Personal assistants. Automation. Smart homes. Hailed by many as the fourth industrial revolution, machine intelligence is bringing remarkable changes everywhere – Canada included. We are fortunate to have places like Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto leading the way as Canada’s major centres for artificial intelligence. Notably, they are also home to some of Canada’s most exciting AI events.

If you want to learn how to harness the technologies that are shaping our future, here are three Canadian AI events you should consider checking out in the coming months:

World Summit AI Americas (
April 10 – 11, 2019 | Montreal, QC
World Summit AI has made it across the pond! The series with the world’s largest and most active AI community (over 40,000 members from the global AI ecosystem) is hosting the first World Summit AI Americas in Montreal this April. This event promises two full days of mind-boggling innovation, animated discussions on AI4good, applied solutions for enterprise, hands-on workshops and the development of plans for advancing the application of AI in the coming year. To learn more and purchase a ticket, visit the World Summit AI Americas page; use promo “AMII15” for 15% off your ticket.

SingularityU Canada Summit (
April 23 – 24, 2019 | Edmonton, AB
After a smashing Toronto debut in 2017, SingularityU Canada Summit lands in Edmonton this April. A mixture of keynote discussions, panel presentations, product demos, workshops, and breakout sessions, this conference shares the best of Canadian and international technology. Learn about the transformative impact that technologies like artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and digital medicine will have on our lives and our world. To learn more and purchase a ticket, visit the Singularity U Canada Summit page; use promo “AmiiSUDIS20” for 20% off your ticket.

Big Data & AI Toronto
July 22-24, 2019 | Toronto, ON
Big Data and AI Toronto aims to address the greatest business challenges technology leaders are facing today. Industry sessions, keynote discussions and panel presentations explore the future of work in multiple industries. Visit the Big Data & AI Toronto registration page to purchase your ticket.

Whether you are a curious beginner or a seasoned pro, there’s lots of (machine) learning to be had this year!

Bonus Event:
The Summer Institute (
July 21-24, 2019 | Edmonton, AB
If you are passionate about understanding and shaping the relationship between AI and society, consider applying to attend the Summer Institute on AI and Society. A combination of lectures, panels, and participatory problem-solving, this intimate interdisciplinary event aims to build understanding and action around the most important issues facing AI. Visit the Summer Institute page for more information.

CIFAR, the AI PULSE program at UCLA School of Law, and Amii are thrilled to host the inaugural Summer Institute on AI and Society in Edmonton this July 21 – 24, 2019.

Summer Institute brings together experts, grad students and researchers of all backgrounds to explore the societal, governmental, and ethical implications of AI. A combination of lectures, panels, and participatory problem-solving, this comprehensive and interdisciplinary event aims to build understanding and action around these high-stakes topics.

Summer Institute takes place right before Deep Learning and Reinforcement Learning Summer School and will include a combined event on July 24th for both Summer Institute and Summer School participants.

We spoke with one of the co-organizers of Summer Institute, UCLA School of Law professor Edward Parson, to talk about the origins of the event, what themes and topics might be covered, and why you should apply now. Check out what he had to say below:

Please note: this interview has been edited and condensed for space

Tell us about how you became interested in AI and its societal impact.

My main professional background has been in environment, energy and related policy areas. But because of my partial scientific and technical training, I’ve always had a central interest in technology and those areas – what it does, what forces determine how it changes, how, if at all, societies can get the benefits and limit the harms, and how that works. That was the bridge to thinking about AI.

How did you get involved in the Summer Institute?

Last year when I was on a sabbatical year at the University of Victoria, I became aware of CIFAR’s program supporting AI and related initiatives. And in particular, CIFAR’s interest in broadening its support from technical issues of AI out to societal impacts, regulatory, and governance issues. After speaking with them and then consulting with a couple of Canadian colleagues who are more on the technical side of AI – Alona Fyshe and Dan Lizotte – we submitted a proposal, it was approved, and we’re going forward with the three of us co-directing the institute, with joint support from CIFAR and from my project here at UCLA.

Can you tell us more about this project at UCLA?

It’s an outgrowth of a longer-standing activity at UCLA Law School that’s been on Science Technology in Law, called the AI PULSE Program. We’re looking at ways to think through potential impacts that are sort of intermediate in scale and time horizon. We’re looking for ways to get reasonably disciplined hooks on what the impacts might be five, 10, 20 years out, and how to anticipate, assess, and forestall the most disruptive and harmful aspects of those.

This also characterizes my main interest for the Summer Institute. But I’m one of three co-organizers. My two co-organizers’ interests come mainly from the side of technical aspects of AI. They’re more concerned with developing useful ethical guidelines that students and practitioners of AI and machine learning might observe in their current practice. So we expect to be covering a range of issues.

What do you believe the benefit is of the Summer Institute for attendees?

To be involved in conversations on these fascinating topics that don’t have a lot of place for consideration in the normal curriculum. Networking among a bunch of people with similar interests on issues that are likely to be really important and recurrent over time. And I expect it’ll be really interesting and fun.

What important ethics and societal implications should AI practitioners pay attention to?

AI is the weirdest technology in the world. I’ve spent decades studying social impacts of technology in all kinds of domains. AI is unlike any other technology that I’ve thought about before because nobody knows what it is. It is so diffused, so fuzzy in its boundaries, so diverse in the different strains of capability that contribute to what’s going on presently. And so limitless in the things it might be used for.

What might AI do? It might enable things that are not presently possible. It might enable an extraordinary advance in environmental protection management. It might displace human ingenuity, or augment human ingenuity, in dozens of fields of scientific and technological research. Some weeks ago, a new machine learning program out of DeepMind in London won the annual world competition for protein folding projections. It’s sort of like what happened to the Go masters just happened to the protein scientists.

On the other hand, things that become possible through technological advance often get done even if we disapprove. One of my colleagues who thinks about this stuff, Allen Dafoe at Oxford, has thrown out the slogan that “one of the social risks of AI is robust totalitarianism.” Comprehensive surveillance with perfect facial and human individual recognition and omnipresent information about everything you think, do, and say. In the hands of a tyrannical regime.

AI is big stuff. It is big, historical stuff. The possibility of capabilities that really fundamentally disrupt employment and livelihood and labour markets, that fundamentally disrupt the functioning of the state, that fundamentally disrupt the functioning of the economy, and every sub-sector thereof for good and ill.

The potential benefits are enormous, but even they will come with enormous disruption. So if we all get to move to a Jetsons world where we’re at leisure all day and the machines do the work, that might be really nice. But it will explode a bunch of foundations of social order. These are all the things we need to talk about at Summer Institute.

What aspects of its implications do you think are not being paid enough attention?

It’s the medium term – what happens five steps down the line, and how we can get any handle on thinking about that beforehand. To make an environment that makes it likely that people get the benefits and don’t get the worst harms from those rapid changes.

What are you most looking forward to about Summer Institute?

Talking about all this fabulous stuff with a bunch of really interesting and engaged people from all over the place spatially, and from all over the place in terms of intellectual background and how they think.

Interested in attending? Applications for the Summer Institute are open until midnight on May 15!

Visit for more information and to apply today.

Inaugural Summer Institute explores societal impacts of artificial intelligence

What will Artificial Intelligence (AI) mean for society? That’s the question scholars from a variety of disciplines will explore during the inaugural Summer Institute on AI and Society. Summer Institute, co-convened by CIFAR, the AI Pulse Program at UCLA School of Law, and the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), takes place July 21-24, 2019 in Edmonton, Canada.

“Recent advances in AI have brought a surge of attention to the field – both excitement and concern,” says co-organizer and UCLA professor, Edward Parson. “From algorithmic bias to autonomous vehicles, personal privacy to automation replacing jobs. Summer Institute will bring together exceptional people to talk about how humanity can receive the benefits and not get the worst harms from these rapid changes.”

Summer Institute brings together experts, grad students and researchers from multiple backgrounds to explore the societal, governmental, and ethical implications of AI. A combination of lectures, panels, and participatory problem-solving, this comprehensive interdisciplinary event aims to build understanding and action around these high-stakes issues.

“Machine intelligence is opening transformative opportunities across the world,” says John Shillington, CEO of Amii, “and Amii is excited to bring together our own world-leading researchers with experts from areas such as law, philosophy and ethics for this important discussion. Interdisciplinary perspectives will be essential to the ongoing development of machine intelligence and for ensuring these opportunities have the broadest reach possible.”

Over the three-day program, 30 graduate-level students and early-career researchers will engage with leading experts and researchers including event co-organizers: Western University’s Daniel Lizotte, Amii’s Alona Fyshe and UCLA’s Edward Parson. Participants will also have a chance to shape the curriculum throughout this uniquely interactive event.

Summer Institute takes place prior to Deep Learning and Reinforcement Learning Summer School, and includes a combined event on July 24th for both Summer Institute and Summer School participants.

Visit to apply; applications close May 15, 2019. View our Summer Institute Biographies & Boilerplates for more information on confirmed faculty members and co-hosting organizations. Follow the conversation through social media channels using the hashtag #SI2019.

Le premier Institut d’été est consacré aux enjeux sociétaux de l’intelligence artificielle

Comment l’intelligence artificielle (IA) va-t-elle transformer la société ? Voilà la question à laquelle tenteront de répondre des chercheurs de différentes disciplines à l’occasion du premier Institut d’été du CIFAR, qui aura pour thèmes les enjeux de société, de gouvernance et d’éthique de l’IA. L’Institut d’été, coorganisé par le CIFAR, le programme PULSE de la Faculté de droit d’UCLA et l’Amii (Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute), se tiendra du 21 au 24 juillet 2019 à Edmonton, au Canada.

« De récents progrès en matière d’IA ont entraîné un regain d’intérêt pour le domaine et suscitent à la fois l’enthousiasme et l’appréhension, déclare Edward Parson, coorganisateur et professeur à UCLA. L’Institut d’été réunira de brillants cerveaux qui chercheront à déterminer comment l’humanité peut profiter des avantages de ces changements rapides tout en évitant le pire, qu’il concerne les biais algorithmiques, les véhicules autonomes, la protection des renseignements personnels ou l’automatisation des emplois. »

L’Institut d’été accueille des experts, des étudiants diplômés et des chercheurs d’horizons divers afin d’aborder les enjeux sociétaux, gouvernementaux et éthiques de l’IA. Combinant conférences, ateliers et résolution participative de problèmes, cet événement interdisciplinaire complet vise à favoriser une compréhension proactive de ces enjeux de première importance.

« L’intelligence artificielle ouvre la voie à une foule de changements partout sur la planète, affirme John Shillington, PDG d’Amii. Amii se réjouit de réunir ses chercheurs de calibre mondial et des spécialistes du droit, de la philosophie et de l’éthique dans le cadre de cet important débat. L’interdisciplinarité est essentielle pour assurer le développement de l’intelligence artificielle et pour garantir que ces possibilités auront la plus large portée possible. »

Durant 3 jours, 30 étudiants de cycle supérieur et jeunes chercheurs échangeront avec des spécialistes et des universitaires de renom, dont les coorganisateurs de l’événement Daniel Lizotte, de l’Université Western, Alona Fyshe, d’Amii, et Edward Parson, d’UCLA. Les participants pourront en outre modifier en temps réel le programme de cet événement interactif tout à fait unique.

L’Institut d’été a lieu avant l’École d’été consacrée à l’apprentissage profond et à l’apprentissage par renforcement. Les participants des deux écoles se réuniront ensuite le temps d’un événement conjoint qui aura lieu le 24 juillet.

Inscrivez-vous sur avant le 15 mai 2019. Obtenez de plus amples renseignements sur les membres du corps professoral qui ont confirmé leur participation à l’Institut d’été et de brèves présentations des coorganisateurs. Suivez la conversation sur les réseaux sociaux à l’aide du mot-clic #SI2019.

We are incredibly excited to announce three new courses on artificial intelligence and machine learning, co-developed by Amii and the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension!

Produced in collaboration between UAlberta’s Faculty of Extension and Amii, this three-course series is ideal for technically-inclined participants who wish to build foundational knowledge in machine intelligence, develop an applied understanding for approaching machine learning projects, and gain an introduction to intermediate and advanced techniques.

Participants can expect to gain a working knowledge around important machine learning areas such as supervised learning, unsupervised learning, neural networks and reinforcement learning.

Prior knowledge of basic programming, linear algebra and statistics is expected. Experience with mathematics, statistics and analytics is strongly recommended. Participants will be expected to have the ability to read and code trace existing code; be comfortable with conditionals, loops, variables, lists, dictionaries and arrays; and should be able to produce “hello world.”

Once all three courses have been successfully completed, an official University of Alberta Notice of Completion will be issued. The courses can also be used towards the Amii Machine Learning Technician Certification program, beginning in September 2019. Students completing the Faculty of Extension series will be grandfathered into the Machine Learning Technician program with a prorated tuition.

Learn more about the individual courses below:

Introduction to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence


(21 hours)
April 24 – 26, 2019
8:30 a.m.− 5 p.m.
Enterprise Square, Edmonton

Students will gain an overview of machine learning and artificial intelligence, beginning with discussing supervised learning applied to a classification problem. Students will develop a working knowledge of this type of application, and how it might look in a project from start to finish. Prior knowledge of basic programming, linear algebra and statistics is expected.

Applied Machine Learning


(21 hours)
May 22 – 24, 2019
8:30 a.m.− 5 p.m.
Enterprise Square, Edmonton

This course will begin the discussion of problem definition in machine learning projects, and other issues with data acquisition, cleaning and exploratory data analysis. Students will also discuss unsupervised learning in the context of developing data for successful machine learning modelling. Prior knowledge of basic programming, linear algebra and statistics is expected.

Intermediate Machine Learning Techniques


(21 hours)
June 19 – 21, 2019
8:30 a.m.− 5 p.m.
Enterprise Square, Edmonton

This course continues from the previous, discussing more advanced techniques of machine learning, such as neural networks and support vector machines. Students will also get a brief introduction to reinforcement learning. Prior knowledge of basic programming, linear algebra and statistics is expected.

For more information, please visit the UAlberta Faculty of Extension – AI & ML Courses page:

International Women’s Day, celebrated every year on March 8, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of those who identify as women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender diversity.

Gender diversity in tech has long been a point of contention, illustrated well by the divisive reactions to the 2017 memo circulated by a Google employee, who argued that biological and personality differences were the main drivers of the gender gap within the company.

History tells a different story. Many pioneers of the field were women. We see this as far back as 1843, when Ada Lovelace became the first computer programmer. However, as the societal perception of tech became more gendered in the mid-to-late 20th century, the narrative and stereotypes were rewritten to become more like what we recognize today.

There have been many women who have defied these harmful tropes to become leaders in their field. Doina Precup, who heads the Montreal office of Deepmind. Foteini Agrafioti, Head/Co-Founder of Borealis AI. And there have been promising initiatives to bring equity to tech. There is CAN-CWiC, toted as “the premiere Canadian computing conference for women in technology.” The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing continually breaks annual attendance records, bringing together over 20,000 people in 2018.

We are fortunate to have many fascinating and talented women to celebrate in the Amii office, including Anna Koop, Director of Amii Explores. Anna leads the applied machine learning team, monitors and directs the applied scientific endeavours of the organization, and facilitates interactions between our research core (Amii fellows) and industry partners.

Pictured: Director of Amii Explores Anna Koop playing with toys at Amii HQ

We sat down with Anna to ask her about what led her to her current position, and how her gender has affected her journey.

Please note: this interview has been edited and condensed for space

How did you get into researching machine intelligence?

In 2001, I went back to school to get my physics degree. I had done some part-time school, because you cannot keep me away from school — even if I’m in the middle of nowhere in Saskatchewan. I wanted to be a professor eventually, but since I had done some web programming, I did take one computers class. And in that class, Rob Holte let us know about the AI seminars, which were the weekly pizza lunches with guest speakers, students, and professors talking about AI. I started going to those out of curiousity, and found out that there was lots more to computer science than just programming the same task over and over again.

Amii, at the time, had just formed under the name Alberta Innovates Centre for Machine Learning. So now I’ve got to be talking about 2002. They were hiring for the summer, so I talked to them and got hired on to do some web dev. That turned into research collaborations with Rich [Sutton], and then I was hooked; I thought, “Okay, never mind. I can do cool things now. I am going into comp sci hardcore.”

What hooked you?

That computers weren’t all artificial. I had a moment where I was very explicitly thinking, “You can’t do computer science without a computer, and so it’s less real in a way than physics. Physics is going on all around you.” But when I found out about the intelligence research, I thought, “Well, the nature of intelligence is a pretty fundamental question, yet we don’t get it.”

I remember tutoring a student in high school biology. She asked, “Okay, so here’s all these neurotransmitters. Where are our thoughts?” I said, “Don’t know. Isn’t that an interesting question?” And we still don’t know the answer, and that’s still a really interesting question. So that there’s this fundamental truth-of-the-universe question embedded in it; that we can use computers as a tool to discover this, is very exciting.

Computing science is also such a young field, and AI is especially young. There’s so much progress to be made everywhere, where on the physics side, it’s a lot harder and takes fancier toys to make progress. There’s so many nearer frontiers in comp sci. Although, to be fair, some of the intersect with philosophy that’s been going on for hundreds of years may be harder to make progress on.

You’re female in a field that has a known gender gap. What has your experience been in that sense?

I only noticed it a year or so into my masters, actually. There was a workshop for women in machine learning that my supervisor found out about, co-located with the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. They were talking about the gender gap, which caused me to look around and say, “You’re right, there is. We have a lab of 30 people, I am one of two women. Those are not 51% of odds.”

And kind of exploring some of the less visible, less explicit consequences. I never had anyone tell me I couldn’t do science. But then you look around and realize that 10% of senior scientists are female, and you think, “Well, that’s weird. If there isn’t a gender bias, then what is going on here?” Then you start learning more, and realizing there is bias, it’s just more insidious than we’d like.

I do have colleagues who have been told that they can’t do it because they’re women, or they don’t look like a computer scientist. Even with that removed, there’s still differences in representation, so you don’t think of yourself as fitting into that role, or you think that it will take extreme efforts to be able to do it. Going to Grace Hopper was an eye-opening experience – there’s actual study around this, and empirical data, and it’s not about just what overt messaging is out there. It’s also about the systematic inequalities and how they’re reinforced. We got another group of women to go the next year, and then year after that. Then we started Ada’s Team, the Diversity in Computing Science Group, kind of in response to that.

It’s frustrating to notice. I was happier when it didn’t occur to me that often, because it’s all so, so stupid. The world is shooting itself in the foot. Even for totally selfish reasons, we should make sure we have diverse teams. [Editor’s note: see Why Diverse Teams are Smarter by Harvard Business Review]

Can you illustrate any specific moments where you’ve noticed that your gender has made a difference in your interactions with people?

I think I’ve been lucky, in that I haven’t had that many overt things. There’s just the pattern of feeling like I had more to prove, but you can always dismiss that. It can always be, “It’s not because I’m female, it’s because I’m doing something wrong, or because I’m approaching this in a different way. That’s why.”

The biggest one is probably the burden of being the explainer. I’ve been forwarded questions like, “Why do we need a scholarship for women?” Or, “Why do we need this celebration of women? Shouldn’t we be equal?” So doing a lot of the kind of one-to-one. Introducing concepts, hearing where they’re coming from, and explaining where we’re coming from, and it’s the same argument over and over again. So that gets tiring, but the worst drain is actually deciding when to take action.

For example, there was a game in the game development course where you’re playing as mean girls bullying students. And especially in CS, I’m not comfortable with this being condoned. So deciding to bring that up with the professor, and deciding to push on it when he didn’t see the issue. The pure emotional energy it takes to decide to have the conversations, to carry them out, and to deal with the aftermath when people especially don’t respond well – even when they’re very well intentioned – is just a huge recurring drain.

And it’s invisible, because sometimes ignorance is bliss. If you’re not seeing the problem, you’re not dealing with the ramifications. So becoming more aware has meant actually having a lot more time and energy routed to dealing with it, or trying to make it better, or addressing things that come up, or even being a shoulder to cry on when somebody else is dealing with it.

The other frustrating thing is the delayed reaction time. I’m very cheerful, generally speaking, and sunshine-y. My instinct is to smooth things over, and make everybody happy in the moment. And sometimes that means an hour later, I realize, “Wait a second, I’m furious. I shouldn’t have laughed at that, I should have yelled.” And then you have to decide whether to go back and make a big deal about it, and if so, how to.

I can’t even count up the hours that have been … Not lost, because it’s valuable work, but definitely not devoted to thesis work, because of dealing with this kind of thing.

If you had a piece of advice, or something to say, for future generations of women who are considering entering STEM, or who are presently in STEM programs, what would you say?

Keep growing in all the ways that appeal to you. Don’t feel like there’s only one narrow path, because it turns out, even the path you’re on is probably not the path you’ll stay on. There’s way more possibility in the world than we think about in high school. So pursue the things you’re interested in, and don’t stress about finding exactly the right fit or exactly the right career, because careers are changing all the time. Be open to hearing about other people’s experience; it broadens your world, it also gives you role models and resilience when you start hitting barriers, too. I wish I could go back and learn more about diversity and privilege as a teenager, and start applying it earlier. The broader perspective, that recognizing where you have privilege that others don’t, and where you have challenges that others don’t. That we’re all human and working on things together, I think, is a good way to go through life.

If you’re interested in STEM, go for it. Don’t feel constrained to it, and don’t feel constrained to any specific thing. Investigate all the things you like, and you’ll have some weird patchwork career in the end that integrates a bunch of your interests. I haven’t combined knitting and machine learning yet, but other people have, so it’s possible.

If you are a woman or gender minority who is practicing, studying or interested in the fields of machine learning and data science, support is available through WiMLDS groups. Visit the Edmonton and Calgary chapters for more information. 

Over at Startup Edmonton, Operations Manager Lauren Briske shares some ways you can celebrate and get involved.

Visit to learn more about International Women’s Day and how you can participate.