Feds pledge billions for AI

The federal government sees your $20 per month ChatGPT subscription and raises it by a couple billion dollars.

What happened: The feds will spend $2.4 billion on AI investments in their upcoming budget, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced yesterday. 

  • $2 billion will go into a fund that will pay for the computing infrastructure researchers and businesses need to run AI systems — how that cash gets deployed is still TBD.
  • The rest will be split between programs to help businesses adopt AI, skills training for workers in sectors disrupted by the tech, and a new Canadian AI Safety Institute to study AI risks. 

Why it matters: It’s the biggest financial commitment to the industry from the federal government so far and a sign that it’s serious about at least trying to get Canada a slice of the AI pie.

Yes, but: Whether the government can actually achieve that with this funding is another matter altogether. 

  • The feds have already spent big on programs to boost innovation, including $950 million on a series of tech-forward “superclusters” and $125 million for a national AI “strategy” in 2022.
  • Whether that was money well spent depends on who you ask, and measuring murky concepts like “innovation” is difficult, but the government’s superclusters at least have not had the economic impact they hoped for.

Bottom line:  Canada’s performance on key economic measures — like productivitypatents, and per capita growth — lags other wealthy countries and has worsened in recent years. This announcement is part of an effort to turn that around, but if recent history is any guide, its success is far from assured.