Artificial Intelligence is an increasingly core part of our daily lives, but its power is only wielded by a select few and its application can have significant ramifications on society as a whole. With this in mind, how can we empower citizens and ensure AI is used to benefit society as a whole?
At the University of Helsinki, we believe there needs to be a democratic transformation in the use and understanding of AI. By creating an informed citizenry and supporting a wider AI movement, we believe we can obtain human-centric AI that benefits us all.
As forerunners in AI, coupled with our status as one of the fairest societies in the world, Finland and the University of Helsinki are perfectly positioned to help address and shape the societal impact of AI with our friends and colleagues from around the world.
Thursday’s event on Reimagining AI for All brought together Professor of Computer Science Teemu Roos, COO of Reaktor Education Megan Schaible and Professor of Artificial Intelligence Petri Myllymäki to discuss this important topic and begin discussions between stakeholders in Finland and the US.
In order to Reimaging AI for All, it is important that we first tackle the many myths surrounding it. As Prof. Roos explained, currently the public discourse regarding AI is heavily influenced by myths and fears influenced by science fiction. This is largely due to the lack of common education and understanding of AI, however failing to tackle the many myths surrounding AI can have serious implications.
Whilst focus is often given to the everyday, scientific or industrial cost of failing to go beyond myths of AI, the most significant cost in Prof. Roos’ opinion is the societal cost. In particular, he argued if the general public does not understand AI and their opinions are largely shaped by myths, it would be impossible for them to engage in an effective public discussion regarding the use and future of AI.
Furthermore, Prof. Roos argued as AI becomes an increasingly core part of our daily lives, we will have to make important decisions about how we want AI to impact our society. The most important of these, Prof. Roos argued, are political, rather than technological decisions. This would involve deciding what types of AI systems we should implement in society; what areas we should invest resources into developing AI solutions for and how should this all be regulated. Therefore, in order for the public to make these decisions and to support democratic accountability, it is essential that we ensure everyone has a common understanding of AI and can engage in a wide and inclusive public discussion about its use.
To help create a common understanding of AI and to allow everyday people to engage in the public discussion, the University of Helsinki partnered with Reaktor in 2018 to create the internationally celebrated Elements of AI online course.
As COO of Reaktor Megan Schaible explained, the mission and reason for their work is clear, “if technology is going to impact us all, it should not be left in the hands of a few elite coders”. Using revolutionary design-based thinking, the Elements of AI course aims to make AI understandable to the general public and specifically targets individuals who have been traditionally left outside of the discussion regarding technology and society.
Since 2018, over 715,000 individuals from 140 countries have signed up for the course, which has been translated into over 25 languages. Incredibly, over 40% of course participants are women, which is double the average of other computer science online courses. Furthermore, Elements of AI is currently ranked as the #1 Computer Science online course in the world, ahead of Stanford, Harvard and MIT.
Following the creation of Elements of AI, the University of Helsinki’s and Reaktor’s AI education movement has continued to grow. Together they released a new course on Building AI, whilst the University of Helsinki also released the Ethics of AI course. The ultimate aim is to education 1% of the world’s population.
Finland has been a pioneer in AI and machine learning for over 50 years, and in 2021, Finland was ranked by Coursera as the world’s top data science nation. As explained by Professor Myllymäki, Finland’s world-leading expertise, combined with the fact it is a small, well-functioning country, means Finland can be used as a living lab or testbed of future digital societies. Furthermore, one of the core areas which sets Finland and the University of Helsinki apart from other leaders in AI, is their focus on developing trustworthy, ethical and human-centric AI.
The Finnish Centre for Artificial Intelligence, which is jointly led by Prof. Myllymäki, brings together over 60 of Finland’s top AI Professors and aims to create Real AI for Real People in the Real World. Whilst the centre produces over 90% of Finland’s AI scientific research, their ultimate aim is to support the transformation of society through the application of effective and ethically responsible human-centric AI.
Challenging the myths around AI, Prof. Myllymäki explained that researchers in Finland are not creating AI to replace humans. Rather, their human-centric AI approach places humans in the centre of their work and then researchers look to develop AI which supports human needs and is effective and ethical.
In order to Reimaging AI for All, we need to collaborate with partners across the world. Since 2018 over 715,000 individuals from 140 countries have joined our movement and our next target is to educate 1% of the world’s population on AI.
With your support, we can achieve our vision of an ethical and human centric future of AI and empower citizens around the world.
If you would like to learn more or are interested in supporting our work, please contact Alec Thurnham: email@example.com