Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals See Artificial Intelligence as a Path to Reverse Stalled Growth

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals See Artificial Intelligence as a Path to Reverse Stalled Growth

Article excerpt

Liberals see AI as a path to growth

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OTTAWA - They see it as a way of saying "Hasta la vista, baby" to years of sluggish economic growth.

The federal Liberals are expected to use the upcoming federal budget to foster the development of cutting-edge artificial intelligence in the hope it will be a springboard to attracting investment and creating a highly-skilled new sector of jobs.

Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains says fostering AI is one of the pillars of the government's economic growth strategy.

He and others see an opportunity for Canada to exploit its competitive advantage in a technology that is becoming ubiquitous across all sectors -- from major companies such as Google or Microsoft to the banking and automotive sectors.

The government's vision of AI-enabled growth is not rooted in the apocalyptic science fiction of Terminator movies where robots destroy humanity (Arnold Schwarzenegger appropriated the Spanish phrase "Hasta la vista, baby" in Terminator 2: Judgement Day before sparking some spectacular explosions).

Instead, Bains and others point to two Canadian "pioneers" in AI -- Geoff Hinton at the University of Toronto and Montreal computer scientist Yoshua Bengio. They are recognized world leaders in "deep learning" or "machine learning" -- advanced algorithms that allow powerful new super computers to essentially think like humans.

The minister is also buoyed by signs of foreign capital coming to Canada such as Microsoft's recent acquisition of the artificial intelligence start up, Maluuba, based in Waterloo, Ont., and Montreal. In a recent conversation with Bill Gates, Bains said the Microsoft co-founder acknowledged that Canada was playing "a leadership role" in AI.

"We want to encourage those kinds of investments to continue, to connect with each other on a national level," said Bains.

"If companies are betting on AI, academic institutions are betting on AI, why can't government be a meaningful partner in this area as well?"

Tiff Macklem, the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, said the government needs to take a hands-on approach to help foster the growth of AI in Canada and to keep expertise in the sector from migrating elsewhere. …

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