Several University of Toronto researchers will take the stage this week, alongside leading technology thinkers, entrepreneurs and futurists at the first-ever SingularityU Canada Summit.

The two-day event, spawned by Silicon Valley’s Singularity University – a think tank, business incubator and education centre rolled into one – kicks off tomorrow at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works and includes presentations on the future of health, transportation and balancing privacy and freedom in the Digital Age. 

There will also be a satellite event at the MaRS Discovery District, co-hosted by U of T.

Singularity’s arrival in Toronto is yet another example of how the city is emerging as a key centre for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. 

“It’s one of these things that’s drawing the lightning to Toronto when it comes to technology prowess, startups and innovation,” said Mario Grech, a co-director of U of T’s Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab, or DCSIL, one of several entrepreneurship hubs on campus.

“It’s a real recognition that Canada – and specifically Toronto – is arriving.”

Grech will host tomorrow’s satellite event at MaRS. It includes livestreams of presentations from the main stage as well as separate panel discussions on blockchain – the distributed ledger technology on which cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are based – and the role of artificial intelligence, or AI, in the medical field.

Singularity was co-founded in 2008 by serial entrepreneur Peter Diamandis and futurist Ray Kurzweil. The organization bills itself as a “global learning and innovation community using exponential technologies to solve the world’s biggest challenges.” Put more simply, Singularity introduces executives, entrepreneurs and others to potentially game-changing technologies. 

The events have proven to be incredibly popular – so much so that it’s not unusual for thousands of applicants to apply for one of a few dozen spots in one of Singularity’s nine-week courses. Tickets for the Canadian summit, meantime, sold for as much as $2,700 each. 

The main event at Evergreen Brick Works will open with a presentation by Diamandis, who was also the founder of the X-Prize Foundation. 

He will be followed by a number of speakers over the next two days, including several from U of T. They include: Robert Steiner, the director of the fellowships in global journalism at U of T’s Munk School of Global Affairs, and Molly Shoichet, a University Professor in U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering whose research focuses on regenerative medicine, tissue engineering and drug delivery.

Raquel Urtasun, an associate professor in U of T’s computer science department and the head of Uber’s new self-driving vehicle lab in Toronto, is scheduled to give a presentation on “Mobility Reimagined” on Thursday.

The satellite event at MaRS, meanwhile, will feature a blockchain presentation from Andreas Park, an associate professor of finance at U of T Mississauga with a cross appointment at the Rotman School of Management. He will also moderate a panel on the same topic that includes U of T alumni Rhea Mehta, the co-founder of Bowhead Health, and Duncan Brown, a strategic partnership associate at WeWork. 

The panel on AI in medicine will be moderated by Frank Rudzicz, an assistant professor in U of T’s computer science department and a rehabilitation scientist at the University Health Network. Rudzicz is also a co-founder of WinterLight Labs, which uses machine learning and speech samples to detect signs of dementia in patients. 

Also on the panel are: Sally Bean, an ethicist and policy adviser at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics; and Anna Goldenberg, an assistant professor in U of T’s computer science department and a scientist in the genetics and genome biology program at SickKids Research Institute.