Here’s what happened at Collision 2022

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Collision opening night 2022

Couldn’t make it to Web Summit’s North American event? Here’s what you missed at Collision 2022.

Over a whirlwind few days at Toronto’s Enercare Centre, Web Summit’s sold out North American event – Collision 2022 – hosted a variety of speakers from the worlds of tech, business, culture and beyond.

At this year’s Collision were literary luminary Margaret Atwood, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, VC experts, trailblazing startups, NFT toting teens and everything in between.

From June 20-23, 2022, Collision hosted the largest global event in Toronto in more than two years, with 35,000-plus enthusiastic attendees enjoying three days of content across more than 20 tracks, from HealthConf and planet:tech to Corporate Innovation Summit and Auto/Tech.

We’ve rounded up some of the event’s best bits.

Margaret Atwood, speaker at Collision 2022 Opening Night
Image of author Margaret Atwood at Collision 2022: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

Collision highlights from Opening Night

Stars of tech and entertainment took to Centre Stage for Collision’s Opening Night in Toronto.

“If you’re a female Republican voter, I’d think twice”

Margaret Atwood – one of the world’s most renowned writers, and a strong supporter of women’s rights and social and environmental justice, gave a wide-ranging talk covering Roe v Wade and climate change.

Speaking just a few days before the US supreme court released its official decision reversing Roe v Wade, Margaret issued a warning as to where society could be headed if Roe v Wade were overturned.

“This leaked opinion on Roe v Wade was based on originalism – that is, it should be the original US constitution. The original US constitution did not include votes for women. So if you’re an originalist and a female Republican voter, I’d think twice about that,” said Margaret.

“Bill Gates missed the wave in mobile; missed the wave in social media”

Dapper Labs CEO Roham Gharogozlou spoke with the Cut’s Lindsay Peoples about the future of NFTs.

In response to Bill Gates’ comments on NFTs – in which he claimed that they’re a sham, while referencing the Greater Fool Theory – Roham said people who disparage this technology, which is still in “toddler phase”, jump to conclusions because they don’t understand it.

It’s very typical that people who built a lot of value, and created a lot of value in previous technology shifts, tend to miss the future technology shifts.

– Roham Gharogozlou, CEO of Dapper Labs

“It’s very typical that people who built a lot of value, and created a lot of value in previous technology shifts, tend to miss the future technology shifts.

“In some ways, it’s because of the perception that they have … and in some ways, it’s because they’re jumping to conclusions based on incomplete information. They don’t have the time to really go deep and see, at the ground level, what’s happening.

“So Bill Gates himself missed the wave in mobile; missed the wave in social media. And this is because he created that first wave and enabled all of the following to exist.”

Boston Dynamics' Spot robot dog
Image of Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot: Sam Barnes/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

Collision Day 1

From celebrating Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples day to meeting robot dogs, with a cruise through the treacherous waters of 2022’s financial markets along the way, check out the Collision highlights from Day 1.

Startups are being jerked around by the VC community

On Centre Stage, four leading VCs sat down to discuss the state of the fundraising landscape in 2022.

With funding drying up for many startups, Redpoint Ventures managing director Logan Bartlett criticised his industry: “Startups are partially being jerked around by the venture capital community, who don’t know how to value businesses anymore.”

The shift from founder-favourable deals to VC-favourable deals proved to be a theme of this session, along with a belief that the market over the last number of years may have been unsustainable. “You had a lot of companies that were fundraising and growing unsustainably,” said Matt Garratt, general partner at CRV.

Logan had the last word on the time ahead for investors and VC funds globally: “I wouldn’t raise right now. You might raise at a lower level in six months, but it will be a much more efficient process because there is such a spread of prices right now.”

Startups are partially being jerked around by the venture capital community, who don’t know how to value businesses anymore.

– Logan Bartlett, managing director at Redpoint Ventures

Data is embedded in Indigenous people’s culture

On June 21, Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day, Collision was honoured to host several talks and panels featuring Indigenous creators and innovators, including Jeff Ward, founder and CEO of Animikii Indigenous Technology.

Speaking about the Indigenous tech community, he said: “It’s taken a long journey to get to where we are today. There have been a lot of Indigenous innovators, technologists and community leaders that have brought this conversation to light over the years.”

“Indigenous people have always thought about data,” Jeff continued. “For thousands of years, data has been embedded in our beadwork, our ceremonies, our oral history.”

Image of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales: Sam Barnes/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

GPT3 impressive in its ability to turn out “plausible-sounding bullshit”

Speaking on the Q&A Stage, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales discussed the future of the free online encyclopaedia and its loyal community of volunteers.

No matter how sophisticated AI becomes, Jimmy still expects a human in the loop for the foreseeable future.

“Are we anywhere near having a bot write Wikipedia entries or even do good-quality machine translation from one language to another?” Jimmy asked. “Not really.”

“And I think once you come to GPT3 and those models,” Jimmy continued, “they’re impressive in their ability to turn out plausible-sounding bullshit.”

Spot the dog made an appearance

Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter took to Centre Stage to talk about the future of robotics. He was joined by the company’s most famous employee, Spot, who was seen roaming around Collision throughout the day.

Robert had some opinions on how robots should look and behave. We’ve all seen the viral videos of Boston Dynamics’ robots dancing gracefully in tandem. It’s not just for the spectacle – it’s because they need to move this way, according to Robert.

“When we see a robot that moves like an animal, we get confused. Our evolved brain sees a robot, but our lizard brain can’t see past an animal. So we knew we had to make our robots move like us.”

Kasparov in thought during chess match
Image of Garry Kasparov, chess grandmaster and Avast security ambassador, on Q&A Stage: Carlos Osorio/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

Collision Day 2

Chess grandmasters calling out Russian presidents? Investors dodging knives? Clothing companies suing the US government? All of these topics and more are among our Collision Day 2 highlights.

Putin will not stop until he is stopped

Avast security ambassador Garry Kasparov, in his role as Avast security ambassador, is a vocal critic of Russia’s president, Valdimir Putin. Garry started Day 2 with a warning: “There are two things we have to know about dictators. One: they always lie about what they’ve done. Two: they very often tell us exactly what they’re going to do next.”

Putin will not stop until he is stopped. That’s why the Free World needs to step up to give Ukraine everything needed to win.

– Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov

Garry went on to say that the west greatly overestimated Russia’s military capabilities at the outset of the conflict, while underestimating the determination of the Ukrainian people to resist: “We expected Kiev to fall in 96 hours, but they are still here.”

Garry ended the talk with an unequivocal warning: “Putin will not stop until he is stopped. That’s why the Free World needs to step up to give Ukraine everything needed to win.”

Investors don’t want to catch a falling knife

On Venture, the market slowdown continued to dominate, with leading investors giving their best analyses of where the startup ecosystem is heading.

With much uncertainty, deals look increasingly likely to become more VC-friendly than founder-friendly.

“On one hand, founders might still be indexing to the 100x multiples that they were getting two quarters ago. On the other hand, investors don’t want to proverbially catch a falling knife,” said Sapphire Ventures partner Cathy Gao.

Misinformation comes from all sides and all corners

The US is experiencing politically tumultuous times on a scale not seen in decades. To unpick the media’s responsibility not only to its readers, but also to democracy itself, AP executive editor Julie Pace and Vox editor-in-chief Swati Sharma sat down with Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff.

There is misinformation that comes from all sides and all corners, and it’s not always the purview of one party.

– Julie Pace, AP executive editor

“It’s one thing to say, ‘this is false’. It’s another thing to help walk people through what is the truth,” said Julie.

Swati believes that journalists need to be more transparent about what biases they bring to their own reporting, saying, “how you admit when you’re wrong, how you admit you have some sort of bias… I think that’s a really big part of building trust with people”.

On the subject of political parties spreading misinformation, Julie said, “there is misinformation from all sides and corners, and it’s not always the purview of one party”.

Companies have an obligation to solve social and environmental problems

“60 percent of young people would choose where they want to work based on seeing the CEO out in front, leading the charge here,” said Ty Montague, co-founder of co:collective. Ty added that there is pressure on business leaders to stand for something; to have a stance on politics, the environment and social justice issues, and to act upon these stances.

This is part of a new movement known as conscious capitalism, Ty explained, giving the example of outdoor clothing company Patagonia, which is suing the US government to protect wild and open land, and which is sewing tags into its clothing with slogans such as “Vote the assholes out”.

TKS innovators holding a laptop on stageImage of TKS Innovators Aleeza Jahan and Anya Singh: Harry Murphy/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

Collision Day 3

On Day 3, Collision highlights included witnessing an NFT being minted live on stage, getting hyped for the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, and catching Libby Liu talk about Whistleblower Aid’s latest work to hold Meta accountable.

Google and Facebook lost their minds

In 2021, when the Australian government introduced a bill that would force designated platforms to negotiate pay programs with news media content providers, Google said it would shut down search and Meta said it would shut down Facebook.

“Google and Facebook lost their minds,” said Whistleblower Aid CEO Libby Liu.

In the end, Meta followed through and, “when they shut down, they didn’t just limit it to news media pages. They shut down more than 17,000 pages, including emergency services, domestic violence, the fire department during bushfire season, and even the health system just four days before the roll out of Covid vaccines,” explained Libby.

The conduct of Facebook in the course of [Cambridge Analytica] … There’s a lack of transparency, to put it as politely as I can.

– Canadian MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith

“It wasn’t that surprising, because we had dealt directly with Facebook in relation to Cambridge Analytica,” Canadian MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith said in relation to the tech company blocking these non-media pages.

“We had gone down a rabbit hole alongside partners in the UK, and the conduct of Facebook in the course of that particular scandal … There’s a lack of transparency, to put it as politely as I can,” Nathaniel added.

How to release blockbusters as big as Star Wars and Marvel

The Call of Duty video game has been around for nearly 20 years. A Call of Duty game has been launched every year since 2005, with the October release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II to be one of the series’ most significant releases to date.

Over the last two decades, the franchise has seen the gaming and pop culture world change massively, and has adapted consistently. It’s part of the game’s timeless appeal, said Johanna Faries, head of Call of Duty for Activision Blizzard: “We know that one of the important things to Call of Duty’s stature is exposure beyond the game in pop culture.”

Call of Duty will continue to diversify and keep with the times. Its October release will be one of the largest-scale launches of a franchise game on mobile, as the series tries to target new players on different devices.

“Mobile is the fastest-growing gaming platform in the entire industry,” said Johanna. “We want to make sure that we win across every platform and bring the game to demographics all over the world.”

Ripple CEO Brad GarlinghouseImage of Brad Garlinghouse, CEO, Ripple: Stephen McCarthy/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

Justice delayed is justice denied

In late 2020, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit against Ripple, alleging that the crypto company raised US$1.3 billion in unregistered digital-asset securities through its XRP tokens.

Underpinning this lawsuit is the SEC’s claim that XRP is a security, not a cryptocurrency. A ruling is expected any day now.

Speaking on the Crypto stage at Collision 2022, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said “the SEC has massively overstepped in trying to take jurisdictional ownership … I think they saw this grey area and thought, ‘We’re going to go in’.”

“The head of the SEC has said ‘justice delayed is justice denied’,” Brad continued. “Yet they are delaying this every single step of the way.”

Nobody wants an NFT that does absolutely nothing

There’s a high level of stigma around NFTs, said Aleeza Jahan, a TKS Innovator with the Knowledge Society. “A lot of mainstream media coverage is very much centred around digital art, which is just a digital asset,” according to Aleeza. “There are so many different applications to this.”

Nevertheless, the audience at the Q&A stage was treated to a live minting of an NFT digital asset using an audience selfie.

Aleeza and her co-presenter, Anya Singh, wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to create an NFT. They explained how this technology can have more profound uses, including incentivising education or detecting counterfeit medication – areas they are both involved in.

If you missed Collision this year, don’t worry. You can pre-register for 2023 now and get 50% off your ticket. See you in Toronto next June.

Main image of Centre Stage on Opening Night of Collision 2022: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

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