How Canada Can Be A Leader In The Artificial Intelligence Industry

Apr 25 2018

At one point in time, the thought of it being possible for machines to function on their own and learn from experience was a dream or the premise for a film. But as science and technology have continued to advance, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now a reality. With all of the change that it brings to a variety of industries and all of the advancements we hear about on the news, it can sometimes be hard to remember where its research originated from and who are the leaders within the industry.

What Is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Nowadays, a lot of the technology that we use has some component of artificial intelligence built into it. Whether it’s when you’re using the voice-to-text option on your mobile device, spam filters in your email, or self-driving cars, it can be safe to say that most of the public comes across AI daily. Artificial intelligence is when a computer system is developed to have the capability to imitate intelligent human behaviour and is able to consider its environment when creating an action. Most of the time, these machines can learn from experience and additional data that they are provided with. Or, to put it simply, John McCarthy defines AI as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines.”

But with all of the research and advancements that are happening, how can Canada stay a leader in the AI industry?

We must think globally, but develop locally. Canada needs to perform research and develop AI advancements and innovations on a global scale, but remain local with where they’re doing the work. Meaning that while the research and work must be done on Canadian grounds, we also have to think about how others globally can use and apply our knowledge and findings. One example of how this is possible is by supporting startups within Canada who are investing in research that leads to AI innovation. Currently, Facebook is doing this by setting up an AI research lab in Montreal, which will keep global work in Canada.

We need to take fears about AI, and address them head-on. The disruption that new technology brings can be detrimental if it’s not integrated in the right manner, and artificial intelligence is no stranger to this. As technology continues to develop, many feel anxiety as they assume that robots may replace their positions at their place of work. Whether it’s self-checkout stations or robotic assembly lines, job loss is a real fear as machines are often proven to be more productive, cost-efficient and less likely to make errors. If Canada wants to lead in the artificial intelligence industry, they must take the public fear of job loss and not only show what jobs could be created if artificial intelligence is widely adopted but how the government will support those who may be displaced as well as the overall growth it can bring.

We should strive to shape the rules in the global AI economy. Canada isn’t the only contender when it comes to artificial intelligence. In fact, China, the U.S., and Russia are all key players within the artificial intelligence industry. With this being said, Canada needs to continue to be seen by the world as an innovator if we want a seat at the global table so we can have the opportunities to give input on regulations and policies. The less we’re seen as a leader, the less influence we have on artificial intelligence and the topics that affect our nation such as living standards, inclusivity, transparent data collection, and algorithms.

We need to attract those within the industry. Accepting and encouraging talent to come to Canada is the final way we can be a leader in the artificial intelligence industry. One way to do this is to offer great programs and opportunities for innovators. The more we have to offer, the more talent we will attract and the more likely we will be able to retain the talent that we foster in our colleges and universities. Retaining talent is extremely important because, in the past, we’ve lost innovators to other countries because we were unable to provide positions or opportunities that many need to further their research and careers. So by making small improvements to increase the number of research and job opportunities in Canada, we can not only encourage talent from across the globe to seek out and want to work within Canada, but retain the talent we foster within our education system.

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