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The Critical Role of Professional Engineers in Canada's AI Landscape

AI Professional Engineers
AI Professional Engineers

Rapid advancements in AI technology present a double-edged sword: exciting opportunities alongside significant risks. While Canada is a contributor to the field, it lacks a cohesive national strategy to harness innovation and economic benefits while safeguarding the well-being of Canadians.


Federal and provincial governments are crafting legislation and policies, but these efforts are disjointed, slow-moving, and unlikely to address current and emerging risks. Regulations arising from Bill C-27, for example, are expected to take years to implement, falling short of the necessary agility.


Proposed strategies often emphasize establishing entirely new AI governance frameworks. Adding a new layer of regulations often creates overlap and confusion, hindering progress. It also overlooks the protections already offered by existing laws, regulatory bodies, and standards organizations.


One of the areas being overlooked is the role of Professional Engineers.

Professional engineering in Canada is uniquely positioned to lead the charge in responsible AI development. With legislative authority, self-governance, and a robust code of ethics, engineers already have the means to ensure responsible AI practices.


Professional engineers bring a wealth of benefits to the table. Their deep understanding of technical systems and rigorous training in risk assessment make them ideally suited to design, develop, and implement AI solutions that are safe, reliable, and ethical. Furthermore, their commitment to upholding professional standards fosters public trust in AI technologies.


Provincial regulators must act now to elevate engineering's role in the AI landscape. Here are steps that might be considered:


  • Provincial engineering regulators should collaborate with federal and provincial governments to ensure existing regulatory frameworks are adapted to address AI-specific risks and opportunities.

  • Professional engineering associations should develop and deliver training programs that equip engineers with the necessary skills and knowledge to develop and implement responsible AI.

  • Engineers should actively participate in the development of AI standards and best practices to ensure responsible development and deployment of AI technologies.

  • Governments and industry should work together to create funding opportunities that support research and development in responsible AI led by professional engineers.

  • Provincial engineering regulators, in collaboration with professional engineering associations and stakeholders, should explore the creation of a specialized AI Engineering practice and develop a licensing framework for this practice. This framework would ensure engineers possess the specialized knowledge and experience required to develop and implement safe and ethical AI solutions.


By taking these steps, Canada can leverage the expertise of professional engineers right now to ensure responsible AI development and secure its position as a leader in the global AI landscape.

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