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The future of AI depends on who’s at the table

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Artificial Intelligence
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A new report from Canada’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship about AI’s implications for policy makers found that, to be successful in implementing AI in government, a diversity in conversation must happen.

Conversations about AI aren’t just limited to government, or to Canada. Countries all over the world are tossing their hats in the ring to figure out how to best, and most seamlessly integrate AI into the public realm.

The report, “The AI Shift: Implications for policymakers”, outlines that there’s a need for what Brookfield calls ”deliberate conversation” and that it needs to happen “amongst policymakers, technologists, social scientists and broader communities that will be impacted by a shift toward a prediction-centred society.”

The institute also observed that a further exploration of what will happen when AI is used in government, and a closer look at the decision-making process behind such AI, is needed.

Deliberate conversation

Imogen Parker, the head of justice, rights and digital society for the Nuffield Foundation, a charitable trust that funds research and student programming in the UK, outlined in her piece for TechUK what is meant by “deliberate conversation.”

Parker writers that, as the UK has announced that they want to be a leading force in ethics for technology and data use, they need to have a “diversity of voices” looking into risks and potential outcomes of the use and employment of AI in the public sphere.

Brookfield has released a briefer on AI and the basic terminology associated, it includes a helpful section that explains the ethical implications.

“Due to the increasing reliance on and trust in automated systems in contexts that may require them to make moral decisions,” reads the document. “Users should consider whether the values embedded in the code reflect their own.”

 

Giving values

The idea of a value set in a machine not reflecting a person’s values — or reflecting, depending on who the person is — is a topic of ongoing discussion. At UC Berkeley, professor Anca Dragan is working on developing algorithms for human-robot interaction to ensure that conflicts between humans and robots are avoided by teaching robots to express their intentions and capabilities. Research like hers is crucial to the ongoing and ever-evolving field of AI because there have already been conflicts between humans and AI, like the self-driving car that killed a woman in Arizona.

 

The conversation around AI will determine the future we build with it. And if the report from Brookfield is correct, more deliberate discussion needs to happen — and soon.

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Talent

Samsung set to open AI research lab in Cambridge

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Samsung AI
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Tech giant Samsung is opening an AI research lab in Cambridge. The move to do this has been welcomed by British Prime Minister Theresa May, but there’s concern over a mass funneling of graduates out of academic AI research.

This centre joins Samsung’s other AI centres in Moscow and Toronto. The move to build a research lab in Britain, specifically for AI, comes as no surprise following a recent announcement by Prime Minister May’s government.

U.K. spurs AI research

The U.K. government recently announced a USD$400 million investment in AI from corporations and investment firms based in and out of the U.K. In addition, a report from the House of Lords Artificial Intelligence Committee states that while the U.K. can’t outspend leaders like China, they can still become leaders in AI.

BBC reported that the new centre will be lead by professor Andrew Blake, formerly of Microsoft’s research lab in Cambridge and the new Samsung AI lab “could recruit as many as 150 scientists.”

The brain drain

According to the BBC, there’s concern over a funneling of graduates in AI research out of academics and into private sector work:

“A recent study by recruitment specialists Odgers Berndtson found just 225 students in the country were doing post-graduate technology research in specialist areas including AI and machine learning. “In the US, PhD qualified experts can command packages of $300,000 [£223,000]. And in the UK, whilst not yet at that level, salaries are spiralling,” said Mike Drew, head of technology at the headhunting company. A large part of the problem is that industry is picking university departments clean of their talent. A distinguished academic in the AI field confirmed this to me – he said anyone who had done post-graduate research in machine learning could ‘name their price.'”

This isn’t an isolated situation, the same concern was raised when Facebook decided to open new AI labs in Seattle and Pittsburgh, with professors, scholars and researchers from local universities worrying about the future of academic AI research when so many graduates leave for corporate — and greener — pastures.

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Events

Talent and diversity to drive this year’s Elevate tech festival

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Elevate Festival
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The Elevate Tech festival is only one year old, but after watching this week’s launch event at Shopify’s Toronto HQ, it appears that Canada’s largest tech festival has grown by leaps and bounds.

Elevate will run in Toronto from September 24-27, with 10,000 attendees expected and 250 venues taking part. Notable speakers on this year’s main stage will include Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder of dating app Bumble, and environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore.

Celebrating Canada’s talent

This year’s festival will put a big emphasis on talent, one of Canada’s greatest assets when it comes to tech innovation. Elevate is teaming up with Startup Open House, as well as last year’s partners NewCo, to help connect 4,000 students, job-seekers, and young professionals with some of the many great companies driving Canada’s innovation ecosystem.

While last year’s festival made the point of putting Toronto and its tech innovation ecosystem on the global stage, the conversation has broadened for Elevate 2018. Now billed as Canada’s Tech Week, CEO Razor Suleman said the 2018 festival will shed light on Canada’s growing tech landscape as a whole, and even reach out to Canadian expats around the globe, letting them know that things are moving in the right direction back home.

Collaboration, diversity and growing together

For Suleman, the biggest lesson learned from last year’s Elevate, and the biggest opportunity for 2018, is the strength of collaboration that made the festival possible.

“Partnering with the community and being open and collaborative is the best way to create something that we’re all passionate about, and ultimately scale the festival and realize the vision we have,” said Suleman.

Crucial to that collaboration is showing the diverse nature of Canada’s innovation community. Just as at last year’s Elevate, the motto ‘Diversity is our strength’ is key to Canada’s Tech Week. Suleman said that this year’s festival will continue to seek out new ways to reach out to diverse parts of Canada’s innovation community and get them involved.

“This year when we looked at the ten-thousand-person capacity that we have, we broke down the different demographics and wanted to make sure that we got representation. We’re super passionate, as is our parter TD, about involving students. We’ve got the Investor Group coming. We’d love to have more female investors, we’d love to have more women in tech, we’d love to have entrepreneurs that are visible minorities. All of the ecosystem is welcome.”

Between big name speakers, the emphasis on talent and the continued commitment to diversity, Elevate’s 2018 offering is sure to stir creative innovation and collaboration.

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Investment

Connection Silicon Valley bridges Canadian business and world-class innovation

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Joanne Fedeyko, CEO of Connection Silicon Valley
Joanne Fedeyko, CEO of Connection Silicon Valley
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Joanne Fedeyko, CEO of Connection Silicon Valley, is serious about putting Canada on the map when it comes to innovation.

“I’m incredibly passionate about helping Canadian companies be successful,” she told DX Journal in an interview. “Their success equals success in Canada. Ultimately, what I want to see is Canada on the global innovation stage as a major player.”

For Fedeyko, a native of Northern Alberta, that means creating a bridge between Canadian business and the vibrant culture and approach of Silicon Valley. Through her work with Connection Silicon Valley, she helps Canadian startups, scaleups and corporate clients connect with all the exciting opportunities happening in one of the world’s greatest innovation hubs.

Connecting to the Valley

All of Connection Silicon Valley’s work is to encourage Canadian entrepreneurs and investors to branch out in their thinking a little more and gain a global perspective on their innovative projects and practices.

“I connect startups and corporates into Silicon Valley’s rich tech and innovation ecosystem to help them build and scale their business,” Fedeyko said. “The core of the work that I do is very custom and curated.”

Fedeyko dissects what companies might need, problems they might solve, or who they might need to connect with. “It’s all about custom connections.”

For startups, the biggest thing is funding and investors — but networking with other CEOs and founders can be a huge benefit. Speaking to the right Silicon Valley veteran can help founders determine things like pricing for their product, or even how to avoid a few pitfalls other CEOs have encountered in their previous experiences.

For corporate clients, Fedeyko organizes trips where Canadian companies speak with investors, startups and thought leaders. Through these two-day trips, Canadian companies can learn best where businesses are investing their resources, and get a sense of how to future proof their brand in light of developing technologies.

“When people come down to the Valley, light bulbs go off every single time,” she said.  “It’s eye-opening to see the ecosystem, the pace, the energy, the urgency, the plethora of technologies, and the collaborative nature. People have to see it, not just read about it, in order to grab some of the DNA that exists in the Valley.”

HQ2 helps put Canada on the map

Attitudes and perceptions of innovation in the Great White North are changing, both within and outside Canada.

With Toronto making the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2, there is a realization that the world is increasingly looking closer at Canada’s immigration policy, its stellar post-secondary institutions and its AI expertise.

Fedeyko says there’s been a subtle shift in how Canadian businesses approach Silicon Valley innovation, but that Amazon’s interest in Canada has been the biggest moment of realization she’s seen so far.

“I think Amazon is one of the best things that could have happened to make Canada wake up.”

The attention and competitive potential of Amazon has shifted the territory for Canadian businesses on the world stage. As the world’s attention turns towards Canadian entrepreneurs and founders, Canadian companies are looking to connect with the excitement of innovation hubs like Silicon Valley, and American founders are looking to get better acquainted with the vibrant world of Canadian tech businesses. That’s where Connection Silicon Valley comes in.

Not a lot of people are doing this kind of work specifically for Canadian companies. For Fedeyko, it’s a question of passion. “I’m really doing it because I love my country and I want everyone to have the same sort of opportunities to connect with Silicon Valley like I do every day.”

Connect with Connection Silicon Valley in Toronto

Part of the Valley experience that Connection Silicon Valley is bringing to Canadians comes in the form of innovation immersion sessions. On April 24, Connection Silicon Valley is hosting a dinner for director-level business leaders to share an open dialogue about how disruption is changing the shape of business, and what’s holding companies back from embracing transformative change. Get your ticket here.

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