per cent through 2021. While AI-powered educational games are frequently used, AI can be particularly helpful for those children taking special education, where the traditional one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate. For these students, AI provides a personalized education, and helps with increasing attention span.

Virtual assistants such as Alexa or Siri may help shyer children become more confident, said Chris King, chairman of the HMC group of private schools in the UK.  

Greater efficiency

Students and teachers in Saskatchewan are now being provided with SMART Learning software, which allows students to collaborate with others through their phones and tablets. With the software, teachers are able to design interactive lessons and provide game-based learning modules.

Adoption of technology in classrooms helps ease the workload for teachers. With AI helping to do mundane tasks such as reading directions out loud and grading standardized tests, teachers are able to spend more one-on-one time with students. An eastern China school has even installed facial recognition technology to monitor how attentive students are in class. If students seem distracted, based on their facial expressions, the computer will send this feedback to teachers. Intrusive? Maybe. At least there is no need to take attendance.

At Singularity University’s Global Summit last month, the future of work and learning were topics on the agenda. Gary A. Bolles, Chair of the Future of Work, stressed the importance of reshaping our educational institutions.

“We have to blow up what we’ve got today,” he said. “The current education system that is helping our young to be able to be prepared for the world of work is preparing them for yesterday’s world of work, not today’s.”

Integration of technology can enhance the school experience, and teachers should make greater use of it. With so many new innovations on the market, it makes returning to school seem almost appealing. The possibilities are endless, and poised to make an impact.

Level Up Your Skillset and Outlook with Continuous Learning

Apply to join the inaugural SingularityU Canada Executive Program and join the community to learn more about learning opportunities.

Exponential Growth in Travel

plane wing

Exponential Growth in Travel

How Technology is shaping the Future of the Industry

There is a growing demand for travel, and the amount of air traffic is only expected to increase. In 20 years time, the air travel market is expected to be 2.5 times larger, and the global commercial jet fleet will double in size by 2037. One of the driving forces behind this global surge in the industry? Technology. Whether it is innovation in aviation, airports, or booking and hotels, technology has revolutionized the travel experience.

The latest from the flight deck

Air New Zealand, an airline with a reputation for innovation, just announced that it has teamed up with North Shore-based Zenith Tecnica to explore the possibility of 3D printed metal parts for aircraft. The airline made a foray into the Silicon Valley tech scene by entering a partnership with JetBlue Technology Ventures (JTV), the venture capital subsidiary of JetBlue Airways. This partnership is the first of its kind on an international level in the industry, and looks to bolster innovation in the sector and support both existing and newly formed start-ups.

Other transportation companies are also exploring new technologies. Boeing is collaborating with SparkCognition to use a combination of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence that will ensure safe and secure transport while also tracking unmanned air vehicles and allocating traffic corridors.

There’s lots of potential to reimagine the flying experience, and it’s exciting to see what the coming years will bring.

Navigating the airport terminal

Travellers have spoken, and airports are listening.

  •       Los Angeles’ LAX is looking at survey data from Metis, an AI-backed data analytic system – to see what passengers are saying and feeling – about their airport experience. The system extracts elements of every comment or post and relates them to categories such as food and beverage, logistics and Transportation Security Administration.
  •      Baggage handling is another focus point, with 71% of airlines planning to provide real-time bag tracking information to passengers by 2020.
  •      British Airways has been testing biometric gates at several airports, and found that in L.A., they have been able to board more than 400 customers in 22 minutes – less than half the time it typically takes with manual boarding.

Robots and AI are personalizing the guest experience

According to WTM Insights, a new quarterly magazine on global travel trends, hospitality robots are serving as concierges, luggage porters and receptionists, and are found in airports, restaurants and hotels around the world.

  •       Singapore has embraced AI with Savioke robots. The M Social Singapore (part of Millennium Hotels and Resorts), has robots Aura and Ausca, “to increase productivity, optimise operations and enhance guest experiences. An internal audit has shown that they save at least five hours per day,” said the hotel’s Chief Marketing Officer.
  •      Las Vegas’ Wynn Hotel now has Amazon Echo speakers in each of its 4,748 rooms.
  •      Augmented reality technologies are used to emulate trips, and German airline Lufthansa has created 360-degree videos of various destinations, including Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo. The videos are available on YouTube and viewable on VR headsets to transport aspiring travellers and people planning their next trip.

Is this slew of new technology a force for good, or is it detrimental? Is it streamlining the experience, or making it impersonal?

Chris Hemmeter, managing director of Thayer Ventures, made an interesting point:

“Because it’s an infrequent purchase, the psychology of anticipation and discovery is pleasurable. So the idea of consolidating the whole travel discovery experience down to one site, one page, one app – it just fails miserably. The idea that you will talk to your home device and it will spit out a trip for you, I just don’t buy it.” For entrepreneurs, there is a great deal of risk and so many moving parts in travel. Yet there is also a lot of potential.

Exponential technology has transformational potential for individuals and industries, and these technologies are constantly evolving.

While technology can certainly help with aspects of the journey, we must not forget the importance of human connection.

There is joy in researching and discovering new places, but if new innovations are introduced in a balanced way that can help weary travellers make the experienced easier, they are welcome.

SingularityU Canada will be travelling to San Francisco, CA for our Global Summit. The summit will explore innovations in exponential technologies, such as AI, VR and robotics. Join us.

Level Up Your Skillset and Outlook with Continuous Learning

Apply to join the inaugural SingularityU Canada Executive Program and join the community to learn more about learning opportunities.

Continuous Learning is a Necessity in Today’s Job Market

Continuous Learning is a Necessity in Today’s Job Market

Why the World’s Smartest Workers are Focused on Lifelong Learning to Enhance their Skillsets

Leading professionals are changing their approach to learning. Faced with an uncertain future of work shaped by rapidly developing technologies, social change, and unprecedented flows of global information and data, learning is no longer reserved to early years or formal classrooms. Lifelong learners are emerging in every industry and in every country. People are recognizing the value and necessity of continuous learning as an iterative, evolving process that can have a positive effect on every aspect of their professional and personal lives.

Shifting your focus toward the future and pushing the boundaries to think bigger and do things differently will enable you to enhance your value in the workforce. Whether you’re seeking your first entry-level position, launching a new venture, or leading an organisation from the C-suite, learning is critical to advance your career and your impact. Continuous learning unlocks new opportunities, perspectives, and possibilities.

“Combining a degree with beneficial elements typically found in college or university programs such as co-op terms, internships and other experiential learning opportunities [is] the ultimate one-two punch, career-wise,” offers Kira Vermond in the article, Formal learning or learning on the job? from The Globe and Mail. Vermond highlights SingularityU as an alternative learning platform that can create a more robust outlook and approach as people navigate uncharted career paths.

Continuous learning and an eyes-wide-open approach offer understanding and insight to leverage the value in different perspectives and advancements.

Attend events, seek mentors, read new genres, disconnect from your routine, and expand your network. To remain resilient in the future, accessing learning opportunities that unite diverse disciplines, processes, and industries is essential. SingularityU Canada programs are designed to provide information and intersections, illuminating the connections between seemingly disparate industries and breaking down the barriers to understanding the world’s most impactful and complex innovations.

Keeping up-to-date with the latest in technological advancements is critical – but the pace of change is rapid. In traditional curriculum, content is out of date by the time it reaches the classroom. At SingularityU, curriculum is redesigned for each event and set before each program based on the latest breakthroughs, emerging trends, and current developments.

Learning directly from the minds shaping these trends is a unique and eye-opening experience. Experts with first-hand knowledge and the vision to create and implement transformational technologies offer a distinct perspective and make ideal instructors and mentors. SU Canada programs are led by inspiring innovators and decision-makers from diverse fields. The experts changing the face of society and transforming industries are being drawn upon for SU Canada Faculty to offer participants direct insight into the forces, processes, and technology behind the buzzwords.

Lifelong learning is a path to stay ahead of the curve. With access to more information and more innovative programs than ever before, people have the opportunity to constantly evolve their learning styles, approaches, and mindset. Thought frameworks and design principles that create a flexible outlook and strategy are key to face change and lead innovation. With the right foundation, you will be able to recognize and act on emerging technologies and industry disruption, while fostering a learning mindset as your default approach to change.

SingularityU Canada offers programs that are designed to provide cutting edge exposure to the thinking and technologies that will enable people to take immediate action and drive impact for themselves, their organisations, and the country.

Level Up Your Skillset and Outlook with Continuous Learning

Apply to join the inaugural SingularityU Canada Executive Program and join the community to learn more about learning opportunities.

Supercluster Announcement Demonstrates Canadian Leadership and Innovation

Supercluster Announcement Demonstrates Canadian Leadership and Innovation

Cross-Canada Clusters Identified as Economic Drivers

The federal government has announced the winners to its Innovation Supercluster Initiative. The winners are groups of high-performing public and private sector stakeholders and specialised teams from diverse industries who are collaborating to drive change and advance technology in key areas. Winning clusters get access to a piece of $950 million in committed funding and must match the amount they receive.

Canada is renewing its focus on innovation, research, and development, demonstrating that the country has an important voice and perspective on global issues.

With this collaborative push to succeed in identified focus areas, and emphasis on economic stimulation, Canada is well-positioned to be recognized for its role worldwide as a global leader in scientific breakthroughs, sustainability, and innovative development models.


5 Winning Innovation Superclusters to Advance Exponential Technologies and Global Grand Challenges

Five winning clusters were selected, and reflect the breadth and dynamism of Canada’s culture, talent, and economic landscape. They have very different focus areas but all contribute to solidifying Canada’s leadership position.

We put together a brief overview of the five winning Innovation Superclusters below, highlighting the exponential technologies they leverage, as well as additional resources to help you understand more about these key technological drivers and forces of change.

The Scale AI Supercluster

Location: Quebec
Focus Area: Building intelligent supply chains.
Technology: Artificial Intelligence, Robotics
Dive Deeper:
Watch “Should Robots Have Rights?” with Suzanne Gildert
Read Brain-Like Chips Now Beat the Human Brain in Speed and Efficiency

The Ocean Supercluster

Location: Atlantic Canada
Focus Area: Increase competitiveness for Canada’s ocean-based industries.
Technology: Clean Energy
Dive Deeper:
Watch Investing in Our Cleantech Future with Tom Rand
Read “The Clock’s Ticking on Climate Change, and It’s Time to Get Real About Tackling It”


The Digital Technology Supercluster

Location: British Columbia
Focus Area: Drive innovation in critical sectors like forestry, manufacturing, and health care.
Technology: Big Data, Digital Platforms
Dive Deeper:
Watch “The Future of Health” with Zayna Khayat
Read “Big Data can be a Profoundly Humanizing Force in Industry”

The Protein Industries Supercluster

Location: The Prairies
Focus Area: Making Canada a leading source of plant proteins
Technology: Biotech, Agriculture
Dive Deeper:
Watch “Programming Life” from Raymond McCauley
Read “Machines Teaching Eachother Could be the Biggest Exponential Trend in AI”

The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster

Location:  Ontario
Focus Area:  Increasing resilience and adaptability in the manufacturing industry
Technology:  Robotics, Big Data
Dive Deeper:
Watch “The BIG Shift” with John Hagel
Read “The 10 Grand Challenges Facing Robotics in the Next Decade”


The clusters are all uniquely ambitious and positioned to succeed in creating important advancements in key emerging technologies and in long-standing industries. It is an exciting time for Canada as innovators, supporters, and talented thinkers from coast-to-coast join forces to drive development and advances in the areas that matter most.

If you are interested in learning more about exponential technologies and the role they play in our lives – and will play in the future – explore our resources and upcoming events. Leaders can expand their mindset and realize the full scope and impact of the rapid rate of technological change at our first SingularityU Canada Executive Program. Space is limited and spots are filling quickly – apply today!

Canada's Role as a Global Innovation Leader

Share your thoughts on the Innovation Supercluster Initiative. Join the Canadian innovation conversation with #SUCanada #ExponentialCanada.

Using Questions to Shape Exponential Futures – Talk Boutique Salon Series: Answers vs Questions Recap

Using Questions to Shape Exponential Futures

Talk Boutique Salon Series: Answers vs Questions Recap

We’re on the precipice of major global transformation. Exponential technologies are converging and more accessible, on a more powerful scale, than ever before. The next few years will change how we understand and experience life.

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the possibilities of a better, technology-enabled future but many people are pointing to the potential repercussions of charging ahead without careful consideration.

Questions will shape the way forward.

SingularityU Canada and BMO Wealth Management Tinnerman Wealth Group sponsored Talk Boutique’s 6th Salon Series: Answers vs Questions earlier this month. The event explored just how we can nurture those important questions. Talk Boutique is a Toronto-based speakers bureau and speakers coaching agency that is dedicated to catalysing intelligent conversations.

Talk Boutique Salon Series Signage
Talk Boutique hosted their 6th and biggest Salon Series: Answers vs Questions in October 2017.

The evening brought together esteemed speakers Jill McAbe, a neuroscience-based strategy, performance, and growth expert and creator of MINDCODE™, and Sonny Kohli, practicing Physician in Internal Medicine and Critical Care at McMaster University, X-Prize Finalist, and Co-Founder of Cloud DX.

“When we ask better questions, we get better answers,” Nick Kindler, Co-Founder and Executive Speaker Coach at Talk Boutique explained as he introduced the topic.

Andrea Sampson. Co-Founder and Executive Speaker Coach at Talk Boutique introduces the salon and discussion topic.
Andrea Sampson, Co-Founder and Executive Speaker Coach at Talk Boutique sets the stage for the evening.

The speakers and audience were invited to share their perspective on questions, artificial intelligence, meaningful work, and how these notions and boundaries are shifting. The talks explored the succession of questions and answers. Rooted in futurist, Gerd Leonhard’s argument that “computers are for answers and humans are for questions,” the conversation covered personal development and broader social change. Speakers were asked, “In order to preserve our humanity, do we need to focus less on the invention of new technology and more on the creation of provocative questions?”

“It’s a perfect storm right now,” explained Kohli, “We have tech giants with unfiltered access to our lives, we’re willingly welcoming them in, and Moore’s Law, that observes computing power has exponentially increased in price performance, accelerating growth – it’s all occurring simultaneously.”

Jill McAbe talks at Talk Boutique Salon Series.
Jill McAbe describes the role of quality questions in her personal journey.

McAbe emphasized that questions have a major impact on our personal and collective trajectory. She pointed to disruptive problem-solvers like Einstein who said that if he had one hour to solve a problem, he’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem. The question or problem is essential to set the foundation. “That’s what we do as humans, we ask questions. As we do, answers arise and possibilities come before us.”

The impact of quality of questions influenced McAbe’s own career path and sense of fulfillment in her work, social, and personal life. “Visioning is just as important for businesses as it is for individuals; companies that have a strong vision outperform the market by 2-12 times,” she shared, illustrating the exponential power of a strong, foundational question and goal.

“The visions that work, for individuals and organizations, have two consistent qualities: first, they have a giant, meaningful goal. Something you couldn’t imagine not wanting to achieve. Second, they have a purpose that is and always will be important, even if it’s intangible.”

When it comes to technology, McAbe pointed to the overload of information as a barrier many people face in making meaningful contributions and attaining fulfillment. “Vision allows you to tap into emotion, picture achievement, and get your subconscious on the job, helping you focus on what you need and filter out what you don’t.”



Sonny Kohil, physician and Co-Founder of CloudDX, talks about AI.
Sonny Kohli emphasizes the pervasive role of artificial intelligence in our daily lives.

Sonny Kohli also called attention to the vast amount of information that is constantly available to people. “AI has entered our daily lives, uninterrupted with exponential velocity,” he explained as he invited members of the audience to reflect on their smartphones. He focused on how humanity’s collective vision of AI hasn’t matched the current reality, leading to little reflection and rapid integration in our lives without the groundwork of quality questions.

Kohli quickly recalled experiences where AI outsmarted him (and the audience) in covert, seemingly innocuous ways. Navigating to a restaurant, shopping online, diagnosing a patient, helping with his daughter’s homework – AI is consistently a playing a part in our daily lives.

The crowd discusses and connects before the talks begin.
The audience connects over ideas of rapid technological development and thoughtful reflection.

In daily cognitive functions, ongoing relationships, and even fundamental physiological decisions, the technology is having an impact that may not always be as positive as it seems. “Ray Kurzweil’s predicted Singularity isn’t coming – it’s here. It’s time to start asking how much of an influence we want AI to have. Do we want transparency in the algorithms being used? Do we want regulation?”

Despite making a living as a champion of innovation and leader in healthcare technologies, Kohli ended his talk with a provocative question:

“Should we slow innovation and allow our questions to catch up?”

“Fulfillment is possible for humanity,” McAbe insisted. “The right questions can change the world.”

What questions do you want to ask to help shape a positive, sustainable exponential future for yourself, for Canada, and for the world?

Let us know in the comments or join the conversation online with #SUCanada #TalkBoutique.