Innovation Nation: AI godfathers gave Canada an early edge — but we could end up being left in the dust


Geoffrey Hinton, a Google fellow and professor emeritus of computer science at the University of Toronto; computer Science professor Yoshua Bengio; and director of Facebook AI Research Yann LeCun.Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The New York Times; Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press; Brian Ach for Wired. NP Photo Illustration.

Canada has a rich history of innovation, but in the next few decades, powerful technological forces will transform the global economy. Large multinational companies have jumped out to a headstart in the race to succeed, and Canada runs the risk of falling behind. At stake is nothing less than our prosperity and economic well-being. The Financial Post set out explore what is needed for businesses to flourish and grow. You can find all of our coverage here.

Not too long ago, neural nets were deeply uncool.

Researchers who believed in the usefulness of such computer programming were “outcasts in their own departments” at universities, Geoffrey Hinton recalls, treated like misguided eccentrics at best, and outright heretics at worst.

Hinton was one of those heretics for decades, a computer science professor at the University of Toronto playing around with neural networks. His eyes light up and he leans forward as he tells stories about the old days, when breakthrough research papers would be rejected from scientific conferences because their contents were deemed too radical.

“People like me and Yann and Yoshua thought this is just going to blow everything away. And when we were uncautious, we said so.” he said. “It was heresy.”


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