Policy & Ethics Opinion
Jun 11, 2018 ● CBC Radio International
AI Pioneer Yoshua Bengio: Make Sure People Who Lose Jobs Due to AI get Help and Don’t Fall Through Cracks

Er Shen’s interview with world-renowned artificial intelligence guru Yoshua Bengio

Er Shen’s interview with world-renowned artificial intelligence guru Yoshua Bengio

Canada maintains a prominent position in the global artificial intelligence (AI) boom and his home to some of the pioneers of the industry such as Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun and Yoshua Bengio.

Bengio was one of the guests at the recent 2nd Canada-China Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum where he delivered the keynote speech on May 20.

His attention has shifted from the AI technology itself to the deep influence of AI in society. Bengio called for people and the various levels of governments to have a more open and transparent attitude toward AI, and to be fully prepared for the negative effects of AI.

Canada-China Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum, CCIEF, is a joint event organized by R&D Think Tanks (RDFI) and Montreal New Tech.

After the keynote speech, Bengio sat down for a face to face interview with Er Shen of Radio Canada International’s Chinese language service to talk about more about how AI is going to change the world and why we need to prepare for it.

Er Shen: I’m from Radio Canada International, the CBC’s International part. We are the Chinese channel, so I come to this conference.

Now most of the t investment in AI is either from China or from the United States. Canada is, I can’t say, stuck in between, but we have to deal with the two countries.

My first question is, what do you think the position Canada can take in this AI superpower struggle?

Yoshua Bengio: Well. I don’t see this as a power struggle. I think that is something that is happening on the planet and we have to help each other to build something good for humanity with AI.

And I don’t think that you need to be a huge country to have a big impact. If you think about Silicon Valley, it’s actually a small place and it’s having a huge impact in the world.

Now in the case of Canada it’s true it’s a small country but we can we can collaborate with countries, for example like China.

You know science has always been something of a community thing. Scientists build on each other’s work in an open way. AI right now is making progress in an open way.

Everything we do is published and we know about each other’s work so it’s not something that’s like a military battle between countries.

It’s really something that’s happening at the level of ideas and there is shared a lot of the code people developed, even in industry. It’s open source.

So I don’t see this as a battle but rather as an international collaboration.

Er Shen: It seems we need to invest a lot of money into the AI, then you can make the good AI projects.

For some smaller startups, do you think they still have the chance to get involved? How shall they get started?

Yoshua Bengio: You’re right there’s a need for investing and sometimes it takes a lot of capital but the good news is that the heart of what is going on in AI is new algorithms.

These algorithms can be developed by just a few people, then of course when you want to convert these new algorithms into products you need capital, for example, in order to obtain the right amount of data or to just be able to sell the products around the world.

But there’s a huge interest and willingness from venture capitalists who invest in such companies and that’s why there’s such a growth so you can have a small start-up if you have good ideas and a good idea for a product and good science behind then you will find capital to grow and can grow quite fast.

Er Shen: The final question. I think it’s pretty obvious the AI can bring the big unemployment waves.

Are you concerned? What we can do to help people avoid what is happening ( with the job market ).

Yoshua Bengio: Yes, I am concerned about the disruptions in the job market due to automation and especially the automation that will come from AI. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I decided in addition to my role as a researcher and scientist to get involved to help grow the high-tech ecosystem here in Canada.

I think this is important is because we want to make sure that the wealth that is going to be generated from AI can be redistributed to help the transition in the job market to make sure that people who lose their jobs are helped and don’t fall between the cracks.

So the role of governments here is quite important. In general, we need to do a better job of rethinking our social safety net and education system with respect to the changes that are coming.

Er Shen: Thank you very much for taking the interview.

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CBC Radio International