Question Period: Artificial Intelligence and Data

By: The Hon. Andrew Cardozo

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CN Tower, Toronto

Hon. Andrew Cardozo: Madam Speaker, first of all, I must say that I’m very honoured to be asking a question in your first week as Speaker of the Senate. Congratulations.

My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.


I want to ask about artificial intelligence, or AI, in a sense picking up from my colleague who asked a question on this subject earlier. Indeed, it has been growing over many years, but I think 2023 will go down in history as the year when AI crossed a Rubicon and perhaps became more intelligent than human beings. First with the beginning of ChatGPT and the soon to follow GPT-4, and the unthinkable letters from the leaders on March 29 written by the owners and inventors of AI calling on the world to slow it down. Even Geoffrey Hinton, often referred to as the godfather of AI, spoke on CBC Radio this weekend and called on governments to take action to put controls on AI. It’s worth repeating: Inventors of AI are asking the government to intervene in the evolution of their invention, which seems to be going out of control. This week, I’ll be issuing an article by software technology specialist Shawn Brayman on this and how AI relates to polarization.

What is the government willing to do to respond to getting things under control in this world of AI, which seems to be running out of control?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. Colleagues, as you know, and as Senator Coyle referred to in her question, the government has tabled Bill C-27, which is the digital charter implementation act, part of which includes the artificial intelligence and data act. This will create a framework to regulate the risks associated with AI here in Canada and to ensure that potential harms are appropriately mitigated and the risks are managed for those high-impact AI systems.

Furthermore, I’m advised that Minister Champagne recently convened an emergency meeting of Canada’s Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence specifically on the issue of generative AI to gather experts’ opinions to chart a path forward for Canada to ensure the responsible use of AI.

Senator Cardozo: Let me ask my supplementary question. I will drill down further on one of the issues raised in the paper I mentioned by Shawn Brayman. He points to the estimates that between 400 million and 800 million jobs will be lost across the world in the next short period due to AI. How should we all be preparing for this major change in society? Are you concerned that a massive economic change of this sort can lead to instability and polarization?

Senator Gold: It’s a big question. As I mentioned in my answer to Senator Coyle, there’s no question that if the Industrial Revolution transformed society in past centuries, the Information Revolution — which began many decades ago — is now proving to potentially be an even more dramatic and fast-paced transformation. With transformations, there are dislocations and changes, and we are seeing that not only in this area but in our economy as the world is beginning a shift from heavy reliance on fossil fuels to other forms of energy.

The government is actively engaged in this issue around the question of risk, and I have every confidence that the government will also respond to the economic implications of transformations that will surely follow from the expansion of AI into all aspects of our lives.

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