Monday, May 04, 2009

India learning from Toronto?

This article on US media companies beginning to favor India over China in Asia reminded me of an earlier article on the success Toronto has had in multiculturalism.

The common thread here is how important it is to be open and welcoming to outside ideas. I don't mean this as a pitch for diversity per se (although diversity in its own right is a laudable goal.) But rather to highlight that encouraging a diversity of people and of ideas is good for business, helps grow markets and can actually contribute to social cohesion. Everyone wants to support society and its institutions because they feel directly vested in their success.

India is less onerous in its demands and regulations on foreign media and as a result is seeing a great influx of new media ideas. I'm sure it is no coincidence that the Indian media landscape is one of the most dynamic on Earth right now. India is currently the source for many pop-culture innovations from movies to music to fashion.

Conceding risk capital in Canada

Another story about a Canadian researcher being lost to the US due to budget cuts.

This shouldn't be dismissed as another example of Canada's "brain drain." Sure, Canada and many other countries will always lose talent to the US because it is a bigger market, more things are happening, and there will always be more opportunity.

But there is no reason why this trend should be exacerbated by budget cuts. Quite the opposite, money should be spent in order to stem this tide as much as possible. This isn’t a cost, it is an investment in the future (yes, I know this is clich├ęd)

There are two clear negative repercussions to losing R&D talent:

1) It will be more difficult to attract foreign investment, especially VC money, to fuel innovative industries. People invest risk capital in countries where they see new products and services being developed. A leading indicator for this is the relative health of the local R&D community. A non-existent community means no innovations, which mean no outside risk capital coming into Canada.

2) It threatens Canada's future as a hub for innovation. If Canada wants to diversify its economy away from just commodities, then it needs to make this sort of long term investments. The hope of Canada becoming a center for any sort of innovation will be dimmed without active R&D investing, which will lead to the commercialization of products and the creation of industries later down the line.

What is the point of creating an "urban paradise" if no one is around to enjoy it?

CATO loves multiculturalism (and Toronto, too)

I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see such a glowing commentary on Toronto and multiculturalism from the likes of someone from the Cato Institute.

I fully support this opinion and am heartened to see more progressive views on multiculturalism migrate across the political spectrum.

As someone who left Toronto over ten years ago, I can say that every time I've returned, I've found the city more sophisticated and cosmopolitan. When I left I thought Toronto was somewhat provincial but it has improved greatly over the years.

I'm not sure it is the urban paradise this article makes it out to be, but it does a lot of things right on the immigration front. There still needs much to be done in terms of urban design and overall urban/architectural aesthetics, but that is a different story.

Happily, the article debates this central anti-immigrant argument:

Successful societies (so this argument goes) owe their liberty and prosperity to distinct institutions which, in turn, depend on the persistence and dominance of the culture that established and nurtured them. Should that culture fade—or become too diluted by the customs, religions, and tongues of outsiders—the foundation of all that is best and most attractive about that society cannot long last.

This, I would argue, is a recipe for disaster for a society, not for success. Without constant external input, a society becomes complacent and its thinking ossifies. It basically bores itself to death because it is unable to draw on new sources of thinking to spur innovation and creativity.

The greatest societies are those that stood (or stand) at the crossroads of humanity and are able to pick from and integrate the best humankind has to offer.

Glad to see that Toronto has picked up on this lesson.