In a world of rapid data-driven technological advancements, society is connected and transforming in ways previously unimaginable, bringing instant benefits to all areas of life; how we work, live and play. At the same time, the growing use of personal data and AI systems are posing ethical risks that are difficult to predict and understand. Even with GDPR as a starting point, the regulatory frameworks will continue to struggle to keep up. Unintended effects—the misuse of data that can lead to privacy intrusion, data and algorithm biases that can result in discrimination, fake news and synthetic media—cannot be solved by any one company or government alone. New types of multi-stakeholder partnerships, research and dialogue are needed to more effectively address the societal challenges of a digitalized world.
The AI Sustainability Center provides a Nordic approach to responsible and purpose-driven technology. The Center aims to be a world-leading multidisciplinary hub to address the scaling of AI in broader ethical and societal contexts. The Center’s unique composition, which brings together companies, academic institutions, public agencies and civil society, intends to ensure a broader and deeper exchange on issues that affect us all.
Corporate partners include Atomico, Bonnier, Cirio, Microsoft and Telia Company. The initiative has also attracted some of the top minds in Swedish academia focused on AI, from KTH, Karolinska Institutet, Lund, Umeå and Linköping universities, as well as public agencies like Skatteverket (the Swedish tax authority). The partners are united around a common belief that it is better to navigate together than alone. While initially launching in Sweden, the center plans to quickly broaden its reach.
“Our mission is to take a leading role in developing sustainable AI frameworks and strategies that can help companies and users better understand the risks and possible outcomes from a societal perspective. The main purpose is to keep humanity and fairness at the core of AI applications, ensuring that technology is a force for good,“ says Elaine Weidman Grunewald, co-founder of the center.
Together with partners, the center will develop operational frameworks that identify and proactively address pitfalls and the wider ethical implications of AI, as well as conduct world-leading multidisciplinary research in this space. The center will help guide companies, tech start-ups, regulators and policymakers to make human-centric decisions in the AI area.
“We’re at a crossroads where we need to collectively choose a new and fair approach to AI. That means applying a transparency lens to the seductive commercial and efficiency gains of AI,” says Anna Felländer, co-founder of the center.
The center bases its approach on Nordic values such as inclusiveness, diversity, gender equality, openness, transparency and accountability. The AI Sustainability Center is based in Stockholm, Sweden, a city at the heart of technological innovation and a dynamic start-up community, and a country at the forefront of global commitments to sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in 2015.
“Sweden aims to be a leader in AI innovation and to share knowledge on correct and sustainable practices with other AI users and developers worldwide. We plan to build on our tradition of inclusive, innovative development with the rest of the AI world,” says Minister for Digitalization in Sweden, Peter Eriksson.
“Since AI is becoming a natural component and driver in many technology platforms and solutions, it’s increasingly important for us to fully understand the impact, potential and sustainability of AI, and we are thrilled to be a part of this knowledge forum”, says Ulrika Saxon, CEO Bonnier Ventures.
“AI is already playing a significant role in our daily life and our society, changing the way we interact with technology, services and information. Its benefits are significant, as is our accountability to ensure it is used responsibly and ethically, to the benefit of all. Cooperation across industries has never been more important as this technology becomes increasingly pervasive, and so we are proud to be part of this AI Sustainability Center, working with all its members across these shared goals,” says Vahé Torossian, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Corporation & President Microsoft Western Europe.
“With the rapid pace of development in AI, and applications ranging from industrial IOT to smart city and smart home services, multi stakeholder collaborations offer the best way to share experiences and ensure that AI development follows the most responsible path,” says Brendan Ives, VP and Head of Division X, Telia Company.
“AI is scaling at a rapid pace, from large corporations to the next generation of start-ups, and will touch all parts of society. Therefore, the sustainability lens is crucial. The AI Sustainability Center will be an important actor in this field and we’re happy to support them and learn from the impressive team, as they embark on their journey of setting the next generation of purpose driven business,” says Sofia Bendz, Partner, Atomico, and angel investor.
“AI will transform society, industry, and the way we live and work I the future. It is crucial that we use these opportunities to support sustainable development,” says Darja Isaksson, Director General of Sweden’s Innovation Agency Vinnova.
“AI raises new legal and ethical challenges, and managing these is necessary for society to unlock the potential of technology in a sustainable way. Cirio looks forward to supporting the center with expertise in areas such as data privacy, intellectual property, tort, consumer law and sustainability, and in expanding into more unknown legal territory, where ethics needs to play a key role,” says David Frydlinger, Managing Partner, Cirio Advokatbyrå.