The Past and Future of AI: Tales, Tropes and Speculations

The series introduces participants to scholarship from and about the Nordic countries concerning AI, automation, algorithms, data, and the human-machine relationship. Seminars will be held monthly between November 2020 and November 2021 and are accessible online via Zoom.

The seminars are structured around Tales, Tropes, and Speculations. Tales are presentations featuring invited speakers and moderators, in addition to discussions among participants. Tropes are recurring themes that participants identify and observe throughout the seminars. Tropes are, moreover, beginnings, not end points, for conversations on AI and are subject to change throughout the seminar-series as additional and related developments are observed and explored. Speculations refer to the ambition to describe and document possible projected futures made visible during the seminars.

Each tale includes a brief presentation by the invited speaker (20-30 minutes) and is informed by pre-circulated texts (max 2), e.g. the speaker’s own or related work. The tale is followed by a discussion among the participants about the tropes that the tale connects to and is concluded with speculations on subsequent or future developments of a particular trend in AI. The first set of tropes for NordAI are:

  • (1) Automation – labor and learning
  • (2) Algorithms – power and principles
  • (3) Human–machine coevolution
  • (4) Data and Sensing

These tropes relate to potentials and perils surrounding AI, such as plans to reskill workers, whose jobs are blown into obsolescence due to automation, ambitions to introduce universal basic income, and the ability to identify trigger points whereby to enrage people for political campaigns. The tropes highlight subjects where existing power relations and social contracts are being unsettled and which require new questions to be formulated and addressed. And while the tropes have been conceived in the global tales that are being told about AI, their reception in, and adaptation to, the Nordic countries have so far not been the subject of critical examination.

Each seminar provide opportunities for speculating together. Speculations are our joint effort at thinking-out-loud on matters that by their very nature exist at the borderland of present-day discourse and uses of AI. Examples include projecting the influences of present-day technology, identifying new questions concerning automation, algorithms, human-machine coevolution, and relationships between data and sensing, and formulating why it is relevant that these processes receive responses from within the Nordic countries. These discussions are inspired by scholarly work on imaginaries, the sociology of expectations, speculative design, and anthropologies of the future. Speculations will be documented and used for planning a range of future activities, e.g. participatory workshops to develop new concepts for describing AI and related technology, co-authored multilingual op-eds, white papers and policy briefs relevant for the Nordic countries and region as a whole.

Seminar schedule

November (2020)

Seminar #1. ‘Automated industry in the Nordic countries’. Presenter: Maths Isacson (Uppsala University, Sweden).

Tuesday 3 November, 2020, 15:00–17:00 CET


Seminar #2. ‘Travelling Algorithms: How developers of data analysis from finance to health copy each other‘. Seminar co-organizer: Francis Lee (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden).

Thursday 10 December, 2020, 15:00–17:00 CET

January (2021)

Seminar #3. ‘What can government policies tell us about the future implementation of AI technology?’. Presenter: Niels van Berkel (Aalborg University).

Tuesday 12 January 2021, 13:00–15:00 CET


Seminar #4. ‘AI for Safe(r) Transportation in the Nordic Arctic: Satellite-Assisted Road-Tranportation in Lapland and AI-Generated Ice-Charts Around Greenland’. Seminar co-organizer: Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen.

Tuesday 02 February 2021, 14:00–16:00 CET

March (2 seminars)

Seminar #5. ‘Preserving the integrity of media newsrooms in the age of AI’. Presenter: Agnes Stenbom.

Tuesday 16 March 2021, 13:00–14:30 CET

Seminar #6. ‘Inside the data furnace: thinking with data materialities‘. Presenter: Julia Velkova.

Tuesday 31 March 2021, 14:00–15:30 CEST


Seminar #7. ‘AI imaginaries and their influence on the development of AI in Scandinavia‘. Presenter: Maja Horst et al. Discussant Steve Woolgar.

Wednesday 5 May, 2021, 13:00–14:30 CEST


Seminar #8. ‘Aligning Digitalisation and Sustainability: The Role of Governance‘. Presenter: Daria Gritsenko. Discussant: Robert Krimmer.

Monday 14 June 2021, 13:00–14:30 CEST

September (2 seminars)

Seminar #9. ‘Labour relations and The Control Revolution‘. Presenter: Daniel Bodén. Discussant: Britt Östlund.

Thursday 2 September 2021, 13:00–14:30 CEST

Seminar #10. ‘The Citizen-Engineer: Conceptions of the Digital State in Estonia, 1990-2010‘. Presenter: Aro Velmet.

Wednesday 22 September 2021, 16:00–17:30 CEST


Seminar #11. ‘Researching datafied living through mobile tracking: methodological challenges and ethical opportunities‘. Presenter: Stine Lomborg.

Wednesday 25 November, 2021, 12:30–14:00 CET


Seminar #12. ‘Can we trust European AI?‘. Presenter: Fredrik Heintz.

Tuesday 7 December, 2021, 14:00–15:30 CET