Can Nordic values shape the framework for AI ethics?

The Association of Nordic Engineers (ANE) together with the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM), have teamed up with Techfestival to lead a deep-dive exploration into what it takes to make the Nordic region frontrunners in AI and ethics. 

Robots aren’t coming for our jobs. But they are increasingly taking over our basic functions in life. According to IT Pro Portal, 2020 will be an essential year in AI business progression. With self-driving cars hawking the media’s attention, and China increasing their gain in the field of artificial intelligence. the conversation on applying ethics to AI is timely. And it’s caught the attention of this year’s Techfestival.

“We know the use and the deployment of AI has an important impact on everybody,” says Inese Podgaiska (LV), Secretary-General of the Association of Nordic Engineers. “That is why it is important for us to take ethics into consideration.” Since 2016, Inese, who is based at IDA, the Danish Society of Engineers in Copenhagen, has been working on promoting engineers’ stand on ethics and AI. “We are representing the profession that is at the forefront of tech development,” she explains. “When we talk about AI, it’s unimaginable to not talk about ethics. Especially from the Nordic region’s perspective, where values such as trust, transparency and ethical thinking are the cornerstones of these societies.”

These values are part of the Nordic region’s unique strength that ANE together with NCM believe it should be better at exploiting and using. Their collaboration stands testimony to an important and timely need to open up the discussions on AI and ethics to a broader audience across political and social institutions. Together with an engaged and broad group of actors at Techfestival, ANE and the NCM hopes to create a democratic discussion and new partnerships in the Nordics. 

According to Morten Friis Møller, Senior Advisor on Digitalisation at the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM), the collaboration can drive new solutions for both ANE and the NCM. “When we talk about transparency and accountability,” he says, “the Nordic region can offer significant options for both the European Council and the UN to implement when creating common guidelines for engineers worldwide.”

For Inese, the challenge lies in allowing space for the engineers to recreate the privacy for us. How to do it, she admits, is a tricky question.

“We’ve witnessed some examples of what can go wrong, in terms of trading and manipulating our data,” says Inese. “That is why it’s important to have conversations with engineers on ethical considerations in their job to minimise the misuse of certain platforms.” 

Many countries are making attempts to merge ethics and AI in both educational and workplace ecosystems. However, Inese believes that a proper framework for accountability has to be put in place, to guide the humans engineering our future. “Many of our members are part of a larger chain of decision making. They are all working in some organisational setting. So we need to think about who, at the end of the day, is responsible in case something goes wrong?”

ANE and NCM are looking to explore viable options for having a so-called Hippocratic Oath for engineers installed in and outside of the region. The many conversations on humans and technology, along with the works done by the CPH150 think tank, makes Techfestival the platform to find them. 

“We’re very inspired by the Copenhagen Catalog and how Techfestival is actually trying to set some guidelines for digitalisation,” says Morten. “We’ve been to endless tech conference presenting animated examples of our digital future, completely bare of humans. We look forward to seeing how the participants at Techfestival will put humans back into the conversation.”

For the NCM, there’s an interest in figuring out what needs to be done at a political level. Signe van Zundert, Project Officer on digitalisation at the NCM, believes that “it’s important to open up the conversation on technology and join new environments to involve people that we wouldn’t come across in our own political circles.” 

Inese, Signe and Morten have invited a strong panel of Nordic representatives to drive the conversation. They include Mikael Anneroth (SE) who is working with the human and societal perspective on information and communications technology at Ericsson, Anja Kaspersen (NO), the Director of United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), academic director of the Business in Society (BiS) platform Transformations: Technology, Data and Knowledge in the Digital Age at the Copenhagen Business School, Mikkel Flyverbom (DK), and Technology Experience Designer Vanessa Julia Carpenter (CAN).

The Association of Nordic Engineers was established in 2007 as binding cooperation between engineering organisations in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, including Iceland and from 2020 Finland too. The new NCM was formed in 2017, emerging from one of the oldest and most wide-ranging forms of regional political collaboration

Join ANE & The NCM’s event “Ethical AI: Actioning a Nordic Stronghold together“, September 5th at Techfestival.

August 28, 2019

Join our mailing list
Receive updates on progressive tech & the festival programme