Ontario government cuts funding for artificial intelligence research
Another week, another multimillion-dollar funding cut to one of Ontario's most celebrated scientific institutions.
Doug Ford's provincial government just pulled a total of $36 million from two globally-recognized artificial intelligence research institutes, both of them based out of the MaRS Centre in Toronto: The Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).
Vector, an independent, not-for-profit corporation that specializes in machine learning and deep learning, just lost $20 million in funding from the government, according to the Toronto Star.
Ontario's Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade also cut $4 million annually (over the next four years) from CIFAR, a global charitable organization that "convenes extraordinary minds to address science and humanity's most important questions."
Meanwhile, Ontario may spend far more than the amount cut here from CIFAR and Vector in order to let beer be sold in convenience stores. This is a perfect illustration of the misplaced priorities of @fordnation and his government. https://t.co/RFbGLYpuHw— Blake Richards (@tyrell_turing) May 19, 2019
Both institutions are considered world leaders in the field of artificial intelligence and have been credited with various scientific breakthroughs.
Vector has become known for attracting, retaining and fostering collaboration among the best AI talent on Earth since its founding in 2017, while the nearly 40-year-old CIFAR is believed to have facilitated the very invention of neural networks.
"Without CIFAR, Canada would not be a leader in global AI research and I would never have moved here," said CIFAR fellow and Vector Institute chief scientific advisor Geoffrey Hinton to The Star in response to the funding cuts.
"CIFAR played a critical role in supporting my work and deserves credit for funding many of Canada's biggest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence research," continued Hinton, a Turing Prize winner who many in the AI community refer to as the "Godfather of Deep Learning."
"Providing adequate resources for basic curiosity-driven research is essential for attracting and retaining leading researchers here in Canada. It was essential in establishing Canada's position as a world leader in AI, and it remains the key to driving Canada's future leadership in this field."
Indeed, luckily Toronto's AI strength runs deep enough that this isn't a fatal blow by any means. Still a totally backwards decision, one of many made by this government.— Blake Richards (@tyrell_turing) May 19, 2019
Both CIFAR and Vector say that they maintain positive relationships with the provincial government and that, thanks to additional support from the federal government and private sector, they will continue to exist (but with adjusted operations).
A spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of Economic Development defended the cuts in a statement, citing an inherited "$15-billion mess from the previous Liberal government."
"In order to protect what matters most and get Ontario back on track, we need to get our fiscal house in order," wrote the spokesperson. "That's exactly what we're doing, while continuing to deliver on our promise to make Ontario open for business, and open for jobs."
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