The Work up! event on AI was held during Helsinki design week at Bio Rex. The event had two main speakers and two panel discussions centered around their performances. I was excited to learn more on how AI is perceived by professionals and what the big questions surrounding it’s use are at the moment.
AI as a challenger for the current work life
Minna Mustakallio gave a speech on how AI is going to challenge the current field of work. Developing organizations with AI is seldom a plug and play kind of a thing, so every organization should know what they are about and where AI could be applied to bring value. It’s very important to know what you are trying to make better with the help of AI and if it’s the right way to go.
Themes that should be considered when organizations start onboarding AI according to Minna include
- Encounters : knowledge, understanding, shared visions and even conflicts create something new. Are there some parts of encounters that can be made better with AI or is there something we want to protect, something that happens between people.
- Changing roles: what does it require from a human/employee when you’re making decisions with AI. Is the goal to reduce or increase autonomy for a single person. Should people focus on their strengths and leave the mundane tasks to AI? Should an equal amount of effort be put to understanding human and the context AI would be used in as is put to finding opportunities to implement AI?
- Ethics and responsibility: Who is responsible for the decisions AI makes? How transparent is algorithm-assisted decision making?
- People & purpose: What are we trying to make better with AI? What does the best work-life look like in Finland 2022? What is the purpose we’re fulfilling?
Mindfulness and using algorithms for the right purposes can bring a lot of good. Implementing AI is about co-creation. AI is a part of global digitalisation and will inevitably change the way we work.
Panel discussion about AI x Work
In the panel discussion Minna alongside with Jaana Leikas (VTT), Jaakko Särelä (Reaktor) and Petri Lattu (Nordkapp) dug in a bit deeper on the questions surrounding AI. Asking questions in fact was one thing the panelists were hoping to encourage. We are in the position right now, where we need to ask as many questions as we can to really determine where the future is going with AI.
The panelists discussed control. How much do algorithms already steer our lives and how will the development go in the future? How much of our decisions are already based on some type of algorithms?
It was suggested by Petri that we are already algorithm augmented because we use AI in our everyday lives without paying attention to it. Humans, social media and all of the connected technologies form a cybernetic collective. AI is not some separate entity. It’s “under the hood” in many things we already use.
One problem with AI is that data is always warped in some way. If you write “hän on sihteeri” or “hän on johtaja” to Google translator and translate to english it’s easy to see what happens. This is just one example that’s easy to test. AI also speaks with the voice of a young woman (Alexa, Siri..). Jaana suggested that this is due to the fact that a female voice is easier to listen to. Things like these should still be taken into consideration.
Minna brought up that instead of asking what will the future organizations look like, we should as what do we want the future organizations to be like. Cause when you place an assumption it many times becomes reality. Can AI help us have more spare time and more meaningful work lives in the future?
The methods and processes of technological advancements should also be looked from a new angle when creating AI-systems. Development should be done in multidisciplinary and diverse teams and ethical questions should be kept in mind through the process. Education is the key to good AI implementation. It was also suggested within the panelists that in the future it might benefit the development to make a motivation map for the service as well as the user.
The questions the panelists wanted to leave the crowd with were:
- Will AI make communication between people easier?
- Is AI fair?
- How can I be a part of the development so that AI would benefit me in my everyday work?
- Why? Why do we need AI? Why are we doing this?
Ethical questions and AI
After the panel it was time for the days second speaker Maija-Riitta Ollila to take the stage and lift the veil on ethical questions in AI design.
AI is a reflection of human life. Ethics is still human-centric as opposed to machine-centric. Maybe we should shift our sights to life-centric or earth-centric view? If the earth is not liveable there is no work life.
Maija-Riitta also pointed out that algorithms are always warped. Individuals have cognitive bias, data is warped, organizations and societies have prejudice and discrimination.
AI strengthens trends in societies. Which trends do we want to strengthen? Who or what is AI making powerful? Do individuals in work life feel empowered by AI?
Amazon, Alibaba and google have acquired a lion’s share of business opportunities surrounding AI. Where is platform economy going? Big data and big brother meet in the middle: trust good, control better? It’s time to start planning from an ethics point of view.
AI is changing things – or are we the ones driving change? Only agents can change things. Phenomenons aren’t actors, actors create and modify phenomenons. AI can’t be held responsible for the decisions it makes. There’s always a human behind that’s responsible (responsibility = response ability).
Panel discussion on ethics and AI
The panel discussion was instantly all over the ethics discussion. Ethical principes like avoiding accidents and doing good aren’t enough – we should think about the context behind AI to really get down to something concrete.
Petri was again talking about the idea of what’s fair in terms of AI. Jurisdiction, upbringing and agreements all have an affect on our future. Transparency in societal decision making is an important theme. Jaakko suggested that everyone should take the elements of AI course and also read the book Rauhan kone by Timo Honkela.
Again the discussion went to the bias in data. This was a common link through the whole day. As humans we should think what discrimination means. AI algorithms bring existing problems to light when they use all the data they can. What aspects of data are relevant and which are a source for discrimination (when is it relevant to consider a person’s age or gender?).
What decisions do we want AI to make concerning our lives? What values does AI base it’s decisions on? Who decides on the values? Regulation is important.
When used right AI can help make the peaks and valleys lower and help us look further into the future. This could potentially bring more safety. AI can also help spot challenges in
Maija-Riitta also wanted to challenge investors to think whether they should invest in increasing consumption or in environmental technology making a tie back to her speech about earth-centered thinking and ethics.
All in all I really enjoyed the event. I came in hoping that the discussion would reach a more concrete level with more examples regarding solutions and implementation. Maybe the panelists could have challenged each other more on the subject, now it was pretty much down to the presenter to lead the conversation.
On the other hand I was very happy that the crowd was included in the discussion through “twitter board” and polls that the crowd was asked to answer during the breaks in discussion. There were some questions or comments from the crowd, but the Twitter board seemed to have many interesting comments that could have spurred the conversation on.
The bias in data and algorithms was a topic that seemed to surface through the day. I think it’s a great topic and the event with it’s many great experts would have been a good chance to dig a little deeper. Same goes with the concrete codes of conduct from an ethical perspective – I hope the conversation between the panelists didn’t end when the “bell rang”.
We talk a lot about co-creation and multidisciplinary teams when it comes to developing solutions for the future. I think our experts in tiny Finland have great knowledge and should bump brains more often. How about a Super Hackathon on AI for the best of the best in Finland? Or a societal “co-working space” that would gather the experts that work around these subjects in the same space every now and again. Are we really coming together on this – we as people? Outside of these events that pose certain limitations.
We’re off to a start. Let’s make it a great one.