What Would More Democratic A.I. Look Like?
A new movement is pushing for A.I.’s future to be in the hands of the people
Something curious is happening in Finland. Though much of the global debate around artificial intelligence (A.I.) has become concerned with unaccountable, proprietary systems that could control our lives, the Finnish government has instead decided to embrace the opportunity by rolling out a nationwide educational campaign.
Conceived in 2017, shortly after Finland’s A.I. strategy was announced, the government wants to rebuild the country’s economy around the high-end opportunities of artificial intelligence, and has launched a national program to train 1 percent of the population — that’s 55,000 people — in the basics of A.I. “We’ll never have so much money that we will be the leader of artificial intelligence,” said economic minister Mika Lintilä at the launch. “But how we use it — that’s something different.”
Artificial intelligence can have many positive applications, from being trained to identify cancerous cells in biopsy screenings, predict weather patterns that can help farmers increase their crop yields, and improve traffic efficiency.
But some believe that A.I. expertise is currently too concentrated in the hands of just a few companies with opaque business models, meaning resources are being diverted away from projects that could be more socially, rather than commercially, beneficial. Finland’s approach of making A.I. accessible and understandable to its citizens is part of a broader movement of people who want to democratize the technology, putting utility and opportunity ahead of profit.
This shift toward “democratic A.I.” has three main principles: that all society will be impacted by A.I. and therefore its creators have a responsibility to build open, fair, and explainable A.I. services; that A.I. should be used for social benefit and not just for private profit; and that because A.I. learns from vast quantities of data, the citizens who create that data — about their shopping habits, health records, or transport needs — have a right to say and understand how it is used.
A growing movement across industry and academia believes that A.I. needs to be treated like any other “public…