In tech circles, in economic circles, in philosophical circles, and in political circles, the big question of the decade is where artificial intelligence (AI) is going to take us next and who is going to be holding the reins. Canada has long been a global leader in cutting-edge AI development, having been home to the research programs of deep learning founding fathers like Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio.
Key Canadian research institutions like Mila (Montreal), the Vector Institute (Toronto) and AMII (Edmonton) continue to attract and develop top AI talent, pushing the envelope of AI’s capability. But capitalizing on this domestic expertise requires that we also provide a rich and stable launchpad for AI startups, incubators, and accelerators. Nurturing and shaping an environment where innovative AI business ideas and projects can thrive and succeed is the raison d’être of Scale AI. This business-led consortium supported by the Government of Canada has the mandate to develop an innovative and competitive Canadian AI economy by funding concrete AI applications in a variety of sectors.
“Our goal at Scale AI is to create and grow a new part of the Canadian economy that will establish Canada as an indisputable global hub for AI dedicated to business productivity and competitiveness,” says Scale AI CEO Julien Billot. “We have facilitated, funded and supported over 100 initiatives across Canadian industries in agriculture, retail, manufacturing, construction, transportation and logistics, mining, energy, and healthcare. By connecting players across the country and financing their AI project implementation we help companies to better their productivity and efficiency. We believe in the importance of a strong ecosystem with thousands of organizations collaborating and investing in AI adoption for the development of new AI services and solutions. This will ultimately create significant new commercial opportunities for small and large Canadian companies.
The tomorrow of work
The race to the forefront of AI commercialization is not, however, merely an economic imperative. These technologies are going to shape the world in profound ways, affecting every aspect of how we live and work.
AI has the potential to address most of our major societal challenges and to serve as a powerful tool to enhance our efficiency across various fields.
“AI is expected to create new opportunities within existing fields and open up possibilities in areas that are still evolving. It’s a paradigm shift that prompts us to rethink our approach to work and anticipate emerging opportunities. To do so, it’s important to invest in re-skilling and up-skilling programs, such as those offered by Scale AI, supporting a workforce transition that aligns with evolving AI-driven job opportunities,” says Billot. “AI has the potential to address most of our major societal challenges and to serve as a powerful tool to enhance our efficiency across various fields.”
From 2000 to 2022, Canadian productivity declined to 72% of the U.S. level. Emphasizing the importance of AI for competitiveness, Canada must act promptly to avoid lagging behind and struggling to catch up with global leaders. Being at the forefront of AI adoption and innovation also allows us to attract customers, investors, and top talent, giving us a competitive edge in the global market.
AI is now
In September 2023, Scale AI co-organized the inaugural ALL IN, a massive event featuring a convergence of AI experts and stakeholders from the worlds of industry, academia, government, and investment. More than 2,300 attendees from 20 different countries came together along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ministers Champagne and Fitzgibbon to exchange views on the opportunities and issues facing — and raised by — the rapidly growing Canadian AI ecosystem. ALL IN also served as a major international showcase to generate enthusiasm and interest in Canadian expertise, both domestically and internationally, with the goal of subsequently boosting demand for applied AI use cases.
This is perhaps the most critical lesson of all, that we must remember not to talk about AI only in the future tense. AI is already transforming the way we work and the way we live, and it will keep on transforming our existences moving forward. We need to prepare for this new chapter of our journey and realise that there is no better moment than today to start embracing the AI evolution and adopting the technology. That is precisely what organizations like Scale AI are doing, through investments and support to build an AI-powered economy.
This article was published on Mediaplanet’s website and in the paper edition of the National Post on December 6th, 2023.