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Evolution of Deep Learning Symposium recap blog post

AI community celebrates Dr. Geoffrey Hinton at Evolution of Deep Learning Symposium

International AI talent gathered in Toronto last week to share perspectives on how research and applications are evolving, and how researchers can continue momentum in the field based on historic accomplishments in deep learning. 

The two-day Evolution of Deep Learning Symposium, hosted by the Vector Institute, was in celebration of Dr. Geoffrey Hinton’s leadership and foresight in the field. His four decades of work earned him the 2018 ACM A.M. Turing Award, alongside colleagues Dr. Yoshua Bengio and Dr. Yann LeCun. Dr. Hinton is Chief Scientific Advisor at the Vector Institute, Vice President and Engineering Fellow at Google, and Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto. 

Researchers from throughout the deep learning community gathered to celebrate Dr. Hinton’s contributions and achievements, presented posters showcasing  the impact of his research across a broad range of topics, and heard from speakers spanning four decades of Dr. Hinton’s career and collaborators: 

The line-up of talks given at the event was a testament to Dr. Hinton’s enduring influence in the field. All are all colleagues, collaborators or former students of Dr. Hinton’s who have since gone on to make their own significant contributions to deep learning. Each spoke at length about Dr. Hinton’s convictions, curiosity , and friendship.

  • Radford Neal, Professor emeritus at the University of Toronto
  • George Dahl, research scientist with Google Brain
  • Terrence Sejnowski, Professor and Director of the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute and Distinguished Professor at UC San Diego
  • Max Welling, research chair in Machine Learning at the University of Amsterdam, VP technologies at Qualcomm and Senior Fellow at CIFAR
  • Ilya Sutskever, cofounder and chief scientist at OpenAI

Dr. Hinton himself presented his Turing lecture, and remarked that “Turing is amazing because he spanned both connectionist and symbolic fields.”

The Symposium’s second day was capped off with an industry panel featuring a discussion of the benefits and challenges of “productization” in Canada, and opportunities created for researchers in industry labs to test solutions at scale. 


  • Foteini Agrafioti, Chief Science Officer at RBC and Head of Borealis AI
  • Andrew Brown, Senior Director of Data Science and AI Research at CIBC 
  • Raquel Urtasun, Uber ATG Chief Scientist, Professor University of Toronto, and Co-Founder of the Vector Institute


  • Graham Taylor, Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Guelph, CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar, and Academic Director of NextAI


Celebrating fundamental discovery and the power of research groups

The symposium’s highlight was a candid discussion between Dr. Hinton and Eric Schmidt, Technical Advisor at Alphabet Inc. and former CEO and Executive Chairman at Google. At a reception sponsored by TD Layer 6, the pair discussed how they’ve seen the field evolve and what excites them about the future, such as neutral networks with improved interpretability – especially in health care – as well as understanding the limitations of current techniques and pursuing capabilities such as self-supervised learning.

Both reminded the audience that Canada made its mark by supporting fundamental research with long-term gains and abilities to tackle rare diseases, crop science, financial fraud, and more. 

Dr. Hinton credits the funding he received for full-time research as the reason he was able to establish a foothold and make strides in neural network research. He also spoke to the power of a strong research community, encouraging Ph. D. candidates in the crowd to pursue their research alongside trustworthy colleagues who will be honest and push their work further by asking the right questions.

Leaders of the Vector Institute’s industry sponsors and special guests gathered after the fireside chat for a celebratory dinner. 

Left to right: Ed Clark, Chair of the Board, Vector Institute; Anthony Viel, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte LLP; Jim Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, Thomson Reuters; Garth Gibson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vector Institute; Eric Schmidt, Technical Advisor, Alphabet Inc.; Elio Luongo, Chief Executive Officer and Senior Partner, KPMG LLP; Aaron Regent, Chairman of the Board, Scotiabank; Brian Levitt, Chairman of the Board, TD Bank Group; Raquel Urtasun, Uber ATG Chief Scientist, Professor University of Toronto, Co-Founder of the Vector Institute; Cameron Schuler, Chief Commercialization Officer and VP Industry Innovation, Vector Institute; Ilya Sutskever, Co-founder and Chief Scientist, Open AI

University of Toronto faculty commitments honour Hinton’s work

Dr. Hinton’s advocacy for strong research communities was fitting, as the symposium was also the launchpad for an exciting announcement to expand Toronto’s deep learning community. In recognition of Dr. Hinton’s work, Vector is working with the University of Toronto to recruit three new tenure-stream faculty positions in deep learning.

That news came on the heels of Vector cross-appointing eight new faculty members and 29 faculty affiliates from universities across Canada. These researchers now have access to a collaborative research community based in Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, along with computing resources to catalyze both foundational research and specific applications. 

These academic appointments will not only enhance the University of Toronto’s already established reputation as an AI leader, but also support the growth of this dynamic field that Dr. Hinton has helped champion for decades.