Artificial intelligence (A.I.), referenced daily in the news, is the power of a machine to copy intelligent human behavior, or seem like it has human intelligence.
But let’s bring the abstract down to earth. Why should we care?
Facebook, with its 2.07 billion monthly active users, has developed an A.I.-powered system for scanning user posts to detect suicidal thought patterns. It then alerts moderators and first-responders about who are at risk of hurting themselves.
In Great Britain, citizens can ask the “A.I. lawyer” for help in dealing with parking tickets. The bot, created by a 19-year-old developer, has successfully appealed more than 200,000 parking tickets in both London and New York with a 64% success rate.
The developments in automation and A.I. has led CB Insights to introduce a new category EAAS ‘Expert Automation & Augmentation Software’ to work alongside white-collar professionals to “think & move faster” by using EAAS to drive strategic decision-making.
A question we now need to ask: Is the future of Canadian Innovation success tied to the development and adoption of A.I. technologies and solutions?
As Canada seeks to improve its competitiveness and innovation nation ranking, choices have to be made. What are the high potential industries? Where can we have the greatest impact on productivity and efficiency for businesses, governments and citizens? How and where can Canada’s inventory of assets be best leveraged to create Canadian startups to flagships companies?
Casting our eyes on the horizon of opportunities, A.I. stands out and could elevate Canada to a world leader ranking in this category. But, we are not alone in our desire to become a leader in A.I. and take a share of the estimated USD 35.8 Trillion A.I. market by 2025.
Many countries around the world are showing interest in AI. President Putin, the Russian President made the following statement about A.I.: “Artificial intelligence is the future… Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere, will become the ruler of the world.” Countries are voting with their check-book by investing significant amount of funds in this high growth sector with the intent to becoming a leader in the creation and adoption of AI based products and services. As an example, the UK government has announced earlier this year an investment of 115 million pounds in support of various initiatives in A.I.
The Venture Capital (VC) community also votes with their pocket books, as investments in A.I. companies are increasing significantly year over year. There is an expectation that there will be a financial bonanza pot of gold for new A.I. based products and services.
How does Canada fair in this new industrial revolution? Actually very well! Canada ranks in 3rd position globally for the number of A.I. startup companies. We have world renowned experts heading recognized research hubs with financial support from both the federal and provincial governments. Furthermore, global corporations are rushing to open new A.I. research centres in Canada.
The key question then, since we are in the race for first place, is how to build on the momentum that has been generated to date in order to achieve a critical mass of A.I. companies, academic research centres, a steady stream of newly graduating talent and having the financial support required to build world class companies. This is a prerequisite to achieving a leadership position due to the fact that when critical mass takes hold and we hit the tipping point magic happens!
Canada is a leader in innovation, now we must pay attention to enabling the creation of global companies headquartered in Canada by facilitating the adoption and expansion of new technologies. For Canada to excel in the next few decades, it is paramount that there is a focus on commercialization. To accomplish this goal, we need to take multiple measures in terms of culture change, as well as to substantially increase the amount of financial investment in promising A.I. companies.
With all the euphoria attributed to A.I. there is also a concern of a downside as it relates to the potential replacement and displacement of lower skilled and medium skilled labour force. The term “technology unemployment” was coined by John Keynes in 1930. The historic reality was different as the new technology created new employment opportunities using freshly minted products and services.
There is also the need to balance any future A.I.opportunities and the possible risks and threats with the moral and ethical behaviour of humans as companies design, construct, use and treat A.I.
With all the anticipated success to be achieved in Canada from the advancements of A.I. technology, we need to promote the practice of capitalism with a heart and to not forget about the less fortunate in the community by providing opportunities to those that may otherwise be overlooked.
A.I. needs to be an integral part of Canada’s innovation brand and what others outside of Canada say when they talk about Canadian leadership today and in the years ahead.