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Having now asked our experts their and their forecast, we wanted to finish our first expert series by asking where they believe the next 'AI Hub' will be located. Our experts gave some great reasoning and some curveball locations below.
Due to the US situation (child internment camps, covid, anti-immigrants law, police brutality, especially toward black people, etc.), it is highly likely that we will see many researchers leaving the US. Where will they go? Canada is the closest place, and we have rapidly growing AI hubs. Therefore, researchers will likely move here. Montreal and Toronto both seem to be big hubs, it's unclear if one will take over, but both are great places to be right now. Sadly, the Quebec government is now making laws that will make it more difficult for Ph.D. students to stay in Quebec after their studies. This puts Montreal at a disadvantage.
I hope that the government will change its stance or that we will elect a different party in the next elections, but it's unlikely.
As a Canadian, I hope that the next AI hub will be in Montreal. The city has everything needed: democracy, tolerance/multiculturalism, and freedom of speech, several world-class universities, affordable housing, English language, top AI researchers, one of which, Bengio, is a Turing Award recipient. However, I believe that California will keep its leadership position as it has a strong ecosystem that enforces itself. Especially today, when most companies allow work from home, so the cost of living and commute become less of an issue.
I think in order for a place to become the next AI hub, it should be able to accommodate as many as possible of the following requirements: have world-class universities and/or research institutes that generate and attract AI talents; have an encouraging business environment that's beneficial for new and existing startups, with a range of business catalyzers; have a welcoming immigration policy for attracting foreign AI talents; and last but not the least - have a supporting government that is investing in AI research and AI companies.
In my opinion, Toronto is the place that can check many of the above boxes. With its top-rank universities and Vector Institute of Artificial Intelligence that have been at the academic forefront of Machine Learning and Deep Learning for many years, with the liberal immigration policy of Canada and the Canadian government recent commitment to invest about $125 million to AI, with many startup accelerators and incubators located here, Toronto has a very good chance to become the next AI hub.
I think the next AI Hub will be in the cloud (virtual). In the pre-pandemic times, AI Hubs, such as Silicon Valley, London, New York City, and a few others, have relied on the synergy of having many creative tech people in the same place. Now, the Covid pandemic has changed how people work, with many more functions being done remotely. The future of work is being reimagined, and I think it will apply to future AI hubs, which will be enabled by some, perhaps yet unknown, virtual, and AI-enabled collaboration platform.
Vancouver. With the current US administration creating obstacles to immigration, Canada’s track record of warmly embracing international talent and longstanding encouragement of AI and all basic science, and a gorgeous west coast city just up the coast from Silicon Valley, it seems primed for growth in this area.
The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Muizenberg, South Africa is definitely doing a lot of interesting work in this space and they bring a unique perspective to AI research and development that is currently underexplored. They are an emerging hub and a place to keep our eyes on, as the Montreal AI Ethics Institute, we advocate for supporting the work coming out of AIMS and ask the wider community to also help amplify the message of their work!