People tend to overestimate the short-term effects of a new innovation or trend. At the same time, longer term impact is easily underestimated. For the past couple of years there has been a lot of talk about artificial intelligence (AI). At times even too much, one might say. Majority of the discussion is to the point, but as always with global trends, some part is pure hype. At the same time, however, it feels like not all longer term consequences have yet been completely understood.
It is evident that AI-based applications will cause significant disruption in various domains in the years to come. Typically the aim is at solving specifically defined problems, sometimes AI is used to extract something new and surprising from the data.
Many companies and business domains gather vast amounts of data, which they don’t yet know how to fully utilize. It pays off to collect and store data, however, because it might turn out useful in the future. That is why a company should define a data strategy and identify opportunities regarding AI. With AI new application areas can be unveiled.
Finland should identify a couple of specific AI areas to develop further and aim at claiming the global leader position in those. The Finnish Artificial Intelligence Center (FCAI), a joint effort by Aalto University, The University of Helsinki, and VTT, has chosen to focus on the following three areas:
- Data Efficiency. Being able to work with real-world scarce data: ill-defined, hard to acquire or unavailable. This brings in competitive advantage and innovations also for the startups and SMEs.
- Understandability. Modeling the user and the interaction to help AI to understand the user and vice versa.
- Trust and ethics. Trustworthy, safe, and ethical AI solutions.
AI research spans the boundaries of universities and research institutes. It is carried out in ecosystems consisting of various participants. For example the AI Finland initiative, started in May 2017 by the minister of economic affairs Mika Lintilä, has a specific artificial intelligence accelerator (link in Finnish), which is also supported by the FCAI. Even though it pays off to start small also in AI research, it takes many kinds of parties to commercialize the innovations (link in Finnish).
To sum up, I leave you with a national vision: Finland has a shot in becoming a center for trustworthy AI. First of all, our scientific and technological know-how is world-class. Secondly, our political situation is stable, our press free, and we continue to top the charts of world’s most uncorrupted nations. Why wouldn’t we join these virtues as a national brand? It makes sense for others to process data and develop trustworthy and ethical AI applications together with Finnish partners.
Executive Vice President, VTT