Artificial intelligence pioneer Yoshua Bengio is urging the tech industry to guard against a “race to the bottom” as it explores how AI could be used in areas like defence.

The founder and scientific director of Montreal's Mila AI institute has noticed countries and their militaries hurtling toward the technology at the same time the globe is settling into a Cold War-like environment.

He says the globe needs to treat AI with “extreme” caution because technology is powerful and can ultimately produce both good and bad.

When a technology is as powerful as AI, he says democratic governance becomes even more important.

Bengio's remarks came on the heels of the federal government's voluntary code of conduct which is meant to encourage companies to ensure their AI systems are safe, fair and transparent, have human oversight and accountability mechanisms and are able to thwart cyberattacks.

Signatories, including OpenText, Cohere, BlackBerry and Telus, have agreed to test AI systems in advance of deploying them to uncover potential risks and biases, and promised to implement measures to mitigate the dangers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2023.