In late September, I went to a sold-out UBC talk by Michio Kaku, the U.S. theoretical physicist and futurist who manages to be a leader in his field, a best-selling author and a TV personality. While predicting which jobs will survive the rise of robotics and AI, Kaku highlighted the difference between intellectual capital and commodity capital.
Because commodities like food and coal lose value over time, he contended, nations that rely on them for wealth will end up poor. “The countries that are going to be rich are those countries that grab the link between commodity capital and intellectual capital,” Kaku said, pointing to China. “They’re using their commodities to create a scientific class in China, because they know that’s where wealth is going to come from.”
On page 42, you’ll find an interview with a B.C. business leader who made the same connection. Chip Wilson entered a commoditized industry, apparel, and reimagined it. With Lululemon Athletica, Wilson saw the opportunity to build a global clothing brand that was as much about an idea—getting the most out of life—as it was about a quality product.
Even if you wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of the little black stretchy pants he spun into a multibillion-dollar business, it’s an amazing story. We need more entrepreneurs like Wilson: innovators who see what’s coming, shake up entire industries and help us avoid the commodity trap.
Speaking of product worth billions, those so inclined will have plenty of above-board options now that recreational pot is legal in Canada. In “High Stakes” (p.21), we talk to several notable figures in the provincial cannabis scene, which promises to be a grower.
The two other leaders featured in this issue hail from politics, but their decisions affect B.C.’S economic future. After last year’s provincial election, Premier John Horgan and BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver struck an alliance that lets Horgan’s NDP stay in power. The two friends have common goals—to a point.
As Richard Littlemore, who previously profiled Weaver for us in 2011, shows on page 36, Nobel Peace Prize–sharing climate scientist Weaver doesn’t lack intellectual capital. Horgan is no slouch, either, as Steve Burgess learned during a visit to his office in Victoria (p.30). And it turns out that the duo’s partnership hinges on a commodity: liquefied natural gas.
Where Horgan backs a provincial LNG industry, Weaver has threatened to withdraw support for the NDP minority government if it doesn’t honour B.C.’S greenhouse gas emission targets. You don’t need to be a genius to see where this could be headed.
Nick Rockel, Editor-in-chief email@example.com / @Bcbusiness