AI: everyone’s concern!

Mandated last May by the Ministère de l’Économie, de l’Innovation et de l’Énergie (MEIE), the Conseil de l’Innovation du Québec, under the leadership of Luc Sirois, Quebec’s Chief Innovator, has launched a collective reflection that will help define the issues and opportunities associated with AI to ensure its ethical and responsible development and use, mobilizing experts, industry players and researchers.

The work is being carried out in three phases: expert consultations, public forums and the drafting of a report with recommendations to the government. The mandate should be completed by the end of the year.

Six themes were identified, and a number of people were appointed to lead the work in collaboration with the Conseil de l’Innovation du Québec.

  • The governance framework for AI
  • The framework for investment in research and the private sector
  • The framework for government use of AI
  • The impact of AI on work and employment
  • AI’s other societal impacts
  • Quebec’s role in the international AI framework

On Thursday, November 2, 2023, the Public Forum on the Framework for AI in Quebec was held, providing an opportunity to learn about the work carried out to date as part of this collective reflection on the framework for AI in Quebec, to exchange views with experts from various backgrounds involved in the process, and to imagine together the future of AI in Quebec.

Because AI is everyone’s business and is present in every sphere of our lives, it fascinates and frightens at the same time. Over 1,500 people attended (300 in person and 1,200 virtually), and I took part in the Forum first and foremost as a curious citizen interested in the future of AI in Quebec, and also with the TransMedTech hat on to learn more about the impact of AI in healthcare.

After an introductory speech by Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of the Economy, Innovation and Energy, host Christian Bouchard set the scene for the day, reading us a La Fontaine-style fable about Chat-GPT-generated AI framing: Le renard et le hibou (The Fox and the Owl). The living cat-GPT, as Luc Sirois dubbed him, also suggested some surprising and relevant reading material throughout the conference.

To begin with, three experts came to talk to us about AI:

Frantz Saintellemy from LeddarTech, gave us his entrepreneurial perspective and how he sees AI as a world of opportunities.

-Professor Yoshua Bengio, in virtual mode, stressed the importance of taking full advantage of the benefits of AI.

-And finally, Professor Ollivier Dyens explained how to become more human with technology, by resisting mermaids and sea monsters and multiplying moments of “Qualia” (sensitive experience).

Anticipating and preparing for the societal impacts of AI

Protecting and preparing workers for the integration of AI into society was addressed in a first session led by Nathalie de Marcellis-Warin, Polytechnique Montréal and Cirano, and Éric Gingras, Centrale des syndicats du Québec.

They spoke to us about issues of accountability, continuing education, digital literacy, and above all, the importance of developing human skills such as critical judgment, creativity, capacity for action, and the adoption of sector-specific regulations especially for the health and education sectors.

Then Lyse Langlois, OBVIA, accompanied by François Boucher, Commission de l’éthique en science et technologie, Marie-Julie Desrochers, Coalition pour la diversité des expressions culturelles, and Sasha Luccioni, Hugging Face, addressed the issues raised by AI for democracy, the arts and also the environment. They talked about the impact of AI on society, the importance of transversality, transparency, explicability and sustainability, and insisted on taking responsibility.

Quebec, a pioneer in responsible AI

In the afternoon, Éric Caire, Minister of Cybersecurity and the Digital Economy, was on hand in virtual mode to talk about the importance of a cybersecurity policy for the state of Quebec.

Next, Anne-Sophie Hulin, Université de Sherbrooke, and Sophie Larivière-Mantha, Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, addressed the challenges of AI governance, outlining the existing and future AI framework.

They raised the need to move from an ethical standard to a legal standard within a harmonized and binding framework, while retaining a certain agility and including everyone in the process.

Hence the urgent need for training and public education.

Luc Sirois then mentioned the importance of “patient-partners” in the health research sector, for example. This is one of the keys to the TransMedTech Method.

Kathy Malas, CIUSS de Montérégie-Ouest, and Monique Brodeur, Conseil supérieur de l’éducation, then addressed the issue of AI in major government functions.

Kathy Malas reminded us that AI is there to create value, for greater accessibility and optimization of resources.

You have to co-create, co-construct. And then create impact reports (which she prefers to “accountability reports”), and also set up indicators to measure patient experience and benevolence. “Don’t just think operational! Think about collective well-being”.

Monique Brodeur went on to talk about this new challenge: training the trainers.

We need to learn to learn throughout life, reinvent learning methods and personalize learning.

« Ne pas juste penser à l’opérationnel! Pensez au bien-être collectif ».
Kathy Malas

Quebec’s ambitions to foster the emergence of trusted AI

In this last session, Luc Vinet, IVADO, stressed the importance of pursuing technological research by multiplying interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaborations, concertation and collaboration, in order to solidify our positioning in responsible AI and be ambitious together.

Carole Jabet, FRQ, talked about data and the need for structure and standards, and the importance of measuring impact, which for her is not a choice but a necessity, for exemplary use and development. She also reminded us of the importance of the “citizen-partner” in this approach.

Julien Billot, Scale AI, mentioned the importance of supporting commercialization in controlled environments, and the importance of encouraging the development of the domestic market.

To conclude the day, Minister P. Fitzgibbon recalled Quebec’s leadership in AI, and Luc Sirois ended by emphasizing our ambition to aim to be an exemplary and trusted model AI in Quebec.

Source : Géraldine Dumesnil
Communication Services, Institut TransMedTech