The 7 kinds of A.I. hype

The “seven deadly sins” of making predictions about artificial intelligence. PLUS: Meet this year’s economics Nobel laureate

This is Kickstart—the daily morning management briefing on innovation, leadership, technology and the economy from the editors of Canadian BusinessSign up to get it directly to your inbox each weekday at 6 AM Eastern.


Good morning! Here’s what’s on our radar at the moment:

The 7 kinds of A.I. hype

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are everywhere now, with software companies finding new and novel uses for the long-gestating technology pretty much daily. This gold-rush atmosphere is creating a lot of hype, however, and it can be difficult for the casual observer to pick fact from fiction. Former MIT Prof Rodney Brooks lays out seven “deadly sins” of A.I. hype, such as the fact that these technologies seem to have come so far so fast—it’s only natural to assume they’ll continue on that trajectory, when in fact the real boom may be behind us:

Similarly, we have seen a sudden increase in performance of AI systems thanks to the success of deep learning. Many people seem to think that means we will continue to see AI performance increase by equal multiples on a regular basis. But the deep-learning success was 30 years in the making, and it was an isolated event. That does not mean there will not be more isolated events, where work from the backwaters of AI research suddenly fuels a rapid-step increase in the performance of many AI applications. But there is no “law” that says how often they will happen.

Link: MIT Technology Review

The economic theory that won the Nobel this year

University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Economics* on Monday for his body of work on why humans are wildly irrational about pretty much everything, including (perhaps especially) money. In a field dominated by theoretical models, his work has been an important counterweight, stressing emotional factors in decision-making and providing insights on how to use policy to work with, rather than against, that tendency:

Thaler developed the theory of “mental accounting,” explaining how people make financial decisions by creating separate accounts in their minds, focusing on the narrow impact rather than the overall effect. His research on “fairness,” which showed how consumer concerns may stop firms from raising prices in periods of high demand, but not in times of rising costs, has also been influential, according to the Swedish academy. He revealed how people succumb to short-term temptations, which is why many people fail to plan and save for old age.

(* Yes, technically there is no “Nobel Prize for Economics,” which is actually “The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel” but we have to draw the pedantry line somewhere.)

Link: Bloomberg

What to watch for this week

Coming up in the next few days of #cdnbiz:

  • Tuesday: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Washington today to discuss trade and security with U.S. President Donald Trump, before continuing to Mexico City to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
  • Wednesday: Retailer Toys “R” Us will be in court outlining its reorganization plan while under bankruptcy protection.
  • Thursday: Statistics Canada releases its latest housing price index, covering August 2017.
  • Thursday: The Ontario Securities Commission hosts OSC Dialogue 2017, its annual summit focused on the future of investing, corporate governance, and financial technology.

WATCH: The last of the Scanimate machines

If you saw spinninng, luminous text on a screen anytime between the mid 1970s and mid 1980s, chances are it was created on a Scanimate—a huge, completely analogue machine designed to warp and animate simple artwork on a cathode ray tube. Only 10 such devices were ever created, and Dave Sieg of Fletcher, North Carolina owns two of them (the first and last ever built, respectively). He’s spent the last few decades keeping them in fine working order, preserving this important but underappreciated part of our technological history. The Scanimate had a short working life before being eclipsed by more versatile digital technologies, but the look it creates is one of a kind, and you appreciate it even more when you see how much work it was to create animations by fiddling tiny knobs and switching wires around on a console the size of a church organ.

Link: YouTube

Earnings reports preview

Canadian publicly traded companies of note scheduled to report quarterly earnings today:


Coming later this week:

Thursday: Jean Coutu Group (PJC.A)

Thanks for reading! Have a truly excellent day.