Artificial intelligence changes society – Sipilä says Finland could be the world leader

Government Communications Department 9.2.2017 12.20 | Published in English on 10.2.2017 at 14.40
News item 58/2017
Artificial intelligence changes society – Sipilä says Finland could be the world leader

Finland wishes to be the world leader in artificial intelligence, according to Prime Minister Juha Sipilä who spoke at a seminar on artificial intelligence at the House of the Estates in Helsinki. Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the fastest growing global technologies, and it will change many things in society, including working life. Professor Peter Stone, who spoke at the seminar, reminded that it is unlikely that robots will ever replace the need for human contact in some professions, such as nursing.

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä called for a common national vision and said that making effective use of AI in society and using it to boost wellbeing will require not only new competences but also novel approaches, forward-thinking decisions and frameworks, and an adaptive labour market.

The development and use of artificial intelligence has so far relied on a relatively narrow base. Now, though, we are firmly seeking to broaden this base. The first step is to expand our understanding of the opportunities for AI, said Prime Minister Sipilä.

Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä highlighted the importance of avoiding delays in taking steps forwards when it comes to AI. It is not a question of government programmes or strategies but of ongoing long-term development efforts, according to Lintilä. - We must take artificial intelligence seriously. We cannot get stuck in the starting blocks,  said Lintilä.

Professor Stone: Jobs are not likely to disappear quickly

Professor Peter Stone opened the seminar discussions. He is leading the project One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence (AI100) at the Stanford University. His research focuses on AI applications in the fields of transport, healthcare, education and security.

Stone said that although AI will replace some human work, it will also generate new jobs, but there is no way of knowing now what kinds of new jobs. - We should bear in mind that it is not likely that robots will replace human contact and social interaction in some professions, such as waiters and nurses, said Stone.

Stone believes that in the short term AI development will open many new economic opportunities. He thinks it is exaggerated to say that robots will replace all work in one generation’s time. - There is, however, a risk of widening the gap in living standards, that the benefits of AI will not be accessible to all, said Stone.

The effects on work are well-known: some jobs disappear and new kinds of jobs emerge. There will be a lot of new AI applications and software robots that are developed quickly for very specific purposes. It is difficult to predict with certainty what kinds of new work will be created.

The panels discussed the effects of AI

The panels held after the presentations discussed AI-related competences and capabilities, impacts on people’s work and income, ethics and regulations as well as Finland’s targets and readiness to develop and use artificial intelligence and its applications.

Artificial intelligence could double economic growth by changing the nature of work and creating a new relationship between man and machine, according to a report by Accenture The report indicates that AI technologies would enable people to make more efficient use of their time and distribute work contents in new kinds of ways. 

Sari Stenfors, Executive Director at Augmented Leadership, reminded of the importance of micro questions: We must consider what kind of work people will still do with other people and how AI applications interact with people and with other applications.

The question of a national AI strategy was als discussed, but instead of a strategy the panel members emphasised the importance of a vision, clear measures and capital. Common to those countries at the forefront in the fields of intelligent robotics and AI is that they have clear policy measures set out for promoting the industry, successful coordination among stakeholders, and the opportunity to invest in R&D.

Addressing inequality risks

Technological development must also address the risk of growing inequalities, and even people in the most vulnerable positions need to be taken into account. Antti Rinne, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, reminded that artificial intelligence must benefit even those who are not forerunners in technology. On the other hand, AI technologies have also the potential to reduce inequalities.

Many of the panel members thought that work and the basic security system must be redefined to respond to changes in working life.

Risto Siilasmaa, Chairman of Nokia's Board of Directors, emphasised the importance of guaranteeing the experience of decent work even for those without work. Siilasmaa also called for a ‘national defence course in artificial intelligence’. - Finland has the opportunity to use artificial intelligence in a way that gives us a global position similar to the one we have in education thanks to PISA results, said Siilasmaa.

Director General Olli-Pekka Heinonen from the National Agency for Education said it was important to take AI into account in education, because technological developments have almost immediate impact on teaching methods. According to Heinonen, AI applications could for example be used to create more efficient ways to identify and help students at risk of dropping out.