THE LAST WORD

I have thought a lot about disruption this year. The media industry in which I work is among the first to be impacted by the Internet, and the effects of that are still being felt as publications continue to close, and more journalists find themselves without full-time work. Now though it’s far more than media companies who find themselves with an uncertain future.

As the stories in Disruption have shown over the last year, no industry is immune to technology’s relentless march forward. Creative entrepreneurs are building new products and services that impact nearly every industry, including mattresses as we’ve seen in this issue. I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising in an age when you can have anything delivered to your front door, and yet there’s something fascinating about a product as essential to everyday life as the mattress being completely transformed.

Speaking of essential products, what’s more essential than money? It was an up and down year for cryptocurrencies, with popular coins like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litcoin dropping more than 70% in value over 2018. That hasn’t stopped believers from continuing to support and innovate in crypto, however. While it’s true that we aren’t yet paying for everyday goods and services with digital coins, as Coinsmart CEO Justin Hartzman shares in this edition, we’re still very much in the early adopter phase.

Disruption often happens when we move from scarcity to abundance. As three University of Toronto professors argued in their popular 2018 book Prediction Machines, “when the price of something fundamental drops drastically, the whole world can change.” That’s what artificial intelligence is doing to the cost of prediction and it’s having far-reaching effects. The machine learning that Netramark is using to identify more personalized treatments to slow the aging process is possible because of this, and it’s incredible to think that we could gain a little more of the scarcest resource of all – our time – as a result. In the spirit of cheap predictions, I’ll make what I think is a safe one: you’re going to read a lot more about the impacts of AI in these pages over the next year!

In 2018, I read a lot about innovation in Canada and our place in the world. Edmonton, Montreal, and Toronto are leading the world in the development and sometimes application of AI, but the level of investment in Canada still pales in comparison to other countries like China. Canadian firms don’t get the headlines in the same way our neighbours to the south do. And far too many Canadian entrepreneurs find themselves in America to get the capital they need to build their businesses.

Yet there are plenty of encouraging stories to tell about Canadian innovation, as you’ve read here. So, I’m optimistic about the future.

I’ve decided to apply that optimism to local journalism and am working hard to build what comes next for an industry that most often has a fairly bleak outlook. We’ll need plenty of new ideas and approaches and not all of them will succeed. But a few will, and they’ll change the industry all over again. That’s a good thing because as Ryan Vestby reminds us, “disruption makes us confront and grow with the future versus hiding from it.”

There are exciting developments happening in every single facet of life that will make tomorrow better than today. I look forward to reading all about them in future issues of Disruption along with you.

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