Rotman School Weighs In on Canadian AI

Canadian AI

Before Google, Amazon and Silicon Valley took advantage of the artificial intelligence boom, Canada actually laid the groundwork. In fact, it was a handful of Canadian researchers—backed by the Canadian government and universities—that helped to produce a growing number of artificial intelligence startups. Unfortunately, many of Canadian AI scientists have been lured away from Canada by fat paychecks from Google, Facebook, Apple and other companies.

“Canada is not really reaping the benefits from this AI technical leadership and decades of investment by the Canadian government,” Tiff Macklem, former senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada and Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, told the New York Times.

However, that could be about to change. The Canadian government, companies, universities and technologists are making AI a priority—the goal to build a business environment around Canada’s leadership in AI and to keep their experts in the country. As part of this effort, they want to build off the work of veteran researchers such as Geoffrey Hinton, Richard Sutton and Yoshua Bengio, all of whom helped develop technology called machine learning.

To help these efforts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently pledged $93 million USD to support AI research centers across Canada. One of those centers is the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Toronto. Mr. Hinton, a professor at the University of Toronto and a Google employee, will serve as its chief scientific advisor.

Major tech companies are also helping to jump-start Canadian AI research. Recently, Google, Microsoft and IBM all added to their research teams in the country. And, last year, General Motors said it would locate one of its research and engineering hubs for self-driving cars in Toronto.

As for why Canada is a great choice for AI research, Brendan Frey, a professor at the University of Toronto and a co-founder of the new Vector Institute, said; “There are a lot of distractions in the Bay Area. The hype is a little too hot down there. Besides, we have some of the best talent in the world here.”

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