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At Calgary conference, AI is top tech talk

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At a Calgary conference focusing on technology and innovation Friday, artificial intelligence was the main headliner. The tech has been around for decades, but has been rapidly advancing in recent year and is now used in almost every industry.

"With the evolution of technology, and the increase of artificial intelligence with new products like ChatGPT, we need to discuss and plan for the future of how those technological advances affecting us from industry, to post-secondary to individuals who are working," said Marlenie Arana with Alberta Innovates, the group that put on the three-day Inventures conference this week.

The Telus Convention Centre became home to displays of how AI can help in healthcare and advance agriculture.Some said the possibilities of the tech are endless, while others were quick to point out AI needs to be intentional and ethical.

"To me, AI is not magic. It's a tool that people are building," said Timnit Gebru, the founder of The Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute.

Gerbu was also fired from her position as a researcher with Google's Ethical AI team for raising concerns about the bias that exists in the technology.

It can be hard not to see AI as magic. From generating video from simple text prompts to chatbots, like OpenAI's ChatGPT, that can write essays in mere seconds, use of the tech has grown at an astounding rate.

Timnit Gerbu was also fired from her position as a researcher with Google's Ethical AI team for raising concerns about the bias that exists in the technology.

But Gebru says it comes at a cost.

"I think that's the hardest for people to understand -- because it's been marketed as magic. People don't know how the sausage is made, kind of thing, and it's made from their data and lots of people's exploitation," she said.

She's far from the only one raising concerns about artificial intelligence and the speed at which it has grown. Earlier this week, in a short statement released by the Center for AI Safety, dozens of leaders from the sector signed on to warn about the risks the technology can pose.

"Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war," reads the entirety of the statement, which was signed by figures in the industry, including the CEO of OpenAI and several Google executives.

Gebru says the path forward needs to include public education about AI and regulation of the tech. Several governments are mulling legislation focusing on AI, including Canada.

Last year, the federal government introduced Bill C-27, which looks at ensuring AI systems meet certain standards. However, Ottawa has been criticized for not moving quickly enough in passing and enacting the legislation.

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