Montreal: the star of artificial intelligence | Journalism

was invited to Everyone is talking about it. received in Fantastic interviews Radio Canada. He was the character of the week JournalismNot to mention the forums, reports and praise that we can read in The New York TimesAnd wired And all the important media on the planet.

Posted on February 2. 2017

Francois Cardinal

Joshua Bengio is “a true rock star,” in the words of Alexander Telfer. The “rock star” of artificial intelligence, one of the hottest scientific fields on the planet, and one of the epicenters of the world … Montreal.

Let’s not hide our happiness and let’s clap. Because this is an enviable situation for many major cities at a time when the rise of this technological sector is compared to the birth of electricity, as it is called to destabilize all sectors of activity.

Artificial intelligence is the machine that learns, the robot that causes, and the robot that performs tasks normally intended for humans with a wealth of knowledge.

Think of Siri on your iPhone or the personalized selection that Netflix and Amazon give you. Think voice recognition, self-driving cars, and robotic advisors managing financial investments. Also think of medical diagnoses made by a computer, or computer interpretation of radiographs.

No wonder that from China to the United States via France and the United Kingdom, major nations are vying for artificial intelligence. A race led by a few rare countries, including Canada, thanks in large part to Montreal, but also Toronto and Edmonton.

But to what extent?


If Montreal has a special place in artificial intelligence today, it is because good decisions were made in the past. Scholars like Joshua Benjiu were pioneers, money was awarded to them, and talent followed.

This made it possible here to develop the largest critical mass of researchers in an academic environment in the world, in addition to attracting Google and Microsoft, which recently announced multi-million investments in Montreal.

But competition is fierce in this field, which is advancing in the nanoseconds. The nations of the world are on their way to snatching away Canada’s leadership, its minds, and its students.

Then how do you respond? How do you make sure you stay on top? How do we train more researchers, retain those who study here, and attract, for that matter, those who do not like the climate in the United States?

Joshua Bengio of the University of Montreal and his best-known colleagues (such as Joel Beno of Reasoning and Learning Lab and Denis Thérien, both of McGill) have a plan: to join forces with other major cities in the country to create a unique network and a powerful world.

Canadian network of three super labs located in Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton. Three cities have complementary strengths that will have more interest in cooperation than combat.

“To have global weight, we have to coordinate, we have to present a common front, Joshua Bengio thinks. Montreal and Toronto are strong, but operating in isolation, they are much less on the international stage than a united Canada could be.”


But now, this idea that has been brought up here as elsewhere in the country by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) needs support from governments in order to materialize. It must be started by the county trusts for the federal government to follow suit.

“There is of course competition between cities and universities, but the academic world works much better in a collaborative setting, in an environment conducive to daily exchanges and communications,” explains Dennis Terrain, ICRA Vice President.

Ontario, according to strong rumors, is preparing to pay tens of millions in down payment for the creation of a superlab. An idea that should inspire Quebec a few months before the regional budget is published and the research and innovation strategy is revealed.

Superlabs (or independent science institutes like the Broad Institute in Boston) will indeed make it possible to push AI even further. They will improve the working conditions of students and researchers, increase the available resources and equipment, and provide a place to welcome guest researchers.

These laboratories, which will be located outside universities, will also create bridges between scientists and companies, between researchers and Startups From here, between research and its concrete applications, on a daily basis.

There is a political will in Quebec, repeated in Davos in recent days, to contribute to the development of artificial intelligence. Reaching out to Yoshua Benjiu, Scholars and other cities across the country is sure to make this happen.

Photo courtesy of Ici Radio-Canada

Yoshua Bingyu

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