On the Edge of Tomorrow

Canada’s AI-Augmented Workforce

Published by ICTC, February 2020

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is frequently identified as one of the most promising areas of technological development. The ability to generate efficiencies, identify hidden patterns or insights, and automate tasks combine to create a transformative technology that may fundamentally alter both the labour market and business operations.

Although progress in the field of AI has fluctuated since its inception, we are increasingly witnessing its potential across the economy and labour market. Prior to the 2008 recession, for many businesses the notion of AI and, in some cases, even basic automation existed more as a concept rather than a tool. Yet, following this period of significant economic downturn, businesses around the world began actively looking to AI and applying it to real-life challenges, which ended up boosting productivity and labour demand. Here, AI began to develop roots in our economy and its development accelerated when combined with increased network connectivity, the availability and affordability of powerful sensors, the advent of big data, and the exponential growth of computational power.

The growing reliance on AI — even in the rudimentary sense of automation and assistive technology — brings with it not only opportunities but significant questions about labour market disruption. This includes concerns about labour augmentation and changes related to skill needs, capabilities, and the tasks and responsibilities of workers.

This study addresses the following:

  • International trends in AI;
  • A labour augmentation model and analysis by occupation;
  • National AI initiatives and research collaborations;
  • The role of venture capital and corporate investment in AI; and
  • Canada’s strategic sectors for AI deployment.
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Researched and written by Ryan McLaughlin (Senior Economist & Research Analyst) and Trevor Quan (Senior Research Analyst), with generous support from Alexandra Cutean (Senior Director, Research & Policy), Rob Davidson (Manager, Data Analytics & Research), Peter Taillon (Senior Data Analyst) and the ICTC Research & Policy team.

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The Digital Think Tank by ICTC is the research and policy arm of the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC).

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