Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad term related to potentials and perils surrounding numerous developments in data-driven automated decision-making. AI must also be seen in the broader process of digitalization that takes place in all societal sectors. The application of AI ranges from ordinary, everyday uses of smart devices to more advanced examples of algorithmic arbitrary coding, deciding everything from the target of drones to who can get a bank loan, to narrowing down suspects in police investigations and to push specific messages to targeted audiences.  The impacts of AI concern all major areas of modern society – work and politics, welfare and warfare, education, infrastructure, economy and health – with a pace of change that blur lines between academic assessments and sci-fi novels. More than 35 countries have launched national AI strategies accompanied by heavy funding schemes, all aimed at securing a lead in what is increasingly referred to as a new arms race. The race is also unfolding on the global level, with organizations, such as the UN, the European Commission, and OECD creating expert bodies and high-level initiatives to assess recent and related technological developments.

With AI potentially changing fundamental conditions for societies nationally and internationally, it becomes relevant to explore changes within and throughout the Nordic countries, which share numerous social, political, economic, and cultural experiences. There is already a growing humanistic, societal, and political scholarship on AI in the respective national settings. For analysis to also spell out linkages to other transnational technical and cultural processes, like automation, digitalization, and understanding of the constituent terms “intelligence” and “artificial”, there is an urgent need to initiate dialogue with colleagues on neighboring, and related, experiences throughout the Nordic region.

The Nordic Observatory of Artificial Intelligence (NordAI) explores this lacuna by observing trends, discourses, philosophies, aesthetics, policy-making, legislation and related technological issues as part of formulating a Nordic perspective on AI. With the aim of adapting AI to cultures of the Nordic countries, rather than the other way around, NordAI addresses a range of questions related to the region:

  • How are welfare models and societal contracts being  (re)formulated in relation to AI?
  • Which shared histories, linguistic affinities, and distinct political settings inform imaginaries surrounding technology?
  • How can public spheres participate in innovating, implementing, and delimiting algorithms?
  • How can historical developments of urban centers and rural regions inform contemporary industrial revolutions in these areas and with regards to ethnic, cultural and linguistic minorities and autonomous rule?
  • What cultural traits – for example, pursuit of consensus and participation – could inform ethics, policies, and regulations of AI?
  • And what are the overlapping geographical tensions with regards to how Nordic countries address AI, for example, in contrast to the US, Eurasia, or the EU?