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The 18-time world champion won one match in five against the tech firm’s AlphaGo system in 2016. He is quitting because “even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.” (Agence France-Presse)

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Talking point: The South Korean player is the only human to have beaten the machine in tournament play, but the AlphaGo competing today isn’t the same as the one Lee faced. While the original was based on a database of human games, the current AlphaGo Zero mastered the game by practising against itself—it’s learning through active practice, like a person would. That’s made it even harder to beat. Game experts have said it’s making moves that humans wouldn’t, focusing on the centre of the board instead of the sides and corners.

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The funding will be used to build fraud-detection and speech-to-text analytics tools in the school’s computer science department. (The Logic)

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Talking point: This investment gives Scotiabank access to Edmonton’s growing AI talent pool at a time when competition in Canada’s other two major cities for AI research—Toronto and Montreal—is reaching a fever pitch. The University of Toronto, McGill University and the Université de Montréal have announced partnerships with some of the largest companies in the world, including Uber, Facebook and Samsung. Scotiabank has been an early mover in AI company-university partnerships before. It made a $1.75-million donation to U of T in September 2016, well before those Big Tech companies signed their deals. RBC and Mitsubishi have research facilities in Edmonton and Google’s DeepMind chose Edmonton for its first-ever international AI research facility.

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Margrethe Vestager said she sees “no limit to how AI can support what we do as humans”, adding that human supervision will play a crucial role in regulating the technology. She also reiterated that she is not looking to break up Big Tech companies, arguing that doing so would not only be unnecessary from a competition standpoint, it could create more problems than it solves. (Business Insider)

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Talking point: In Vestager’s vision for the EU, an optimistic approach to AI squares with the strict regulatory environment she’s become notorious for enforcing. The commissioner has said she will introduce ethical, human-centered AI regulations in Europe within the first 100 days of her new role as the bloc’s technology tsar. A proactive approach to regulating AI, she argued, is what will distinguish Europe’s policies from those in the U.S. and China. However, she also appears open to working with U.S. regulators; in a follow-up to her comments about breaking up tech giants, she said she would welcome an “enforcer role for the U.S.” Though she’s established a reputation for being among the most hawkish of Big Tech’s opponents, this stance is arguably less aggressive than that of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, for example, who has repeatedly called for breaking up the tech giants.

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A report from the Center for Data Innovation, a think tank with offices in Washington, D.C. and Brussels, compared the three regions by six categories. The U.S. led in talent, research, development and hardware; China led in adoption and data. The EU did not lead in any category. But when adjusted by number of workers, China fell to third place overall, only leading in adoption. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Because artificial intelligence (AI) is already—or is set to be—used in so many different sectors—including finance, transportation and manufacturing—developing the technology would help nations boost their economy and strengthen their national security. However, the report says some AI advancements benefit all countries, referencing a system that U.S. and Chinese researchers built that can automatically diagnose childhood conditions, like asthma. The report states that a country’s ability to develop AI depends on the strength of its AI ecosystem, which includes factors like the number of firms and patents it has. Despite Canada being home to some of the most preeminent AI researchers, the country wasn’t mentioned in the report. As my colleague Zane reported in December 2018, Canada is falling behind in the global race for AI patents.

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The partnership will develop supercomputing technology on Microsoft’s Azure cloud to create artificial general intelligence (AGI)—machines that would be able to learn and reason as well as, or better than, human brains. San Francisco-based OpenAI was founded by Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, among others, and is run by former Y Combinator president Sam Altman. (Reuters)

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Talking point: Most AI research focuses on developing technology that solves specific problems, like predicting natural disasters or guiding autonomous vehicles. AGI machines would be fundamentally intelligent in the way that human beings are—that is, they would be able to learn, reason and transfer competence from one domain to another. Whether or not AGI is possible—and whether its development entails the creation of artificial consciousness—is an open debate in AI research, as is the idea that a fundamentally intelligent brain could run on any type of supercomputer, since some researchers believe that emotion is an indispensable feature of intelligence. Microsoft is second in the cloud market behind Amazon Web Services, but it’s trying to grow its share through major deals like the OpenAI partnership and a US$2-billion contract with AT&T announced earlier in July.

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The Digital Inclusion Lab, part of Global Affairs Canada, said foreign actors could try to encourage separatism, citing an unsuccessful attempt involving Saudi Arabian social media accounts supportive of the Quebec independence movement. The agency said Canada should watch for activities like the alleged Russian and Venezuelan spreading of disinformation during Catalonia’s referendum on separating from Spain in 2017. The reports also stated that artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to spread “highly personalized propaganda” to citizens. (National Post)

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Talking point: The lab said governments may need to respond to AI-driven political messaging by “reasserting the existence of facts, expertise, and [the] common view of reality upon which democracy rests.” Ottawa has so far focused on educating the public about how disinformation spreads and how to spot it. In January, The Logic reported that the federal government will spend $7 million on awareness campaigns and digital-literacy programs before the scheduled October election. A panel of senior bureaucrats will also inform the public if they decide there’s been a significant attempt at election interference. The government hasn’t set up a system to identify or debunk fake news stories, after internal reports said its intervention could backfire.

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The government should fund digital-literacy initiatives; set guidelines on preventing harm from algorithms that industry can use to create and enforce their own rules; and clarify how competition law applies to companies using AI, according to a report prepared by lawyers at McCarthy Tétrault LLP for the business lobby group. It also suggested that policymakers encourage “alternative data access models” such as trusts. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The chamber’s recommendations largely align with what the federal government has said on AI and data policy so far. In May, Ottawa released a digital charter and proposed changes to consumer privacy laws that included enabling data trusts. Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains has also ordered a review of competition laws to ensure they’re keeping up with how the growing use of technology is affecting the economy. And, on Thursday, he announced $29.5 million in funding for digital-literacy campaigns aimed at underserved groups, including seniors, language minorities and residents of remote areas. On algorithmic safety, the government has set a directive requiring its own departments to look for and reduce any negative outcomes from systems that use automated decision-making. But it’s not clear whether Ottawa favours that self-assessment approach for business use of AI, as well, or if the new regulations it makes using the charter’s principles will be forced on firms.

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Actua Codemakers will receive a grant to develop educational programming in AI fundamentals for students across Canada, Google Canada announced on Friday. The AI programming will be implemented across multiple subjects and grades in the classroom, and through extracurricular workshops, camps and clubs. The year-long pilot is expected to reach 15,000 students and train 500 teachers. (MobileSyrup)

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Talking point: There has been a stream of notable AI investments in Canada this year. The University of Toronto and the Alberta government both announced investments of $100 million each to advance AI research, education and job opportunities. AI skills are becoming increasingly important in the changing digital economy. While automation and AI are expected to impact at least half of Canadian jobs in the next decade, a recent report found that more AI professionals are leaving Canada than coming in—placing added urgency on AI skills training to meet the growing demand.