Tag Archives: AI

Montreal conference on Artificial Intelligence


AI poses ethical double-edged sword, experts tell Montreal conference

Montreal Gazette JACOB SEREBRIN

Artificial intelligence has the power to eliminate mundane jobs and create tremendous wealth, but it could also lead to widespread unemployment and reinforce existing inequalities.

That was the message at the forum on the socially responsible development of artificial intelligence, a two-day conference that ended on Friday.

Montreal has an opportunity to take a leading role in lead in ensuring AI technology is used responsibly, said Marie-Josée Hébert, the vice-rector of Research, Discovery, Creation and Innovation at the Université de Montréal and one of the organizers of the conference.

The forum was intended to bring academic researchers together with industry and government to exchange ideas about the responsible development and use of AI, she said. That’s important because the technology has the power to change the foundations of our society, she said.

Issues raised at the forum ranged from who is legally liable if a selfdriving car gets in an accident, to the possibility AI will lead to widespread unemployment.

Some of the issues are already here — like the ability for the creators of AI systems and the producers of data to introduce their own biases into AI systems.

“If you have an algorithm that sees biased data, gender-biased, racially biased, biased based on economic status and so on, the algorithm is going to ingest that and result in a biased model,” Doina Precup, a professor of computer science at McGill and the head of Google-affiliated DeepMind’s Montreal research lab, said in a session at the conference.

While AI systems are currently tools used by people, in the future, there could be general AI systems that act on their own, she said, which raises further questions of responsibility.

“Are AIs ever going to get to a stage where they’re sufficiently complex to be responsible for what they do? That I think is an open question,” Precup said.

There are also issues related to monopoly power, Yoshua Bengio, a U de M professor and one of the founders of Element AI, which sells AI services to businesses, said in a speech at the event.

A handful of large companies could control the data required for AI systems to “learn” and hire the majority of top researchers, creating a situation where other businesses couldn’t catch up, Bengio said. He also raised the issue of autonomous robots with the ability to kill, calling on the Canadian government to take a similar approach to this technology as it took with landmines.

“We are really at the cusp of something that it is important,” Hébert said. “It’s important to initiate these conversations before it’s too late, but it’s going to be as important to maintain these conversations as we go.”

As part of that process, the forum has created what it calls the Montreal Declaration for a Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence. Over the next few months, that document will be developed through a process of “co-creation” and consultation with the general public.

The goal is to “establish a consensus on basic principles that are representative of our values,” Hébert said, “that should all guide us to how we are going to live through this phase of innovation and transformation.”

We are at the cusp of something important. It’s important to initiate these conversations before it’s too late.

Local Sensors Detect…

1  Summer Reading for fans of Comics and Graphic Novels:

2  Microsoft creates and AI research lab

Microsoft has created a new research lab with a focus on developing general-purpose artificial intelligence technology, the company revealed today. The lab will be located at Microsoft’s Redmond HQ, and will include a team of more than 100 scientists working on AI, from areas including natural language processing, learning and perception systems.  READ MORE

3   FANTASIA: Filmmaker Jung’s twist on Nikita
Kim Ok-bin stars in The Villainess, an action-packed thriller that opens the Fantasia International Film Festival Thursday evening at Concordia’s Alumni Auditorium.

Jung Byung-gil wastes zero time with niceties in his wham-bam action flick The Villainess, which had a midnight screening at the Cannes Film Festival, closed the New York Asian Film Festival and opens Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival on Thursday evening.

Therein, the South Korean director drops viewers into the thick of it: a black-clad individual enters an ominous industrial building in the middle of the night and begins killing everyone in sight.

Continue reading Local Sensors Detect…

Montreal’s Element AI to boost projects with $102M financing deal

Montreal Gazette  BERTRAND MAROTTE

Element CEO Jean-François Gagné, centre, speaks with staff in Montreal. His firm said new funding will allow it to hire hundreds of top researchers and expand worldwide with AI-based solutions. JOHN MAHONEY

Montreal-based Element AI, a key player in the city’s burgeoning artificial-intelligence sector, has clinched a major financing deal to fund future growth and job creation.

Element is set to announce on Wednesday that it has raised US$102-million from a group of investors led by San Francisco venture capital fund Data Collective (DCVC).

The deal is the largest Series A funding round for an AI company in history, according to Element.

The investment will allow Element to “accelerate its capabilities and invest in large-scale AI projects internationally, solidifying its position as the largest global AI company in Canada and creating 250 jobs in the Canadian high-tech sector by January 2018,” it said in a news release.

Element was founded last year by tech entrepreneurs Jean-François Gagné and Nicolas Chapados, Montreal venture capital fund Real Ventures, and Université de Montréal AI scientist Yoshua Bengio.

The company aims to make cutting-edge AI research and innovation available to other companies seeking to tap into AI and also help develop new firms in the rapidly growing field.

“Artificial intelligence is a ‘must have’ capability for global companies,” Element chief executive Gagné said. “Without it, they are competitively impaired if not at grave risk of being obseleted in place.

“Seasoned AI investors at DCVC understood this, and supported us to democratize the AI firepower reserved today for only the largest of tech corporations.”

The new funding will allow Element to hire hundreds of top researchers as well as expand internationally with AI-based solutions

for customers in such areas as cybersecurity, fintech, manufacturing, logistics, transportation and robotics, the company said.

Element boasts that it has “pioneered a unique, non-exploitative model of academic co-operation” whose talent and advanced research “matches or exceeds even the largest tech corporations’ reach and budgets.”

“The most serious problems facing global industry and government today involve too much complex and rapidly changing data for the cognitive capacity of even large numbers of human experts working together,” said DCVC managing partner Matt Ocko.

A central aspect of AI is machine learning, which involves the creation of computer neural networks that mimic human brain activity and can program themselves to solve complex problems rather than having to be programmed.

Let’s capitalize on AI revolution

Montreal is welcoming leading technologists to the city this week for the C2 (commerce/creativity) conference, just as the city could be on the verge of becoming an international hub for Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. Capitalizing on this brewing revolution will require governments to drastically alter traditional modus operandi, loosening their grip on the entrepreneurial class and suppressing nationalistic impulses.

Advocating for massive government spending with little restraint admittedly deviates from the tenor of these columns, but the AI business is unlike any other before it. Having leaders acting as fervent advocates for the industry is crucial; resisting the coming technological tide is, as the Borg would say, futile.

The roughly 250 AI researchers who call Montreal home are not simply part of a niche industry. Quebec’s francophone character and Montreal’s multilingual citizenry are certainly factors favouring the development of language technology, but there’s ample opportunity for endeavours with broader applications.

AI isn’t simply a technological breakthrough; it is the technological revolution. In the coming decades, modern computing will transform all industries, eliminating human inefficiencies and maximizing opportunities for innovation and growth — regardless of the ethical dilemmas that will inevitably arise.

“By 2020, we’ll have computers that are powerful enough to simulate the human brain,” said (in 2009) futurist Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity Is Near, a seminal 2006 book that has inspired a generation of AI technologists. Kurzweil’s projections are not science fiction but perhaps conservative, as some forms of AI already effectively replace many human cognitive functions. “By 2045, we’ll have expanded the intelligence of our human-machine civilization a billion-fold. That will be the singularity.”

Continue reading Let’s capitalize on AI revolution

Montreal to become world centre of AI

Montreal is positioning itself to become a world centre of artificial intelligence with impressive amounts of cash flowing into academia, public-private partnerships, research labs and startups. Bertrand Marotte reports on some of the big brains behind the suddenly hot trend.

PHOTOS: JOHN MAHONEY Jean-François Gagné is co-founder and chief executive officer of Element AI, an artificial intelligence startup factory launched in Montreal last year. “We want to be part of that conversation — shaping what AI is going to look like,” he says.

It might seem like an ambitious goal, but key players in Montreal’s rapidly growing artificial intelligence sector are intent on transforming the city into a Silicon Valley of AI.

Certainly, the flurry of activity these days indicates that AI in the city is on a roll. Impressive amounts of cash have been flowing into academia, public-private partnerships, research labs and startups active in AI in the Montreal area.

And hopes are high that a threeday conference starting May 24 — AI Forum — will help burnish Montreal’s reputation as one of the world’s emerging AI advanced research centres and top talent pools in the suddenly very hot tech trend.

Topics and issues on the agenda include the evolution of AI in Montreal and the transformative impact AI can have on business, industry and the economy.

For example, researchers at Microsoft Corp. have successfully developed a computing system able to decipher conversational speech as accurately as humans do. The technology makes the same, or fewer, errors than professional transcribers and could be a huge boon to major users of transcription services like law firms and the courts.

Setting the goal of attaining the critical mass of a Silicon Valley is “a nice point of reference,” said tech entrepreneur Jean-François Gagné, co-founder and chief executive officer of Element AI, an artificial intelligence startup factory launched last year.

“It’s ambitious,” allowed Gagné, one of the keynote speakers at the AI Forum, held in partnership with the annual C2 Montréal international gabfest.

The idea is to create a “fluid, dynamic ecosystem” in Montreal where AI research, startup, investment and commercialization activities all mesh productively together, said Gagné, who founded Element with researcher Nicolas Chapados and Université de Montréal deep learning pioneer Yoshua Bengio.

Continue reading Montreal to become world centre of AI

Long range sensors detect…

Local Earth Sensors Detect…

  • The Moon
  • Space Debris
  • Robots & AIs
  • Robot & moonThe moon: This week, 14 to 17th, and March 15-18 before 10 PM is the best time to view the moon this year until the autumn.  The sun will be striking it at just the right angle for optimum viewing of mountains and craters.  Even binoculars on a tripod will show a lot of detail. Copernicus is a favourite target for many amateur astronomers, and this is the best time to see it.   http://observethemoonnight.org/


  • Space Debris: Wherever we go, we leave our garbage behind.
  • Almost 20,000 pieces of space debris are currently orbiting the Earth. This visualisation, created by Dr Stuart Grey, lecturer at University College London and part of the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory, shows how the amount of space debris increased from 1957 to 2015, using data on the precise location of each piece of junk ( from https://www.space-track.org ).