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Finland continues teaching AI to the world, for free

“Europe is only at the beginning of realising how much is possible with AI,” said Hanna Hagström, the director of artificial intelligence at Reaktor.

Veikko Somerpuro

Reaktor and the University of Helsinki have launched a follow-up to their massively popular open online course on artificial intelligence (AI), offering ordinary people an opportunity to familiarise themselves with algorithms at the core of AI systems.

Called Building AI, the course will offer participants an opportunity to enter the artificial intelligence community and contribute to solving challenges in society, everyday life and working life by means of artificial intelligence.

“Artificial intelligence is visible in our lives as the recommendation algorithms of on-demand services and face-recognition techniques, for example,” saidTeemu Roos, a professor of computer science at the University of Helsinki. “We want to familiarise people with the tools that are used to create artificial intelligence systems. That way people can be part of this societal change instead of simply having to adapt to what the technology elite are doing.”

The English-language course can be completed at three different difficulty levels, the easiest of which requires no ability to read or write code. The other two, however, involve reading, editing and writing in Python, a popular general-purpose programming language.

Participants are able to claim two study credits and, for a charge of 50 euros, a certificate for completing the course.

The course seeks to engage people in the societal transformation spurred by AI, says Teemu Roos. Image: Maarit Kytöharju

Half a million and counting

Joni Suorsa, the director of artificial intelligence education at Reaktor Education, described the course as a bridge between basic-level courses and courses that require understanding of a programming language.

“We provide the students a channel to the artificial intelligence community and help them to accumulate key skills for working life,” he added.

Roughly 530 000 people from around the globe have already participated in the original course, Elements of AI. Launched with the ambitious goal of teaching the fundamentals of artificial intelligence to one per cent of the world’s population, the course is currently being translated to all official languages of the European Union.

The free online course delves into topics such as neural networks and deep learning. Image: Course material from Building AI

Reaktor and the University of Helsinki are motivated by a shared desire to democratise information and promote the inclusion of population groups who are often ignored in technological discussions. The results thus far are encouraging, with women accounting for 40 per cent and over 45-year-olds 25 per cent of the participants.

“It can be very difficult to realise how artificial intelligence is used if you are unfamiliar with technology or the use case,” told Hanna Hagström, the director of artificial intelligence at Reaktor. “We want to offer people concrete tools to understand the possibilities of artificial intelligence.”

Elements of AI was named as one of four winners in the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge in November 2019.

By: Aleksi Teivainen