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5 highlights from WeaveSphere

The WeaveSphere tech conference wove together ideas about AI, FinTech, STEM education, innovation in Canada, and more.

WeaveSphere
Photo courtesy WeaveSphere
Photo courtesy WeaveSphere

For three days this November, innovation, collaboration, and a whole lot of big ideas were shared among “Weavers” during the WeaveSphere tech conference in Toronto.

“Today is an opportunity for greater connection between the scientific and tech industry, and academia,” said Marcellus Mindel of IBM Canada, opening the conference. With innovation the event’s core, Mindel added: “let’s define innovation, thinking of it as reframing that implements better outcomes.”

While lots happened over three days, here are five highlights and takeaways from the event:

1. Thought-provoking keynotes had attendees thinking big

Each day of WeaveSphere kicked off with a keynote, where three speakers brought their insightful ideas to attendees.

Gillian Hadfield shared ideas about AI and regulation

On Day 1, Gillian Hadfield, Professor of Law and director of the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society at the University of Toronto, explained where we are today when it comes to regulating artificial intelligence (AI) — and where we need to go next. 

While AI makes machines intelligent, Hadfield argued that it cannot, by definition, produce intelligent behaviour if it isn’t functioning appropriately and ethically. Machine learning is not the same as standard programming, since machines write the rules. As a result, machines can start solving problems in ways we don’t want them to, resulting in regulatory challenges. 

How to solve this? Hadfield presented two solutions:

  1. Establish compensation for harm
  2. Design incentives for meeting good and safe behaviour

Dr. William Barry discussed ethics with an AI co-presenter

On Day 2, professor, AI ethicist, and futurist Dr. William Barry talked about a particular problem: what ethical questions might arise when you program a robot? 

For starters, how do you determine what information to include or not? Where is the appropriate line? 

As a professor, Dr. Barry has been working with robots as teaching assistants in his classroom since 2015, and brought a digital version of Maria Bot (one of his AI assistants) to interact with the audience.

As Dr. Barry explained, he is very strategic when choosing the information from which his assistants learn. 

One place Maria won’t get access to? Twitter, says Dr. Barry, highlighting it’s too much of a risk for an “AI benign” to get access to misinformation. This would distort the ethical perspective that Maria is learning, he said. 

While he has programmed her to weed out and to not learn from toxic content — like racism and misogyny — Dr. Barry does work at exposing his AI beings to a wide range of diverse thought and lived experiences. In the end, how ethical an AI being is, is in the hands of the human controlling what they learn, he argued. As a result, they’ll ultimately be biased as a result of the specific data sets we provide for them. 

Marcel Mitran discussed technology for good

WeaveSphere’s Day 3 keynote took a slight turn away from AI. 

IBM Fellow, IBM Master Inventor, and CTO for Cloud Platform for zSystems and LinuxONE, Marcel Mitran took to the main stage for a keynote on responsible computing. At the heart of his talk was the argument that technologists need to take a step back and look at what’s being done to keep the world safe. 

For example, the opportunity for error and bias in the role of facial recognition in public safety, and the fact that our digital footprints — both on a personal level and for enterprise — have grown significantly even in the last year.

As Mitran explained, responsible computing is a systemic, holistic approach addressing current and future computing challenges like sustainability, ethics, and professionalism. It advances the “quadruple bottom line” of people, planet, prosperity, and participation. 

2. Insightful sessions had attendees thinking deep

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere

FinTech, cryptocurrency, AI, digital economies, Canada’s innovation landscape — there was a large cross-section of topics covered across a variety of workshops, paper presentation, and panel discussions. 

Some highlights include:

Chhavi Singh, co-founder of Flyte, asked the question: have you considered using AI to coach your sales staff? Elaborating on the opportunity AI presents to increase sales performance, Singh explained how AI can be used to help understand customer challenges and handle objections and concerns. 

COO of wealth management platform OneVest, Jakob Pizzera, outlined the three phases of FinTech. The first (1.0) was in-house sites for basic online banking. Version 2.0 was the “unbundling” of financial services, and the rise of standalone businesses. The last few years has brought FinTech 3.0, with embedded finance — for example making a purchase through Instagram.

WeaveSphere conference chair and R&D specialist Vio Onut answered the question of why we need to care about cyber security. For starters, the potentially very large costs to your organization, and because the massive skills gap of privacy and security experts has created vulnerabilities. 

Digital strategist Matt Everson explored what can go with emerging technologies like Web3 and the metaverse. Everson said developers should just start building and drawing on video game virtual markets as a model. He used popular online game EVE Online as an example of how virtual economy design can be translated to other markets.

Lijia Hou, Blockchain Systems Engineer with Draft Kings, explained that three key problems still exist when it comes to blockchain technology. First, investors want to understand how — in a volatile market — to mitigate risk. Second, developers from the traditional software side need a mindset shift when it comes to decentralization. And finally, the tools of decentralization are used differently, and this is not always evident for those unfamiliar with Web3.

3. There was a LOT of interest in STEM education

As part of WeaveSphere’s Education Day slate of programming, hundreds of high school and university students had the opportunity to workshop real-life problems from both school and work — all under the guidance of IBM’s Design Thinking experts

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere

This meeting of next-generation tech talent collaboratively explored Enterprise Design Thinking strategies like As-Is Scenario Mapping, Empathy Mapping, Hills (positioning statements), and Hopes and Fears. This approach to problem-solving works by framing the issue at hand in a human-centric way, centering the end-user in all decision-making. 

For Education Day, the problem at hand was helping fourth-year university students find their first job. 

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere

4. There were loads of networking and learning opportunities

One of the best parts of any conference is the opportunity to network and learn from fellow attendees.

In the conference’s Innovation Valley section, event sponsors were on-hand to discuss everything from their latest technologies to job opportunities, plus several graduate students were also there to present their research.

Since WeaveSphere is a “meeting of the minds” between tech professionals and students, many undergrads from schools like York University and Mohawk College came to the conference full of questions, ready to absorb everything. 

5. WeaveSphere celebrated top tech talent

A big part of WeaveSphere was a celebration of some of the best tech minds in Canada. 

During a gala evening at the end of Day 2, the 2022 Developer 30 Under 30 and Tech Titans were awarded to the best of the best among young developers and digital transformation leaders in Canada. 

The winners were:

Developer 30 Under 30 winners

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere
  • Alexander Newman
  • Anakha Chellakudam
  • Anthony Langford
  • Arshdeep Saini
  • Aryaman Rastogi
  • Bohdan Senyshyn
  • Charlie Mackie
  • Charmi Chokshi
  • Colin Lee
  • Daniel Marantz
  • Francisco Hodge 
  • Hassan Djirdeh
  • Jerry Fengwei Zhang
  • Julia Paglia
  • Karandeep Bhardwaj
  • Kathryn Kodama
  • Khushbu Patel
  • Lianne Lardizabal
  • Lucas Giancola
  • Mathew Mozaffari
  • Maz Mandi
  • Oleksandr Kostrikov
  • Rishab Kumar
  • Samantha Lauer
  • Sarah Syed
  • Stan Petley
  • Tanmay Bakshi
  • Tim Romanski
  • Xiaole Zeng
  • Yash Kapadia

Tech Titans winners

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere
  • Andrew Dolinski
  • Ashish Agrawal
  • Chhavi Singh
  • Chris Dolinski
  • Dean Skurka
  • Demetrius Tsafaridis
  • Fay Arjomandi
  • Harish Pandian
  • Harpreet Gill
  • Iman Bashir
  • James Stewart
  • Len Covello
  • Manav Gupta
  • Marcel Mitran
  • Michelle Joliat
  • Dr. Mohamad Sawwaf
  • Omar A. Butt
  • Peter Zwicker
  • Ryan McDonald
  • Dr. William Cherniak

Finally, as WeaveSphere came to a close, the Pitch Stadium opened, hearing from a wide variety of startups. 

They came, they pitched, and in the end, Iman Bashir and Nicole Lytle of Craftly.AI, a copywriting assistant that uses AI to generate original content, took home the $50,000 prize to help grow their business.

Photo courtesy WeaveSphere

WeaveSphere was a uniquely collaborative, innovation-focused conference filled with engaging workshops, presentations, and networking opportunities.


Digital Journal is an official media partner for WeaveSphere. Check out our series of articles from the lead-up to WeaveSphere.

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