At the perfect intersection of technology and civil service, every government process will be an automated one, streamlining benefits, outcomes, and applications for every citizen within a digitally-enabled country. With that approach comes a significant layer of protocol that is necessary to ensure citizens feel empowered regarding decision-making processes and how their government addresses needs from a digital perspective. Right now, Canada is leading the world in AI, thanks largely to huge government investments like the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. The growing field is pervasive right now--there is hardly an industry it has not disrupted, from mining to legal aid. In fact, government might be one of the most obvious choices as to where automated decision processes can save time and money.
Are you ready for artificial intelligence in schools? You may already know that researchers believe AI is likely to predict the onset of diseases in future and that you're already using AI every day when you search online, use voice commands on your phone or use Google Translate. Maybe you heard the Canadian government has invested millions of dollars in AI research during the past few years and is emerging as one of the global leaders in AI research. But did you know that some companies are developing AI for use in schools, for example in forms such as AI tutoring systems? Such systems can engage students in dialogue and provide feedback in subjects where they need extra help.
The Government of Canada has announced an approved supplier list of companies able to provide the state with artificial intelligence (AI) services and products. Chief information officer Alex Benay said it was a "big day for automation of Government of Canada services and overall modernisation of our institutions." The list of AI vendors, published on January 15, includes large tech companies such as Amazon, McKinsey & Company and Palantir, alongside smaller businesses such as Dessa, which has only been in operation since 2016. The web page announcing the pre-qualified suppliers list said each of the companies selected "met all of the mandatory criteria to provide Canada with responsible and effective AI services, solutions and products." The successful companies were banded into three groups, depending on the size of the contracts they could work on.
The so-called'Godfather of Deep Learning' Geoffrey Hinton has been appointed as a Companion of the Order of Canada. In a statement, Governor General Julie Payette said she appointed Hinton as a result of his contributions to artificial intelligence, "as a computer scientist and specialist in cognitive psychology." Hinton also holds a Canada Research Chair in machine learning, and is an advisor at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Hinton was born in Wimbledon, London, and holds a bachelor's degree in experimental psychology from the University of Cambridge, as well as a PhD in artificial intelligence from the University of Edinburgh. Following stints at institutions like the University of California, San Diego and Carnegie Mellon University, Hinton moved to Canada partly due to his disappointment with U.S. politics.
In science news around the world, China's largest research funding agency expresses support for the goals of Plan S, the push by European science funders for immediate open access to research publications. For the second year in a row, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are projected to hit a new high, growing 2.7% this year. NASA's Voyager 2 probe becomes only the second humanmade object to enter interstellar space. Empathy expert Tania Singer resigns as director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, after a commission confirmed allegations of bullying. Dozens of African researchers are denied visas for an artificial intelligence (AI) meeting in Montreal, Canada, even as the Canadian government takes steps to advance the country's standing in AI.
On Thursday in Montreal, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau boasted about his country's leading position in artificial intelligence and openness to international collaboration. A few miles away, the world's largest AI conference proceeded without scores of researchers denied visas by Trudeau's government. All week, Montreal has played host to 8,000 people attending the NeurIPS conference, which ends Saturday. But well over 100 researchers with tickets to attend the event or its associated workshops, including many who planned to present work, are absent due to visa denials or delays. AI researchers say the visa problems undermine efforts to make their field more inclusive, and less likely to produce technology that discriminates or disadvantages people who aren't white or Western.
The AI revolution is coming, and both Canada and France want to make sure we're approaching it responsibly. Today, the countries announced plans for the International Panel on Artificial Intelligence (IPAI), a platform to discuss "responsible adoption of AI that is human-centric and grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation and economic growth," according to a mandate from the office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It's still unclear which other countries will be participating, but Mounir Mahjoubi, France's secretary of state for digital affairs, says it'll include both G7 and EU countries, Technology Review reports. It won't just be politicians joining the conversation. France and Canada plan to get the scientific community involved, as well as industry and civil society experts.
In 1988, the US and other nations formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to study and respond to consequences of greenhouse gas emissions. In Montreal Thursday, the governments of France and Canada said they will establish a similar group to study and respond to the global changes being wrought by artificial intelligence technology. They say the panel is needed to rein in unethical uses of AI, and minimize the risk of economic disruption such as job losses caused by automation. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans for the International Panel on Artificial Intelligence with the French minister for digital affairs, Mounir Mahjoubi. Trudeau has launched several programs to advance Canadian investment in AI in recent years, and said he also wants to lead in considering the technology's potential downsides.
A number of researchers due to attend a prestigious conference on artificial intelligence in Canada next week have been unable to obtain visas in time, leading some executives to question the government's stated goal of becoming a world-leading destination for academics and companies developing the technology. It's unclear how many people have been affected by visa issues, but at least a dozen researchers circulated their stories on social media about having visas denied or applications held up. Timnit Gebru, a Google AI researcher and a founder of the group Black in AI that's holding a workshop at the event, said on Twitter that almost half of the 60-some academics it had asked to attend the workshop had visa applications turned down. "It's Africans living everywhere that are getting denied," she said. Several prominent AI researchers complained of the situation on Twitter in the hopes of getting the Canadian government to take action.
An ambitious smart-city project spearheaded by Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs has run into local resistance, causing delays. The backstory: Waterfront Toronto, a development agency founded by the Canadian government, partnered with the Google sister company in October 2017 to create a futuristic neighborhood on the Toronto waterfront. Sidewalk Labs plans to fill the 12-acre plot with driverless shuttle buses, garbage-toting robots, and other gadgets to show how emerging technologies can improve city life. The problem: Sidewalk Labs' connection to Google and vague descriptions of its business model alarmed privacy advocates and urban planners from the start. Local pushback has increased since, causing a key supporter to resign from the project and delaying the release of its final development plan to spring 2019.