Aiming for a better world with the help of artificial intelligence

11.4.2019
Maria Ritola, a specialist in artificial intelligence, is looking for ways to develop the scientific system.

In her childhood and adolescence, Maria Ritola spent all of her time playing violin and basketball, pondering what it would be like to become a basketball player-violinist.

“At the time, I didn’t know anyone like that, and I don’t think I do now either. My violin teacher thought basketball was an extremely bad choice, as I would break my fingers playing it,” Ritola recalls.

In the end, Ritola’s fingers remained intact despite basketball. On the contrary, she found her fingers quicker and stronger, as she didn’t limit their use to playing the violin.

“I did not end up a violinist or basketball player, but I did learn the benefit in happily making unusual combinations of things.”

Career as a developer of AI

These days, Ritola is best known as the developer of the widely praised Iris.ai, an artificial intelligence tool aimed at understanding multidisciplinary activities.

“Iris.ai has provided me with a close connection to the University of Helsinki. From the get-go, we have developed our tools in collaboration with the Helsinki University Library.”

Thanks to licensing cooperation, students and alumni of the University of Helsinki have access to Iris.ai, as long as they have a valid helsinki.fi email address.

What is Iris.ai? It is an entirely new method of seeking information with the aim of accelerating the completion of literature reviews and helping researchers merge information across disciplinary boundaries.

“The world abounds with information, which is only increasing at a rapid rate. That is wonderful, but it also poses a problem: the human brain is simply unable to process big data in its entirety, let alone understand it.”

“We need better computers than those whose functionality is based on search terms. This is what Iris.ai is aiming at.”

Intellectual work carried out by humans

Not bad: consider increasing the use of tens of millions of scientific articles even further.

“At the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, we found out that Iris is able to draw up a literature review of 12,000 scientific articles 80% faster than the comparable manual process without quality suffering.”

“Of course, Iris does not think on behalf of humans. It’s an iterative process, and all of its stages require the human brain. Iris.ai reduces the time spent on monotonous information seeking, providing more time to complete the most critical aspects of research projects, and finds new, surprising contexts that can be subjected to further study.“

“The scientific way of thinking is one of the most significant discoveries made by humanity, something we have to acknowledge,” Ritola emphasises.

“Solving current extensive social and environmental problems requires a scientific approach on which decision-making should increasingly be based.

By the same token, the existing scientific system should be developed, for example, by releasing research results gained with the help of public funding from behind paywalls and redefining researchers’ incentives.

Artificial intelligence is becoming an increasingly important resource in the development of the scientific system. In this field, we are taking small steps in the right direction!”