A|I: The AI Times – As Sam Altman returns to OpenAI, Cohere CEO slams the “self righteousness” of effective altruism

Plus: Microsoft looks to scale Québec presence with $500-million USD investment.

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Microsoft looks to scale Québec presence with $500-million USD investment

Microsoft is betting big on Québec as the tech giant earmarks $685 million CAD ($500 million USD) to expand its cloud computing and AI infrastructure in the province over the next two years.

Microsoft’s investment is aimed to support the construction of multiple data centre locations in Québec, which it expects to launch over the coming months. The firm expects these centres to expand the firm’s computing capacity by approximately 240 percent over the next three years.


Inside Sam Altman’s return to OpenAI.

OpenAI descended into chaos last weekend following the ouster of CEO Sam Altman.

As OpenAI’s board battled to uphold its decision, it approached Dario Amodei, the co-founder and CEO of rival large-language model developer Anthropic, about a potential merger of the two companies as part of an effort to persuade Amodei to replace Altman as CEO.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff did his best to woo potential ship-hoppers as disillusioned OpenAI employees threatened to defect from the company en masse. 

The reported motivation behind the board action was an AI breakthrough some OpenAI employees believe Altman alluded to at the APEC CEO Summit, saying the advance would allow the company to “push the veil of ignorance back and the frontier of discovery forward.” While the remarks went largely unnoticed, the technical breakthrough, led by OpenAI chief scientist and board member Ilya Sutskever, raised concerns among some staff that the company didn’t have proper safeguards in place to commercialize such advanced AI models, according to a source speaking to The Information

Sutskever, a student of AI godfather Geoffrey Hinton, went on to spearhead the leadership upheaval, only to express his regret days later. 

Altman officially re-took his post as OpenAI CEO on Tuesday night, five days after his forced departure. A condition of Altman’s return was the induction of a new company board, which now includes Bret Taylor, the former co-CEO of Salesforce; Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary; and Adam D’Angelo, the only member of OpenAI’s previous board to remain. Altman also agreed to an investigation into the alleged conduct that prompted the board to oust him. 

The Washington Post looked into Altman’s past at Y Combinator to find clues that could shed light on his conduct at OpenAI. As it turns out, Altman was asked to leave by his mentor at the prominent startup incubator. Altman had developed a reputation for favouring personal priorities over official duties and for an absenteeism that rankled his peers and some of the startups he was supposed to nurture, according the The Washington Post’s sources. 

As the dust settles, the OpenAI employee share sale that is set to value the firm at $86 billion is reportedly back on track.

Semantic Health acquired by US-based medical documentation firm AAPC

Toronto artificial intelligence (AI) startup Semantic Health has been acquired by Utah-based medical coding, billing, and auditing firm AAPC.

Following the acquisition, the two teams plan to expand Semantic Health’s functionality and bolster AAPC’s current product offerings. AAPC said it plans to continue supporting Semantic Health’s existing customers while growing the platform.


AI Startup Cohere’s CEO Slams Effective Altruism in Wake of OpenAI Drama

In a reference to the circumstances behind Sam Altman’s removal at Open AI, the chief executive officer of artificial-intelligence startup Cohere, Aidan Gomez, criticized the “self righteousness” of the effective altruism movement and those overly concerned with the threat of an AI doomsday in a letter to his staff.

Gomez said that the effective altruism movement, which aims to quantify how to do the most good for humanity, has become dogmatic and self-aggrandizing.

“When people begin to believe so deeply that they are uniquely qualified to benefit, or even save, humanity, they tend to be willing to take extreme actions towards that end,” he wrote, contiuing to say that Cohere is not “distracted by fantastic stories about doomsdays and terminators.”



The AI-first customer service revolution had started. Are you prepared for it?

Thanks to generative AI, customer service has quickly scaled the corporate ladder and become a top executive priority.

Did you know 85% of execs say generative AI will be interacting directly with customers in the next two years? As a result, 63% say that they will have invested in generative AI use cases that serve their agents by the end of 2023.

Become an expert on generative AI and separate the buzz from reality with the ultimate guide to generative AI for customer service.

Read our expert guide today.

Birdseye closes $4.1 million CAD in seed funding for AI-powered marketing platform

Toronto-based Birdseye has secured $4.1 million CAD ($3 million USD) in seed funding for its AI-powered marketing personalization platform.

Using an AI algorithm trained on vast amounts of retail transaction data, the startup aims to help retailers hyper-personalize their marketing campaigns, matching potential customers with products they are likely to be interested in.


Canada helped lay the foundations for today’s AI boom. Can it reap the rewards?

To benefit from the AI boom, Canada will need to do better at capitalizing on its foundational innovations in the field and of keeping the startups developing the technology.

It was Canadian researchers who enabled the AI boom, but several of the country’s early AI contenders sold to Silicon Valley.

While Canada trailblazes using artificial intelligence for the basic research that leads to new drugs to treat illnesses, it lacks the “wet labs,” financing, and manufacturing capabilities to turn that into a next-generation pharma industry.

Canadian companies are even adopting AI technologies at a slower rate than their peers, with executives and industry experts warning that a cautious approach could have wider consequences for Canada’s competitiveness.

How does Canada keep building AI up then missing out? 


PointClickCare’s Mike Wessinger on how Canada’s tech sector stacks up globally

Mike Wessinger, the co-founder of PointClickCare and current board chair, is the first to admit he may not be a household name beyond industry circles.

In his exclusive interview with Aly Gillani, Head of Canadian Tech Investment Banking at RBC Capital Markets, Mike delves into his advice for cultivating a thriving tech ecosystem that stretches beyond Silicon Valley and how to build tech unicorns in Canada (while still staying humble, of course).


Top AI researcher launches new Alberta lab with Huawei funds after Ottawa restrictions

Richard Sutton, one of the country’s most accomplished artificial intelligence researchers is launching a new non-profit lab with $4.8-million in funding from Huawei Canada, after the federal government restricted the Chinese company’s ability to work with publicly funded universities.

The University of Alberta professor and pioneer in the field of reinforcement learning says the Openmind Research Institute will fund researchers following the Alberta Plan, a 12-step guide he co-authored last year that lays out a framework for pursuing the development of AI agents capable of human-level intelligence.


Active Impact Investments launches third climate tech seed fund with $70 million in initial commitments

Vancouver-based Active Impact Investments has secured over $70 million CAD in initial commitments for its third fund, which will continue the firm’s focus on early-stage climate technology startups.

Active Impact aims to raise a Fund III that is twice the size of its second fund, seeking a total of $120 million, the remainder of which it hopes to close in early 2024. These commitments bring Active Impact more than halfway towards that target, at a time when many other venture capital (VC) firms and startups alike are struggling to fundraise.


GM Cruise co-founder, senior exec Dan Kan quits day after CEO exit

General Motors’ Cruise co-founder and chief product officer Daniel Kan has resigned, the company told Reuters on Monday, a day after Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt quit. The new exit comes at a tumultuous time for self-driving taxi maker Cruise, which is undergoing a safety review of its U.S. fleet.

Cruise plans to reintroduce its robotaxi service after one of its units caused a stir by inexplicably veering off the road recently, but will narrow the focus to one city and shelve plans for the Origin, a new, GM-built, driverless taxi.


Federal Fall Economic Statement promises to expand Payments Canada eligibility, introduce open banking legislation in 2024

The Government of Canada’s Fall Economic Statement, delivered this week by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, includes promises to implement a consumer-driven banking framework next year, expand Payments Canada eligibility, and bolster the country’s competition watchdog, as well as updates regarding the Clean Technology Investment Tax Credit and the Canada Growth Fund.


For teen girls victimized by ‘deepfake’ nude photos, there are few, if any, pathways to recourse in most states

Teenage girls in the U.S. who are increasingly being targeted or threatened with fake nude photos created with artificial intelligence or other tools have limited ways to seek accountability or recourse, as schools and state legislatures struggle to catch up to the new technologies, according to legislators, legal experts, and one victim who is now advocating for a federal bill.

Since the 2023 school year kicked into session, cases involving teen girls victimized by the fake nude photos, also known as deepfakes, have proliferated worldwide, including at high schools in New Jersey and Washington state.


Co.Labs hires Broad Street Bulls, Rhino Ventures alum Jonathan Lipoth as executive director

After over a year of searching, Saskatoon-based technology hub Co.Labs has found its next executive director in Jonathan Lipoth.

Lipoth is a Saskatchewan native who has spent years working in early-stage Canadian tech on the venture capital (VC) side with Regina-based Broad Street Bulls and Vancouver’s Rhino Ventures.


AI chatbots fall short in dozens of languages. A non-profit project aims to fix that

As generative AI has swept the globe, most of the world’s 7,000 spoken languages appear to be an afterthought. The field of natural language processing, which refers to how computers understand language, has historically focused on about 20 of them. Low-resource languages, in contrast, are underrepresented, with fewer datasets for developers to work from.

Earlier this year, Sara Hooker, the head of Cohere For AI, embarked on an effort to build an LLM called Aya that can converse in 101 languages. By early next year, Cohere aims to release the model and the language dataset for anyone to use.


Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl is a staff writer and newsletter curator at BetaKit with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. He's interested in tech, gaming, and sports. You can find out more about him at alexriehl.com or @RiehlAlex99 on Twitter.

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