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How I learned about the Reasoning & Learning Lab at McGill University


Am I the only one who didn’t know about these cool areas of research right here in Canada?

Take the new artificial intelligence research lab in Montreal I recently read about in an article titled ‘Expanding Facebook AI Research to Montreal’. As written in the article, “the Montreal lab will house research scientists and engineers working on a wide range of ambitious AI research projects, but it will also have a special focus on reinforcement learning and dialog systems.”

This is some pretty cool stuff.  And it really got me thinking: Artificial Intelligence, reinforcement learning, dialogue systems, just what the heck are they anyway, and what are they being used for? So down the wormhole I went (yes, I'm geeky like that). 

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Montreal lab will focus on developing research on reinforcement learning and dialogue systems, which is a way of teaching machines the complex relationship between taking actions and the various potential results.” With reinforcement learning, computers look for the best possible way to achieve a particular goal, and learn from each time they fail.

These systems, in this case, are being developed to enable companies such as Facebook to:

• remove hate speech
• identify and block posts that include terrorist imagery and child pornography
• weed out fake news

Now, all of these are huge problems in social media, and wouldn't it be cool if some day this technology could prevent the trolls from posting on your organization's Facebook page?

To this end, the technology giant is investing $5.75 million in a female-led team at McGill University, called the Reasoning and Learning Lab to learn more to combat it. Which is a good thing. Especially considering the funding cuts that have consistently plagued Canadian researchers and scientists in the past two governments.

In a recent report in Maclean’s Magazine, the cuts made to the scientific community point toward many labs not recovering. And that means fewer places for the Canadian talent pool to work right here at home. So the investment by Facebook is significant. It ensures that 20-30 of Canada’s top artificial intelligence researchers and scientists will be put to work in the lab at McGill University.

The group at the newly funded Reasoning and Learning Lab join a larger group of researchers in Paris, New York, and California as part of a wide range of ambitious projects working to advance this type of artificial intelligence. Considering that Canadian research discoveries are 43 per cent higher than the global average, there is high hope that the work they do here will contribute to the greater good as it relates to artificial intelligence usage to combat the not so great parts of social media.

You don’t need much reasoning to know that that is a good thing. 

Topics: Social Media trends