From prediction to reality: Ontario’s AI opportunity

Released June 2018

How can Canada overcome the costs and maximize the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI)? In Working Paper 32, From prediction to reality Ontario’s AI opportunity, the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity examines the current AI ecosystems in Ontario and Canada, how the benefits of the coming AI revolution can be maximized, and what can be done to minimize the disruptions caused by it.    

Artificial intelligence, in the broadest sense, is the ability of a computer to perform tasks commonly thought of as intelligent or human. More specifically, machine learning feeds data into algorithms, allowing it to learn from examples. AI’s strength lies in its predictive ability, learning from patterns and allowing for the analysis of vast troves of structured and unstructured data and can increasingly provide more accurate results than humans.

Key findings:

  • The risks associated with AI include greater inequality as a result of job loss and displacement due to automation, large firms crowding out smaller players, and ethical issues like privacy concerns.
  • These costs are outweighed by the potential benefits including increased productivity and improvements in health care, financial services, manufacturing and more.
  • For consumers, AI will mean lower cost goods and services and increased personalization.

In order to overcome the drawbacks associated with AI and maximize the benefits, Canada and Ontario must make the necessary public investments now, so that Canadian companies can compete in the global AI market, create jobs domestically, and provide opportunities for those who are displaced to find a place in the new economic landscape.

The Institute makes five recommendations that Ontario and Canada should implement to accelerate and sustain the development of AI:

  1. Create a regulatory sandbox to allow companies to innovate and test technologies
  2. Balance trade policy to protect consumers and economic competitiveness
  3. Align skillsets learned in post-secondary institutions to meet the needs of AI organizations
  4. Retain skilled talent educated in Canadian post-secondary institutions to grow the AI ecosystem
  5. Understand the trade-offs before pursuing AI

This Working Paper was advised and guided by Rotman School of Management Professors Dr. Dan Trefler, member of Ontario’s Panel on Economic Growth & Prosperity, and Dr. Avi Goldfarb, co-author of Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence.

Topics: Government investment and innovation, Business growth and innovation