Waterloo Symposium on Technology & Society

About the Symposium Series

Symposium Founding Sponsor: Savvas Chamberlain, EXEL Research Inc.

Symposium Organizer: Mark Sedra, CSG

The Waterloo Symposium on Technology & Society seeks to promote public discourse in Canada and beyond on the societal challenges and opportunities created by innovations in four primary areas: artificial intelligence, robotics, big data and social media. Whether in the economic, security or political sphere, rapid technological change is transforming the way our societies function, and this change will only accelerate in the decades ahead. How can the public and private sectors collectively to maximize the benefits of this technological revolution to drive prosperity, democracy and good governance, while mitigating its most adverse effects, such as social dislocation, wealth inequality and diminishing trust in public institutions? Some of the world’s most renowned thinkers on the societal impacts of technology will be featured in the series. It will be held at one of Canada’s premier schools for international public policy, the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA), situated in one of the country’s premier tech hubs, the Waterloo Region.

PAST SYMPOSIUMS

Symposium No. 4:
TEAM HUMAN: IT’S TIME TO REMAKE SOCIETY TOGETHER AS THE TEAM WE ARE

To Douglas Rushkoff, Team Human is a manifesto—a fiery distillation of his most urgent thoughts on civilization and human nature. In this new talk, drawn from his book of the same name, Rushkoff argues that we are essentially social creatures, and that we achieve our greatest aspirations when we work together—not as individuals. Yet today society is threatened by a vast antihuman infrastructure that undermines our ability to connect. Money, once a means of exchange, is now a means of exploitation; education, conceived as a way to elevate the working class, has become another assembly line; and the Internet has only further divided us into increasingly atomized and radicalized groups. This talk is Rushkoff’s impassioned call to arms—to recognize that being human is a team sport. In Rushkoff’s own words: “Being social may be the whole point.” Harnessing wide-ranging research on human evolution, biology, and psychology, Rushkoff will show that when we work together, we realize greater happiness, productivity, and peace. If we can understand this fundamental truth and reassert our humanity—together—we can make the world a better place to be human.

Date & Time:
Tue. December 10, 2019
7:00PM – 10:00PM EDT

Where:
Balsillie School of International Affairs (Auditorium)
67 Erb Street West

Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2
Canada

Symposium Agenda:

7:00pm – 7:10pm: Introduction by CSG Executive Director Mark Sedra

7:10pm – 8:00pm: Keynote Lecture by Douglas Rushkoff

8:00pm – 9:00pm: Panel Discussion featuring Douglas Rushkoff, Sara Bannerman, Marcel O’Gorman and Kevin Chan with moderation from Nahlah Ayed

9:00pm – 10:00pm: Reception (Complimentary beer, wine, soft drinks and food will be served)

Broadcast Partner:

The symposium will be broadcast on CBC Radio’s long running show, IDEAS, hosted by Nahlah Ayed.

IDEAS is a deep-dive into contemporary thought and intellectual history.

Nahlah Ayed is an award-winning veteran of foreign reporting: first, in the Middle East where she spent nearly a decade covering the region’s many conflicts. And later, while based in London, she covered many of the major stories of our time: Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Europe’s refugee crisis, the Brexit vote and its fallout.

Keynote Speaker:

Douglas RusHkoff

Named one of the “world’s ten most influential intellectuals” by MIT, Douglas Rushkoff is an author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age. His twenty books include the just-published Team Human, based on his podcast, as well as the bestsellers Present Shock, Throwing Rocks and the Google Bus, Program or Be Programmed, Life Inc, and Media Virus. He also made the PBS Frontline documentaries Generation Like, The Persuaders, and Merchants of Cool. His book Coercion won the Marshall McLuhan Award, and the Media Ecology Association honored him with the first Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity.

Rushkoff’s work explores how different technological environments change our relationship to narrative, money, power, and one another. He coined such concepts as “viral media,” “screenagers,” and “social currency,” and has been a leading voice for applying digital media toward social and economic justice. He a research fellow of the Institute for the Future, and founder of the Laboratory for Digital Humanism at CUNY/Queens, where he is a Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics. He is a columnist for Medium, and his novels and comics, Ecstasy Club, A.D.D, and Aleister & Adolf, are all being developed for the screen.

Panelists:

Sara Bannerman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia and McMaster University. In 2016 she was appointed Canada Research Chair in Communication Policy and Governance. She researches traditional forms of governance such as copyright, intellectual property, and privacy law, as well as governance undertaken through non-state actors: governance by code, technologies, and private companies.

Marcel O’Gorman is a University Research Chair and Professor of English at the University of Waterloo. He is also the founding Director of the Critical Media Lab (CML), where he teaches courses, leads collaborative projects, and directs workshops in digital design and the philosophy of technology. The CML is located inside the Communitech Hub in Kitchener, where its role is to disseminate a philosophy of “tech for good.” O’Gorman has published widely about the impacts of technology on society, including his most recent book Necromedia.

Kevin Chan is a global Director and Head of Public Policy at Facebook Canada. He was previously a policy director to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and a non-residential fellow at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society. He has testified before the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy, and is the recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Symposium No. 3:
Search and Discover: What the Internet and Big Data Reveal About Who We Are

How can Google search terms help predict elections? How many white Americans voted against Obama simply because he was black? Are crime rates affected by violence in the media? Are boys secretly favored over girls amongst parents? For Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, the answer to these questions doesn’t lie in traditional polls, but in the billions of Google searches we make every day. Through his original research with search terms and big data, he’s discovered—and predicted—a number of counterintuitive insights, often that fly in the face of conventional wisdom. And in this surprising keynote, he lays out just what big data can reveal about our biases, anxieties, and hidden desires—and how Internet searches can provide answers to questions we’re often too afraid to ask. Though sometimes uncomfortable, these revelations are designed to help us understand the world with more accuracy. And they’re here to help us become smarter consumers of data, based on asking better questions. It’s about what people are actually doing, Stephens-Davidowitz argues—not what they say they want to do.

Date & Time:
Wed. October 2, 2019
7:00PM – 10:00PM EDT

Where:
Balsillie School of International Affairs (Auditorium)
67 Erb Street West

Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2
Canada

Symposium Agenda:

7:00pm – 7:10pm: Introduction by CSG Executive Director Mark Sedra

7:10pm – 8:00pm: Keynote Lecture by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

8:00pm – 9:00pm: Panel Discussion featuring Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Rozita Dara, Bianca Wylie and Jonathan Obar with moderation from Mark Sedra

9:00pm – 10:00pm: Reception (Complimentary beer, wine, soft drinks and food will be served)

Keynote Speaker:

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has used the Internet to find groundbreaking insights into advertising, sports, sexuality, health, and many other aspects of 21st century life. His debut book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are summarizes this research, arguing that much of what we thought from traditional, offline data sources has been dead wrong. It was named an Economist Best Book of the Year and is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.

Seth is a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times and has worked as a visiting lecturer at the Wharton School and a data scientist at Google. He holds a PhD in economics from Harvard and a BA in Philosophy from Stanford.

Panelists:

Rozita Dara is an Assistant Professor at the School of Computer Science in the University of Guelph. Prior to her academic appointment, she worked at Ontario’s Office of the Information Privacy Commissioner (IPC) as Privacy and Information Technology Officer.

Bianca Wylie is a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. She also leads work on public sector technology policy for Canada at Dgen Network and is the co-founder of Tech Reset Canada.

Jonathan A. Obar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at York University. He also serves as a Research Associate with the Quello Center for Telecommunication Management and Law at Michigan State University.

Symposium No. 2:
The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence does the seemingly impossible, magically bringing machines to life – driving cars, trading stocks, and teaching children. But facing the sea change that AI will bring can be paralyzing. How should companies set strategies, governments design policies, and people plan their lives for a world so different from what we know?

In his keynote lecture Avi Goldfarb will recast the rise of AI as a drop in the cost of prediction. By doing so, he will lift the curtain on the AI-is-magic hype and show how basic tools from economics provide clarity about the AI revolution and a basis for action by CEOs, managers, policy makers, investors, and entrepreneurs. The impact of AI will be profound, but the economic framework for understanding it is surprisingly simple.

Date & Time:
Wed. May 15, 2019
7:00PM – 10:00PM EDT

Where:
Balsillie School of International Affairs (Auditorium)
67 Erb Street West

Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2
Canada

Symposium Agenda:

7:00pm – 7:10pm: Introduction by CSG Executive Director Mark Sedra

7:10pm – 7:20pm:  A Profile of AI Innovation in the Waterloo Region – Huron Digital Pathology (Presentation by the CEO and AI Advisor of Huron Digital Pathology, Mr. Patrick Myles and Prof. Hamid Tizhoosh)

7:20pm – 8:10pm: Keynote Lecture by Avi Goldfarb

8:10pm – 9:00pm: Panel Discussion featuring Avi Goldfarb, Andrew Bailey and Carla Fehr, with moderation from Mark Sedra

9:00pm – 10:00pm: Reception (Complimentary beer, wine, soft drinks and food will be served)

Keynote Speaker:

Avi Goldfarb

Avi Goldfarb is the Rotman Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Healthcare, and Professor of Marketing at Rotman. Avi is also Chief Data Scientist at the Creative Destruction Lab, Senior Editor at Marketing Science, and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research on the economics of technology has been discussed in White House reports, Congressional testimony, European Commission documents, the Economist, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, CBC Radio, National Public Radio, Forbes, the Atlantic, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. Along with Ajay Agrawal and Joshua Gans, Avi is the author of the Globe & Mail bestselling book Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence.

Panelists:

Andrew Bailey: Associate Professor of Philosophy and Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies) in the College of Arts at the University of Guelph. He is a member of The Guelph Centre for Advancing Responsible and Ethical Artificial Intelligence.

Carla Fehr: Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo where she holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy.

Mark Crowley: Assistant Professor in the Pattern Recognition and Machine Intelligence group in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo.

Symposium No. 1:
Disruptive Technology Do Robots Want Your Job?

Martin Ford explores the ways in which AI and automation (aka, “robots”) are outpacing humans in a range of sectors, from education to law, agriculture to healthcare, management and beyond. He offers a realistic view of what the future of work—and your place in it—will look like. Beyond pragmatic concerns, Ford addresses a bigger question: can accelerating technology disrupt our entire economic system to the point where a fundamental restructuring is required? This next industrial revolution, Ford argues, will not be like the last one. In the past, even as jobs were eliminated, jobs were created to replace them. Increasingly, new machines will be able to take care of themselves, making fewer jobs necessary. Will basic, guaranteed income be implemented? How will education reflect our changing society? We are at an inflection point: Do we continue to listen to those who argue that nothing fundamental has changed, and take a bad bet on a miserable future? Or do we begin to discuss what we must do to ensure all of us, and not just the few, benefit from the awesome power of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other breakthroughs? This exciting talk is both an exploration of this new technology and a call to arms to address its implications.

Date & Time:
Tues. April 16, 2019
7:00PM – 10:00PM EDT

Where:
Balsillie School of International Affairs (Auditorium)
67 Erb Street West

Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2
Canada

Symposium Agenda:

7:00pm – 8:00pm: Keynote Lecture by Martin Ford

8:00pm – 9:00pm: Panel Discussion featuring Martin Ford, Ryan Gariepy, William Melek and Joël Blit, with moderation from CSG Executive Director Mark Sedra.

9:00pm – 10:00pm: Reception (Beer, Wine, Soft Drinks and appetizers will be served)

Keynote Speaker:

Martin Ford

Martin Ford is the founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm and the author of three books: Architects of Intelligence, the New York Times bestselling Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, and The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future. He has over 25 years of experience in computer design and software development, and holds a computer engineering degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a graduate business degree from UCLA. He has written for publications including Fortune, Forbes, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Project Syndicate, The Huffington Post and The Fiscal Times. Ford has also appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including programs on NPR and CNBC.

Panelists:

Ryan Gariepy: Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Clearpath – the largest and fastest growing robotics company in Canada.

William Melek: Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He also serves as the Director of Mechatronics, the Director of the Laboratory of Computational Intelligence and Automation, and the Director of RoboHub.

Joël Blit: Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Waterloo and Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

Videos

Reports

  1. SYMPOSIUM NO. 1 SUMMARY REPORT:

    Robotics and the Age of Automation: Preparing for the Coming Disruption

    By: Mark Sedra

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