AI guru says regulation too slow, warns of ‘existential’ threats
Artificial intelligence pioneer Yoshua Bengio says regulation in Canada is on the right path, but progress is far too sluggish.
Speaking in Montreal, the Université de Montréal professor said he backed a bill tabled in the House of Commons last June that adopts a more general, principles-based approach to AI guardrails and leaves details to a later date.
However, Ottawa has said the act known as Bill C-27 will come into force no sooner than 2025.
“That’s way too slow,” Bengio told reporters Wednesday. “There are simple things that could happen that don’t need two years to be figured out.”
He is calling on the federal government to begin rolling out rules immediately against certain threats, such as “counterfeiting humans” using AI-driven bots.
“The users need to know that they’re talking to a machine or a human. Accounts on social media and so on need to be regulated so we know who’s behind the account — and it has to be human beings most of the time,” said Bengio, who in 2019 won the Turing Award, known as the Nobel Prize of the technology industry.
Criticized as vague by some legal experts, the Liberals’ Artificial Intelligence and Data Act lays out a framework for responsible AI development that aims for agility amid the technology’s constant evolution.
The law, part of a broader bill on consumer privacy and data protection, would ban “reckless and malicious” AI use, establish oversight by a commissioner and the industry minister and impose financial penalties. But definitions around key terms such as “high-impact AI systems” and specifics on how they would have to adhere to human rights laws would be developed down the line.
Even after it takes effect, the act would focus initially on education, guidelines and helping businesses comply voluntarily.
“The government intends to allow ample time for the ecosystem to adjust to the new framework before enforcement actions are undertaken,” the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development states in a companion document to the bill.
The stakes could hardly be higher.
Addressing the C2 Montreal creative business conference alongside Yuval Noah Harari, Bengio agreed with the historian and author’s warning that AI systems pose an “existential risk to humanity” and democracy.
Harari, who wrote the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, said the pace and magnitude of generative AI development exceeds technological leaps from previous eras.
“We are dealing with something even more powerful than the trains and radio and electricity that we invented in the Industrial Revolution. I think there is certainly a way to build good societies with AI, but it will take time,” Harari said via videoconference, cautioning that “failed experiments” could leave no room for “a second chance — we won’t survive it.”
In March, he and Bengio joined more than 1,000 artificial intelligence experts in calling for a six-month pause on training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4 — the large language model behind San Francisco-based OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
Co-signatories included engineers from Amazon, Google, Meta and Microsoft as well as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Rachel Bronson, president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
“If the AI of today is like an amoeba, just imagine what a T. rex would look like. And it won’t take billions of years to get there,” Harari said during the chat with Bengio and CTV News chief political correspondent Vassy Kapelos, who interviewed them on a stage backed by a giant, primitive robot emerging from the riser at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.
Propaganda, disinformation and “personalized trolls that could convince you to vote” a certain way all present challenges to liberal democracy over the coming decade, Bengio said.
All the more necessary to introduce guardrails “as soon as possible,” he added.
“We need to face the dangers — the sooner the better.”
The close: TSX notches biggest gain of 2023 as stocks rally on U.S. jobs data, debt default deal
U.S. and Canadian stocks closed higher on Friday after a labour market report showing moderating wage growth in May indicated the Federal Reserve may skip a rate hike in two weeks, while investors welcomed a Washington deal that avoided a catastrophic debt default. It was the biggest gain in seven months for the TSX, with energy and financial shares among the biggest winners in a broad-based rally.
Bond yields spiked as a risk-on tone to markets had investors shunning the bond market.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq index surged to a 13-month intraday high and posted its sixth-straight week of gains that mark its best winning streak since January 2020.
U.S. job growth accelerated in May but a surge in the unemployment rate to a seven-month high of 3.7% as more people looked for employment indicated labour market conditions were easing.
The jump in the unemployment rate from a 53-year low of 3.4% in April reflected a drop in household employment and a rise in the overall workforce. A bigger labour pool is easing pressure on businesses to raise wages and helping decelerate inflation.
Average hourly earnings climbed 0.3% after rising 0.4% in April. That lowered the year-on-year increase in wages to 4.3% after an advance of 4.4% in April. Annual wage growth averaged about 2.8% prior to the pandemic.
“While it appears to be a hot number on the actual number of people employed, the wage rate is not increasing as fast,” said Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners in Pittsburgh. “That is a softening effect and is this the mythical soft landing? Looks like that.”
The data brought relief to investors who mostly expect the Fed to pause hiking rates at its policy meeting on June 13-14. It would be the first halt since the Fed started its aggressive anti-inflation policy tightening more than a year ago.
But some pointed to the much hotter-than-expected jobs data as a sign the Fed still has not yet tamed inflation.
“Our view is and has been that the market is completely wrong on assessing what the Federal Reserve is doing,” said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Hermes in New York.
“The market’s perception is that this economy was going to cool, inflation was going to collapse and the Fed was going to turn around and start cutting interest rates. That’s wrong.”
Fed funds futures showed a 66.6% probability that the Fed will hold rates steady in two weeks, down from 79.6% on Thursday, according to CME Group’s FedWatch Tool.
The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury climbed to 3.70% from 3.60% late Thursday. The two-year Treasury yield, which moves more on expectations for Fed action, jumped to 4.52% from 4.34%. Canadian bonds saw a similar jump in yields.
Markets now await data on key consumer prices a day before the Fed’s rate decision.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index ended up 352.38 points, or 1.8%, at 20,024.63, its biggest advance since November 2022. For the week, it was up 0.5%.
“It is all these little factors that the market is holding on to, looking for any reason to be bullish and they’re finding it,” said Philip Petursson, chief investment strategist at IG Wealth Management. “It’s definitely risk-on today.”
The TSX energy sector rallied 2.8% as oil settled 2.3% higher at US$71.74 a barrel ahead of a meeting of OPEC and its allies this weekend.
Suncor Energy Inc was up 3.2% after the company told employees it plans to cut 1,500 jobs this year.
“It appears that some activist investors are trying to make Suncor more efficient over the long term by getting them to cut costs and that’s good to see for investors,” said Greg Taylor, chief investment officer at Purpose Investments.
Heavily-weighted financials rose 2.1% and industrials were up 2.2%.
The real estate sector also advanced 2.2% as data showed home prices in the Greater Toronto Area increased in May from April and sales rose sharply.
In contrast, shares of Canaccord Genuity Group Inc fell 6.8% after a management-led consortium said its C$1.13 billion take-private offer may not result in a deal.
In the U.S., the Senate passing a bill late on Thursday to lift the government’s US$31.4 trillion debt ceiling avoided what would have been a catastrophic, first-ever default.
Passage of the vote eased investor concerns as Wall Street’s fear gauge, the CBOE volatility index, fell to its lowest since November 2021, down 1.1 points at 14.6 points.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 701.19 points, or 2.12%, to 33,762.76, the S&P 500 gained 61.35 points, or 1.45%, to 4,282.37 and the Nasdaq Composite added 139.78 points, or 1.07%, to 13,240.77.
Shares of Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc and T-Mobile US Inc declined after a report said Amazon.com Inc was in talks with the U.S. telecoms to offer low-cost wireless services to its Prime members.
Verizon slid 3.2%, while AT&T and T-Mobile declined 3.8% and 5.6%, respectively; Amazon gained 1.2%.
All 11 S&P 500 sectors advanced, with the materials index leading, up 3.4%, and the consumer discretionary sector, housing Amazon, close behind, rising 2.2%.
Nvidia Corp slid 1.1% for a second day of declines after briefly entering on Wednesday the elite club of megacap stocks valued at $1 trillion or more on hopes artificial intelligence will deliver significant future returns.
But Nvidia’s almost 170% rise year to date highlights investors face of a market dominated by the out-performance of megacaps while most other companies tread water.
“Nobody’s really explained to me how they’re going to make any money from it,” said Michael Landsberg, chief investment officer at Landsberg Bennett Private Wealth Management in Punta Gorda, Florida. “A company like Nvidia going up so much in such a short period of time, that doesn’t make any rational sense.”
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 4.75-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.73-to-1 ratio favored advancers. The S&P 500 posted 15 new 52-week highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 74 new highs and 40 new lows. Volume on U.S. exchanges was 11.05 billion shares, compared with about 10.58 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.
Reuters, Globe staff
Gold prices struggling as 339K jobs created in May but unemployment rate rises to 3.7% – Kitco NEWS
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(Kitco News) – The gold market is trying to hold its ground within striking distance of $2,000 but could face an uphill battle as the U.S. labor market remains healthy and robust.
U.S. nonfarm payrolls rose by 339,000 last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The monthly figure was significantly above the market consensus estimate of 193,000. April’s employment data was revised up to 294,000 jobs.
However, looking past the headline number, the report said the unemployment rate rose sharply to 3.7% missing market consensus calls of 3.5% for May. The unemployment rate it at its highest level since December 2022.
The gold market is seeing some selling pressure in initial reaction to the latest employment data. August gold futures last traded at $1,993.90 an ounce, down 0.08% on the day.
The report also said that wage growth rose in line with expectations, rising by 11 cents or 0.3% to 33.44 in May.
“Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 4.3 percent,” the report said.
While the gold market is seeing rising selling pressure, the latest employment data is not having much impact on interest rate expectations. According to the CME FedWatch Tool, markets still see a more than 65% chance that the central bank leaves interest rates unchanged when it meets later this month.
However, according to some analysts, the robust employment data indicates that while the central bank could pause, it has not yet finished raising interest rates. Some analysts have that this this longer-term shift in rate expectations could weigh on gold.
One-quarter of Air Canada flights delayed Friday as schedule recovers from IT issue – Yahoo Canada Finance
More than one-quarter of Air Canada flights experienced delays on Friday as the airline worked to return service to normal following a technical malfunction the previous day.
Air Canada had warned travellers early Friday morning they should be prepared for further flight disruptions. In its daily travel outlook, the carrier said that while its IT system was stable, flights may be affected at nine of Canada’s busiest airports, including Toronto’s Pearson, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.
Thursday’s outage led to more than 500 flights — over three quarters of its trips — to be delayed or cancelled on the day, creating what the airline said were “rollover effects” just prior to the weekend.
A total of 144 Air Canada flights, or 27 per cent of the airline’s scheduled load, had been delayed Friday as of around 4:30 p.m. EDT, along with 33 cancellations, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.
An additional 56 flights with Air Canada Rouge saw delays, one-third of its daily load, plus 23 cancellations.
“Air Canada has stabilized its communicator system and it is functioning normally. However, due to the effects of Thursday’s IT issues on our schedule, some flights may be delayed this morning as we reposition aircraft and crew,” it said in an emailed statement.
“Customers are advised to check the status of their flight before going to the airport. Our flexible travel policy remains in effect for customers to change their travel plans at no charge.”
The airline did not clarify when it expected its flight schedule to fully return to normal.
Thursday’s disruption, sourced to the system used by the airline to communicate with aircraft and monitor their performance, came one week after Air Canada grounded its planes for about an hour when the same system experienced a separate issue.
That day, 241 Air Canada flights — 46 per cent of its trips — were delayed, according to FlightAware. Another 19 flights were also cancelled.
Air Canada said it has been in the process of upgrading the communicator system.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2023.
Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)
Sammy Hudes, The Canadian Press
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