earlier this fall, i found myself lamenting the state of Toronto's technology ecosystem on several axes and seriously contemplating a move to San Francisco. circumstances have since changed in unexpected ways, and i've decided to be in Toronto over the mid-long term to help build something new which i'm very excited about. to that end, i've been thinking about what i'd like to see happen in this city.
while spending time at Sidewalk Labs last summer, i found myself immersed in conversations around the kind of city we'd like Toronto to become. what stood out to me amongst everyone on the project (the Sidewalk Labs + Waterfront Toronto staff, as well as the Fellows) was a common hope that Toronto would become a more ambitious city in many ways—in transit planning, in livability, in sustainability targets, and in our technology ecosystem.
i am very lucky to be immersed in the emerging vibrancy of Toronto's startup ecosystem. i'm always excited to see ambitious startups decide to build here. to-date, we've seen a few success stories of Canadian tech entrepreneurship which serve as inspiration for the rest of us. what next? concretely, i'd like to see Toronto move beyond enterprise solutions, financial services, and insurance startups. i'd like to see Toronto incubate startups with long-term ambitions to be sustainable standalone businesses instead of selling out to American technology giants looking to acquire talent quickly.
one of the things i am going to be trying to figure out next is this: as technologists, how do we build things that truly create value for people, and not just for profit? i hope to spend the next year meeting people who are pondering the same, and understand how we can collaborate on this together.
what else? i've spent a lot of time being told by jaded people that my hopes are impossible on the timelines that i want to see them realized. i hope we cultivate a community here where the default is optimism instead of corporate cynicism. i hope that the default answer when asked “is this possible?"—here, at this point in time—becomes a thoughtful yes instead of no. i hope that we attract enough talented people to this city that the gravity shifts toward techno-optimism.
spending time in another place was also insightful. New York City introduced me to intelligent comedy on tech, history, and politics via Caveat (which, to be fair, may be one-of-a-kind), the algorave experience and the live-coding community, people with the job title "creative technologist", whimsical startups like RunwayML, and an entire community of brilliant, open-hearted technologists who build fun things. this is, of course, biased by the fact that i spent most of my time in New York at the Recurse Center, which does an excellent job of screening for friendly, talented programmers.
but why can't we have that here? why can't we build a community of technologists who are also a community of artists? can we fill gallery spaces with technology-infused art? can we sing karaoke with lyrics dreamed by AI? can we dance to the heartbeat of computer-generated music together? in 2020, i want to produce more than i consume. i know i will fail at this, but that's okay.
i hope we each consider what we're able to contribute into the world, and make it happen instead of talking about maybe making it happen. what that looks like is going to be wildly different per person—it may be research, writing, music, generative language modeling-backed humor, community-organizing—whatever it is, i hope you contribute it with all of your heart. i hope we recognize that we are part of something so much bigger.
these are my hopes for the long term here, and i'm excited to spend time with other people for whom this resonates. as a technology community and a city aiming to have a place on the world stage for the long-term, we're in this together. i am hopeful for the long term here.