Politicians need AI skills says tech expert

One of Europe’s leading technologists has called for all politicians and civil servants to be urgently educated in machine learning and artificial intelligence, so they can understand the impact it will have on society.

Politicians should know what they are talking about when it comes to AI


Risto Siilasmaa, President and founder of the multi-national cyber security company F-Secure and the chair of the Finnish mobile phone company Nokia prior to its takeover by Microsoft, says that an understanding of machine learning is now essential for the future development of society because of the fundamental role that AI will play in our lives in the future.

Risto Siilasmaa, speak the machine’s language. To hear Risto Siilasmaa’s interview for PassW0rd click here

“Machine learning will be an all-pervasive technology, it will be a part of almost any technology that we touch. The same way that should understand at least at a high level all the important technologies that influence our lives we should understand about machine learning, especially people who are in politics and setting the legislation, civil servants doing the regulation,” said Siilasmaa, who is once again chair of a reconstituted Nokia.

Siilasmaa became so concerned about the impact of the technology that he enrolled himself on courses at Stanford University in the US under the leading AI pioneer Professor Andrew Ng, who is also committed to promoting widespread understanding of the technology by providing a number of free online courses on Coursera, an online learning organisation Ng founded.

The call from Siilasmaa follows an avalanche of interest in the technology over the last four years following the announcement by Oxford University in November 2014 that over a third of all jobs would be lost to AI in ten years. A year later the Bank of England released a report backing up the Oxford University study.

The latest contribution to the debate from the House of Lords a report called: ‘AI in the UK ready willing and able’ was released in the middle of April 2018 set out five key principles for the technology that the Lords saw as a blueprint for interacting with AI for the future.

One of the Lords central principles was that: “All citizens should have the right to be educated to enable them to flourish mentally, emotionally and economically alongside artificial intelligence.”

An interaction Siilasmaa says should start now and that it is essential that it starts at the very least with those making decisions about how AI is used in our society.

“Machine learning will be influencing the world that we move towards in a fundamental way and everything we do needs to be prepared and thought of from the point of view of that future world. For an ordinary consumer it may not be that important but almost regardless of what your job is there will be some connection to machine learning.

“Therefore, if you are in management positions leadership positions. You should understand this technology,” said Siilasmaa, who met politicians in the EU to tell them that they have to educate themselves in machine learning and volunteered to do the same with the House of Lords.

“I’d love to go to the House of Lords and ask them; hand on their hearts, how many of them understand machine learning, because it’s easy to come up with philosophical statements, it’s especially easy if you don’t understand what you are actually talking about on the level of the technology itself. For the time being there is very little connection between those lofty goals and the pragmatic work of creating those machine learning systems.”