Finland Aims to Become a Leader in Artificial Intelligence – What’s In it for Me?

By Richard Bedhall

Erwin Sniedzins, a Canada-based entrepreneur in the business of AI, visiting Espoo in a high-profile seminar in October. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

F inland Today recently visited the Artificial Intelligence and Neural Networks conference held in Espoo, Finland. The conference theme was “harnessing the power of artificial intelligence” and speakers came from countries all over the world, including Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Nigeria, Spain, Sweden, USA, UK, and of course Finland.

Narrow focused artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for years.  In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue computer was taught to play chess, learn moves, and eventually beat human players. Although Deep Blue mastered chess it can’t play the simpler game of Draughts without further programming from humans.

More examples of these simple applications of AI include Apple’s Siri a personal assistant on your iPhone, apparently Google Assistant can engage in two-way conversations, and Amazon’s Alexa in-home voice-activated assistant has a wider repertoire of abilities depending on which electronic devices can be connected. That is the narrow focus of these devices is entirely limited by what the user can connect and the equipment programmed for specific tasks.

AI is creeping into many things, even while typing this article Word is automatically checking my text for spelling and grammar.  However, many of these applications are not really true examples of artificial intelligence. A machine that can perceive its environment, learn for itself, learn from past experience and then take actions that maximize the chances of achieving its goals is the definition of AI.

One of the biggest applications of narrow focused AI is within the world of education.

Thus the self-driving car is one of the better examples of AI in use today. To drive itself the car has to recognize the environment and automatically adjust speed and direction to stay on the road. The self-driving car is also able to remember past experiences and then apply this knowledge in similar situations. Learning and problem-solving in real time, and the whole process can be shared with other cars, thereby eventually eliminating the human errors that cause accidents.

One of the biggest applications of narrow focused AI is within the world of education. AI can be set up to assist the student to learn faster and more successfully, however it is still only as good as the initial programming of instructions and parameters.

Sniedzins believes that an educational software using artificial intelligence can help the user learn faster and more efficiently. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today


Monks and AI

Erwin Sniedzins of Canadian-based Mount Knowledge Inc. spoke about the principles of making big data applicable to the person and compared it to condensing a technical book into a few phrases and words to make learning easier for a student. Mr. Sniedzins daughter suffers from Rett Syndrome (a disorder of the nervous system), and he became involved with raising funds and awareness for people suffering from the syndrome.

AI could prove difficult for learning philosophy and theology where a wide range of different opinions and evidence needs to be contemplated.

As part of this million dollar raising campaign, a climb of Mount Everest took place in 1991. Unfortunately, Erwin experienced altitude sickness and had to remain at base camp to recover. After regaining his strength, Mr. Sniedzins decided to experience the Tibetan culture and visited the monks at a local Buddhist monastery. For three months, Mr. Sniedzins researched the Tibetan monks’ learning techniques and was intrigued by the way they passed on “information and knowledge” from one generation to another through visualization and vocal cadences.

Subsequent years of research, design and development have led to self-learning software applications, that take inputs from the internet, textbooks, topics and curriculum to generate exercises that then utilize the student’s senses in varied ways.

The software takes the input information and creates thousands of different exercises to present them using the personal tutor to keep the students engaged and enthusiastic. The personal tutor software then provides tests to check to learn and automatically adjust the learning process to suit the individual learner. When challenged about bias creeping into the learning process, Mr. Sneidzins said that the software only uses the inputted data and that was controlled by the parents, schools and teachers according to the taught curriculum.

Eight key actions for taking Finland toward the age of AI
  1. Enhancement of business competitiveness through the use of AI
  2. Effective utilization of data in all sectors
  3. Ensure AI can be adopted more quickly and easily
  4. Ensure top-level expertise and attract top experts
  5. Make bold decisions and investments
  6. Build the world’s best public services
  7. Establish new models for collaboration
  8. Make Finland a frontrunner in the age of AI

Source: Finland’s Age of Artificial Intelligence report

“In Finland we want to be one of the best countries in the world to apply artificial intelligence. We also have the potential to reach that goal. However, we need to make conscious decisions to deploy artificial intelligence and enforce our decisions efficiently.”

Mika Lintilä

Minister of Economic Affairs

Google self-driving car. Picture: Smoothgroover22

Machine slaves

Mr. Sniedzin also suggested that with Block Chain technology progress, performance and qualifications could be recorded in a very secure way which in future could eliminate fake diplomas and enhance worldwide validation.

Other artificial intelligence systems that you have probably encountered without realizing include The company’s website uses transactional AI with a wide range of algorithms recording your actions and then predicts what you may be interested in buying to promote more and more sales. Netflix also uses predictive technology based on customers reactions to different films and based on billions of user records, recommends films that you may like. 

Unfortunately, some excellent smaller budget and lesser known films go unnoticed, and Netflix becomes biased towards the big blockbusters when making recommendations. That sums up the limit of some artificial intelligence, bias can easily creep into opinion and experience-based applications.

Hence using AI could prove difficult for learning philosophy and theology where a wide range of different opinions and evidence needs to be contemplated. Sci-fi films such as The Terminator and The Matrix have portrayed worlds where the machines have taken over and view the human race as the enemy.

We need not worry because artificial intelligence has yet to reach this level of sophistication. Machines that feel and think have not been made but robots are getting more useful threatening more and more manual labor jobs.

Will we have machine slaves or will we become slaves to our machines in the future? Many people appear to be slaves to their smartphones and electronic devices and there are benefits but maybe we are in danger of losing our social skills or walking in front of traffic instead of looking where we’re going?