Highlights of Elevate 2018

Last week, from September 21-27, Toronto played host to the second annual Elevate Toronto Festival, a city-wide festival featuring North American leaders in technology and innovation. Two leading experts from McCarthy Tétrault spoke at Elevate: Ana Badour, Partner and co-lead of our Fintech group, and Carole Piovesan, co-lead of our National Cybersecurity, Privacy and Data Management group.

This year’s festival was broken up into four distinct experiences:

  • Elevate Hackathon: A three-day hackathon at MaRS Discovery District, where participants were asked to innovate solutions for Smart Cities;
  • Elevate Main Stage: Which featured high-profiled speakers, such as former US Vice President, Al Gore, and Google Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt;
  • Elevate Educate: Where attendees could participate in any of the 11 concurrent content tracks focused on topics, such as: AI, Fintech, Blockchain, Digital Transformation and Cannabis; and
  • Elevate Talent: An all-day event, where companies from Toronto’s vibrant tech industry opened their doors to festival participants to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse of their businesses.

A number of discussion from the Elevate Educate segment included discussions on the impact of ethics and regulations on emerging technologies. One particular highlight of the Artificial Intelligence track of Elevate Educate was a panel discussion hosted by Hessie Jones, founder of ArCompany, titled “The New Normal? Institutionalizing Ethics in the Age of Algorithm”. The panel featured Caroline Bessega (Chief Science Officer, Stradigi AI), Dr. Ann Cavoukian (Distinguished Expert-in-Residence, Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence, Ryerson University), and Carole Piovesan (lawyer and Co-Lead of National Cybersecurity, Privacy and Data Management at McCarthy Tétrault LLP). The discussion began with a breakdown and comparison of the definition of AI from legal and scientific perspectives and moved into a very lively debate on the current uses of AI, ranging from adjudication in criminal cases to facial recognition technology. The panellists addressed some of the key concerns with the quality of data being used in algorithms, including issues of bias, privacy, and the regulatory governance of technology. The discussion concluded with the panelists sharing their thoughts on the future of AI, noting the need for improvements in non-bias and privacy, the creation of ethics and AI as a management role in organizations, and the significant shift to a bottom-up structure. 

Another highlight was the panel on “Regulations in the Blockchain World” in the Elevate Blockchain segment, where Alexandra Posadzki, financial reporter at the Globe and Mail, hosted a regulatory roundtable discussion with Nancy Wojtas (Partner at Cooley LLP), Fern Karsh (General Counsel of the Catalystic Group) and Ana Badour (Partner at McCarthy Tétrault LLP). The bulk of the discussion centered around the impact that jurisdictional laws (and, in particular, securities regulation and anti-money laundering regulation) have had on nascent technologies built on blockchain infrastructure, such as cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs). Wojtas addressed the US approach to cryptocurrencies, including the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) recent statement that ICOs should be regulated as securities.  Both Karsh and Badour noted the regulatory sandbox approach taken by the Ontario Securities Commission and other Canadian securities regulators.  The panellists agreed on the challenges of regulating these types of technologies in a global world, and the importance of ensuring dialogue amongst industry participators, regulators and legislators.  In this vein, the Elevate Blockchain segment also saw the launch of a new industry group Blockchain Technology Coalition of Canada. What is clear from the Regulations in the Blockchain World panel is that, as regulators continue to navigate through the evolving sea of blockchain, the answer to how the use of blockchain technology is and should be regulated will continue to evolve. 

The date for next year’s Elevate has already been set for September 23-27, which will once again be taking place in Toronto. We can only hope that next year’s event is as exciting and engaging as Elevate 2018.

For more information about our firm’s Fintech expertise, please see our Fintech group’s page.

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