Canada’s AI Renaissance: Go North 2017

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At a point in time in the hi-tech industry, Canada was synonymous with Blackberry: phone of epic proportions with a full-blown QWERTY keyboard and rugged security. Going by last week’s Go North conference hosted by Google in Toronto, AI seems to be Canada’s next frontier, as the nation leads the way by backing cutting-edge AI research along real-world AI deployments.

Justin Trudeau eloquently put forth his government’s intentions around fostering the dense startup community along the Windsor-Toronto corridor as well as developing the next Silicon Valley in Canada. His repeated jibes at Eric Schmidt over “stealing Canadian talent” prompted  Alphabet’s honcho to promise continued investments by Google in Canada.

If the government’s recent alacrity and enthusiasm in getting Amazon to set up its next major hub in Canada isn’t evidence enough of the nation’s intentions, the recent announcement by City of Toronto in partnering Sidewalk Labs to develop a “first of it’s kind” smart city, should definitely put any doubts to rest. Apparently, self-driving cars will be one of the vehicles of change to reduce emissions and cut congestion, though both sides did not elaborate on this any further.

The highlight of the day for me as a technologist, was Geoffrey Hinton’s talk on the future of Neural Nets. One of the pioneers of AI, Hinton claims the current state of applications using Neural Nets (namely machine vision), that he labelled as a “bag of tricks”, were more a chance than a plan.

He reckons Neural Nets have a long way to go before becoming truly intelligent. His early research looks promising on a whole new kind of Neural Net – one that can infer spatial relationships and recognize entities from any viewpoint, much like the human cognitive system.

The day closed with a scintillating performance by Taryn Southern – an artist who purposes AI to design melodies. She reverses the creative process of music. While musicians widely pen the words first and have the melody render the soul, Southern let’s AI concoct melodies first and then let’s her words render the soul to her craft.

A massive thanks to Google and Mars for handpicking Wysdom to attend the event. Our team at Wysdom has already begun envisioning the future state of our Neural Nets and the event provided us plenty of inspiration and food for thought (not to mention, food too!).

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