Self-driving cars. Assembly line robots. Virtual assistants. Will artificial intelligence end up replacing humans? What if it actually made our jobs easier? GSoft takes a stand.
Research on artificial intelligence (AI) has been going on for a while now, but computers nowadays increasingly awe-inspiring; from their capacity to process information in real time to their ability to store massive amounts of data, it’s no wonder AI advancements have soared of late. “There’s nothing mysterious about it, but it is revolutionary in the sense that it transforms practices,” recalled scientific historian Yves Gingras at the Association des communicateurs scientifiques du Québec congress in 2018.
“Forget about robots invading our cities,” stated Yoshua Bengio, Université de Montréal professor and specialist in the field of AI (also March 2019 recipient of the Turing award, otherwise known as the “IT Nobel prize”) at the Montréal Canadian Club conference. “We’re still a ways away from human-level intelligence, but let’s just say that today’s artificial intelligence can perform tasks we would normally associate with intuition. For example, the ability to understand an image, a text, a sound,” he explains.
“As a rule, what we’re trying to do with artificial intelligence is reproduce human decisions, but to lengths unimaginable to humans,” sumps up Étienne Labrie-Dion, data and AI scientist at GSoft’s GLab. By integrating AI into certain products, workers are able to cut back on repetitive or arduous tasks and develop their full potential.
Snoozit, for example, is a new tech solution developed by GLab that performs tasks too vast to be carried out by humans. The app detects employee patterns, like work pace and schedules, and determines optimal start/stop times for the company’s virtual machines. What if an employee changes his/her schedule? The algorithm picks it up and adjusts accordingly.
So what once would have been incredibly time-consuming (ex. manually configuring computers to turn on and off remotely) can now be done in a single click. “With Snoozit, IT managers can now focus on the more important aspects of their jobs,” underlines Étienne Labrie-Dion. In addition to affording greater flexibility, this type of system generates energy savings and reduces costs.”We’re sometimes oblivious to it, but cloud infrastructure costs cover a wide range of resources, often wasted or underutilized,” he adds.
GLab has its sights set on additional uses of AI. What if, say, we could detect trends in the comments left on Officevibe? The tool, developed by GSoft, allows companies to survey their teams in an automated manner. By integrating AI, for example, we’d be able to summarize the employee comments section, and give managers the results, a mammoth undertaking when a company seeks feedback from its thousand employees!
Artificial intelligence could very well have a promising future at GSoft, primarily given the company’s location. “We have access to a wealth of experts and candidates in Montreal. It’s super easy to get in touch with researchers,” comments Labrie-Dion. “Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool for accomplishing what we’ve set out to do: to change work life with our products. AI allows us to create solutions that simply couldn’t have existed before,” explains Étienne.
That said, moderation is key. And rest assured: AI will not be integrated blindly into GSoft’s products. “We want to create products that make sense above all else. Our job is to develop technologies that help people at work or improve work life, and we’re not going to stray from that,” he stresses.
Before developing a product, the GLab team assesses potential risks, uses and consequences. “You need to take ownership. It’s easy to use artificial intelligence and pretend it’s always right. If you want to make a positive impact, you have to consider the consequences of your actions,” indicates Labrie-Dion.
At GSoft, ethics is paramount when it comes to implementing artificial intelligence technologies. In addition to individual efforts made by companies, and their dedication to transparency, clear AI legislation is required to ensure the private sphere and the right to oblivion are respected. “It’s going to take clear legislation in Canada to lay the groundwork for AI. Hopefully a balance is reached and we can continue to innovate freely,” concludes Étienne Labrie-Dion.
I’m a trained scientist: I spent 10 years working in the fields of neuroscience and microscopy. I’m passionate about the impact of data analysis on the world, and for that reason, I recently transitioned into data science and artificial intelligence. I adore solving complex problems. I’m inspired by visionaries like Demis Hassabis, co-founder of DeepMind. I think the buzz surrounding AI today in Montreal is but the start of something huge!