Massive open online course Ethics of AI translated in Finnish and Swedish
The open and free online course Ethics of AI is designed to help us understand what it means to use AI ethically, and what it requires from society and individuals. The course uses examples of practical issues from its collaboration partners.

The Finnish and Swedish translations for the University of Helsinki’s online course Ethics of AI will open on 23 November, in connection with a seminar on information policy at the Ministry of Finances. The course will help public administration, companies, and citizens understand what it means to use AI ethically and what that requires of both society and the individual. The course has been developed as a collaboration with the cities of Helsinki, Amsterdam, and London, as well as the Finnish Ministry of Finances.

Since AI is increasingly being used as a support for decisions concerning citizens, new kinds of questions emerge that the course is designed to sort out. What ethical viewpoints do the users and developers of different AI systems need to take into consideration? What are the ethical stumbling blocks when e.g. handling information on people's health? How is our information used? Who is responsible for decisions made by computers? How do we use face recognition ethically?

Lecturer Anna-Mari Rusanen, the person responsible for the contents of the course, wants to point out that the ethics of algorithms and intelligent technologies in general are still being formed, and the whole discussion on how to evaluate intelligent technologies socially is still ongoing.

– New examples of situations requiring ethical evaluation appear every day. This is why it is vital to develop the skills to assess the principles for weighing the acceptability of the applications, says Rusanen.

Rusanen specialises in AI and cognition research. She studies the information processing of intelligent systems and the ethical and social consequences of AI development.  

– AI ethics is not just about the evaluation of the ethical acceptance of the technology; it has morphed into a question about politics, money and power. The more they become entangled into the objectives of AI development, the more we need a discourse on the goals of the development, Rusanen writes in the book Älykäs huominen (the intelligent morrow) (Gaudeamus) that was published in autumn 2021.

Sample cases from real life

The online course consists of seven parts; the definition of AI ethics, the principles for benevolence and non-harm, responsibility, transparency, human rights, fairness, and AI ethics in practice. The sections include reading material and assignments.

The project partners have brought cases from real life to the course. The City of Helsinki, for example, has a case that focuses on the use of AI in social and health services, and in predicting risks to the health of its citizens. The case from the Ministry of Finances, for its part, considers the use of recommendation algorithms to offer improved public services.

The user does not need coding or special technological skills to take part of Ethics of AI. The university also has a free online course – Elements of AI – where you can learn the general principles of AI. In November, Elements of AI won the international German Design Award in the category Excellent Communications Design – Web.

The new MOOC centre at the University of Helsinki started operations at the beginning of 2021. The purpose of the centre is to bring continuity and method to the open online courses at the University of Helsinki. In Finland, the Ministry of Education and Culture has approached the threat of decline in competence with projects where the universities give complementary education in ICT through open online courses.