Danish minister believes AI needs Danish values

A scene from an interview with Tommy Ahlers

writer icon Kristine Hanson     Venstre   |   Tech Ethics     🕐 25. Oct. 2018

The Ministry of Education and Research in Denmark announced earlier this month that they will prioritise 300 million DKK towards research in new technological possibilities and artificial intelligence (AI).

Budget breakdown
Of the 300 million DKK, 220 million DKK will be assigned to strategic research into future technologies, which covers a wide range of projects, such as developing new materials and researching into bio-science.

The remaining 80 million DKK will go to researching digital technologies such as AI, big data, Internet of Things, and IT security.

Ethical tech
The announcement stated that the research may focus on the ethical and moral aspects of the development of new technology and the use of AI and big data, in a Danish context.

In a report by DR, Tommy Ahlers, the Danish Minister of Science, Technology, Information and Higher Education, says that he believes that strong ethical values are very important when it comes to developing new technology.

China out of reach
China and the US are able to invest billions of dollars in to researching new technology, and developing the latest in AI and big data. Smaller countries, such as Denmark, simply cannot compete with this amount of money.

Ahlers does not think that they should try to compete on the money front. He said to DR, “What they want to invest in China, USA and other EU countries, we could never reach, even if we used our entire research budget for researching artificial intelligence.”

Ahlers added, “we should not fight them on money, but take [artificial intelligence] seriously, and prioritise it in our research budgets”.

Danish values
While the bigger countries may be investing huge sums, Ahlers thinks Denmark has something more to offer.

“We can do it differently and better due to the manner in which we think”
, Ahlers told DR. He continued - “we have, for example, the Danish approach to technology and society, where we insist that things are transparent and see-through for people.”

This transparency is a very important principle for ensuring that advances in tech are ethical. By being open to the scrutiny of the public, potential advancements are subjected to critique from a public who is subsequently better informed.

“We must also ensure that this is a principle of the artificial intelligence that we are putting our name to”
, Ahlers declared.

Join forces
It can be intimidating to see the amounts invested in the US and China, as well as other bigger countries around the world. There are some that might feel that it is pointless to invest at all, as the likelihood is that one of these larger countries will get there first.

Ahlers is optimistic, and argues that “it should not scare us from embarking on the research and development of artificial intelligence”.

It is worth remembering that Denmark, while small, is not alone. There are research projects happening across borders within the EU. Additionally, the EU has earmarked funds for research into future technologies, something that Ahlers feels Denmark has done well to obtain.

Ahlers summarised - “All the research we perform is part of both a Danish and international ecosystem, especially in the EU.”

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