Special Report

How the global AI boom could trigger Canada’s next brain drain

The artificial intelligence boom presents Canada with unique opportunities and risks as we seek to benefit from a technology that could reshape how we live.

In this special series, Canada’s AI Advantage, The Logic examines how Canadian companies, investors, institutions and workers can gain from the country’s early lead in AI, even as Canada’s pioneers in the field become the world’s most powerful voices of caution.

Deon Nicholas was in high school when he was initiated into Canada’s emerging AI industry. It started with back-to-back summer internships at the renowned Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii). There, Nicholas worked alongside some of the world’s greatest AI thinkers, including Richard Sutton, known as the godfather of reinforcement learning, whose research laid the foundation for technologies like ChatGPT. 

Canada’s AI Advantage

Read the rest of the series:

Part 1: Opportunity and risk

Part 2: How we got here

Part 3: Canadian pharma’s AI edge

Part 4: Corporate Canada’s AI adoption

Part 5: The global movement driving AI fear

Part 6: Labour’s stand on AI 

Part 7: AI talent in Canada

Part 8: Canada’s compute gap 

Part 9: The political challenge

Part 10: Moonshot potential  

Part 11: AI in national defence 

Part 12: A threat to the supply chain

Part 13: Brave steps, new world

After that first internship in 2010, Nicholas—who said he barely knew what AI was before—was hooked on machine learning. He went on to study computer science and math at the University of Waterloo, and worked on AI projects off the side of his desk. He took online courses outside the university on natural language processing, and co-authored an academic paper with researchers back at Amii. 

Despite his early exposure to Canada’s AI pipeline, when it came time to start his own company, Nicholas opted to launch it in San Francisco—pulled into the Bay Area orbit surrounding Big Tech. “I didn’t actually think about going anywhere else,” said Nicholas, now the co-founder and CEO of venture-backed generative AI startup Forethought. 

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