Thanks in part to research at the University of Toronto, Canada has emerged as an early leader in the artificial intelligence revolution – but truly reaping its rewards will require political vision, an ongoing commitment to diversity and an appetite for winning that, outside of hockey, is rather un-Canadian.
That was one of the themes that emerged from this week’s Elevate Toronto festival, a three-day event that was designed to showcase the city and surrounding region’s growing clout in technology and innovation.
Raquel Urtasun, a U of T associate professor of computer science and a star in the AI field, used her time on the main stage at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts to explain why she decided to make Toronto home – and, more importantly, why she resisted the temptation to relocate when Silicon Valley came calling.
“Toronto was and is at the forefront of AI,” said Urtasun, who is now the head of ride-sharing giant Uber’s new self-driving car lab in Toronto.
“The machine learning group, for example, at the University of Toronto is one of the best groups in the world.”
Sanja Fidler, an assistant professor in U of T Mississauga's department of mathematical and computational sciences, told attendees about her work developing computer vision so AI-powered robots can better understand and interact with the world around them. “We need to train machines to act friendly and natural,” she said.
Similarly, Inmar Givoni, who has a PhD in machine learning from U of T computer science and is the director of machine learning at Toronto startup Kindred.ai, talked about the company’s efforts to instill human-like intelligence in machines. Like others in attendance, she dismissed recent warnings from the likes of Elon Musk about the threat of AI running amuck and endangering humanity.
“As long as we task those robots with doing things that are meaningful and purposeful, I think it’s going to be a better world,” Givoni said.
The day kicked off with a presentation by U of T University Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Hinton, who has been dubbed the “godfather” of deep learning, a branch of AI that seeks to replicate how the human brain learns.
Read the full story at U of T News