Radical Reads

AI’s Outsized Opportunity

By John Megrue, Vice Chair, Partner


Image Source: Radical Ventures, Jeff Beardall

Last week I formally announced my new role as Vice Chairman and Partner at Radical Ventures (see story in The Globe and Mail). As the former CEO and Chairman of the global private equity firm Apax Partners US and, most recently, as co-chair of Bridgewater Associates with Ray Dalio, I have spent my career looking for opportunities where risk is mitigated by overwhelming potential. This is what brought me to Radical Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund based in Toronto.

AI is the most exciting and transformative technology of our generation. I have known the co-founders Jordan Jacobs and Tomi Poutanen and the team at Radical for nearly two years. Over that time I have had the opportunity to sit down with AI scientists and startup founders building AI technologies. I have also joined nearly every investment committee meeting, enjoying a front-row seat to Radical’s investments in Cohere, Waabi, UntetherAI, Xanadu, and ClimateAI among others. From this unique vantage, it is clear that the current wave of AI adoption across the world’s businesses, while already worth hundreds of billions, is just beginning.

Radical Ventures’ brand is built around its deep relationship to global AI pioneers. Just this week, Toronto Life included Jordan and Tomi in its list of Toronto’s 50 most influential, putting it succinctly: “If Toronto’s network of AI research institutions, laboratories, venture capital funds and start-ups is a wheel, Jacobs and Poutanen are the hub.” It is such a tight knit world, where relatively few elite researchers are creating technologies that will touch every industry. Given estimates of AI contributing 15 trillion dollars of economic activity to the world economy by 2030, you would be hard pressed to find a time in history where so few have contributed such outsized economic upside.

Based on what I have learned about this space, the winners will be determined by those who can translate the latest research breakthroughs into applications and commercial opportunities. With that in mind, I am excited to join a venture fund poised to be as influential as some of its portfolio companies –– unlocking innovations that will shape our collective future.

AI News This Week

  • A robot wrote this book review   (The New York Times)

    Former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, and former Google CEO and Radical Ventures investor, Eric Schmidt, teamed up with the dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Daniel Huttenlocher, to write a new book, The Age of AI. In a playful demonstration of the technology, the New York Times used GPT-3 to co-author the review on the book.The human author notes that the process underlined one of the main themes in The Age of AI: “although today’s AI systems can be clunky and erratic at times, they are getting better fast, and will soon match or surpass human proficiency in a number of important tasks, solving problems in ways no human would have thought to solve them.” The AI’s review and the novel itself reflect the transformative power of AI technology that is reshaping our world.

  • Wikipedia is using AI to spot contradictory claims in articles  (NewScientist – subscription required)

    Wikipedia is a rare example of the Internet in the early 2000s, still largely free from advertising and sponsored content. As part of this commitment to maintaining the crowd-sourced resource, the non-profit running Wikipedia developed an AI that can spot contradictory claims in articles and alert the human editors who write and edit the collective encyclopedia. The AI will be monitoring more than 6 million articles in the English version where errors can be introduced either accidentally or deliberately.

  • Can a machine learn morality?  (The New York Times – subscription required)

    Delphi is an AI prototype released by the University of Washington and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (Ai2) in Seattle as a first step toward “making AI systems more ethically informed, socially aware and culturally inclusive.” Enter a question and the neural network speculates on the morality of the situation. Delphi’s responses position the technology as holding a mirror to human judgments rather than acting as an oracle. The AI is attempting to develop a moral compass by analyzing more than 1.7 million ethical judgments by real live humans. This research area is highly polarizing with some applauding the work and others arguing that “the very idea of a moral machine is nonsense.”

  • How the laws of physics could prevent AI from gaining sentience  (The Next Web)

    Renowned theoretical computer science expert Pascal Korian recently released a physics preprint paper tossing fuel on the heated debate over whether humans could use wormholes to traverse the universe or not. The paper suggests that some particles could traverse a black hole. This would have implications for our understanding of the quantum universe we live in. As the human brain’s organic neural network is unlikely to be recreated through binary representation, the way we understand time (as a construct of reality or as a tangible and discrete ‘thing’) will determine our ability to have a machine experience a singular moment of self-awareness (i.e., AI singularity).

  • Watch: The machine that feels  (CBC: Nature of Things)

    Exploring what it means to be human, this 45 minute episode questions new endeavours for AI including art, emotional recognition and ultimately what it means to create sophisticated neural networks that mimic the human brain.The episode features computer scientist and founder of the Quebec AI Institute Yoshua Bengio, and ‘Godfather of modern AI’ Geoffrey Hinton, co-founder (with Radical’s founders Jordan Jacobs and Tomi Poutanen, Radical partner Ed Clark and other professors) of the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence.


Radical Reads is edited by Leah Morris (Senior Director, Velocity Program, Radical Ventures).