The term “artificial intelligence” is used to describe machines or programs that are capable of exhibiting behaviors commonly attributed to human beings, such as learning, understanding languages such as English or French or solving complex problems. Today, one technique in particular, “machine learning,” is the best known way to advance AI, through algorithms that learn from data or experiments. Breakthroughs in the various types of machine learning (such as “deep learning”) are driving the current excitement about AI and are what many refer to in a more specific sense as AI. Machine learning, an area in which Mila is world renowned, is attracting extraordinary investments. The development of AI solutions also requires massive amounts of data to drive and update algorithms and relies heavily on data science, a multidisciplinary field in which IVADO – the Institute of Data Valorization – brings together world-class experts. Finally, the Steering Committee has extended the scope of its work to all the fields of expertise whose synergy is required to ensure Quebec's success in its goal to make AI a real economic driver.
To ensure its leadership in AI in the presence of huge competitors like the United States or China, Quebec will need to make choices and stick to them. These choices should be based on the talents and public and private financial resources available. An overview of the priorities of Mila, IVADO and SCALE.AI suggests that the sectors the Quebec AI ecosystem needs to focus on include health, energy, mobility, logistics and finance. The final choice will be made when the strategic plan is implemented, after consultation with local stakeholders.
The political will to make AI a driver of the Quebec and Canadian economies is clear and has resulted in major investments and the launch of impactful initiatives. The Steering Committee believes that the government should sustain its efforts by making incremental investments over 10 years. These investments are expected to add $300M to the $200M already committed to date and serve the following three purposes:
- Sustain Mila and IVADO over a 10-year horizon.
- Accelerate AI and digital science talent development.
- Accelerate the technology transfer process.