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Photo by @steve3p_0

People of AI at 499 Days

The most valuable experience of the journey

Today is strangely enough one of the only days where I cannot think of what to write about. After writing about artificial intelligence (AI) for 499 days I was not sure.

Jonas Kure Buer

When I arrived back to university after having spent time building a startup and an organisation I knew what direction I wanted. However, I did not feel I could go towards that direction at my university until. That was of course until I met Jonas, who encouraged me to think about how I could get more involved with the natural science faculty.

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Looks a bit crazy, and is, but he is one of the most inclusive and kind academics out there.

Haavard Ostermann

I met Haavard spring 2019 at a subject called STV1515 Machine Learning and Programming for Social Scientists. He had been working for a long time as a lawyer, but was learning more about programming. He is specialised in labour law and now works as a developer with a focus on language technology in the Norwegian state.

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Haavard lifting his arms as our team wins the hackathon
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Hanging together with Haavard at Solveig’s workplace in Statistics Norway.

Solveig Bjørkholt

In a corridor at my faculty at the University of Oslo (UiO) I met Solveig through a shared acquaintance. Her friend was certain that we shared interests, and when we met for a coffee at the student café it was clear that we did.

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Photo from her R Studio Education Certification

Samantha Breslin

Strange where Google brings you. When I was searching the Internet for anthropologists who had an interest in computer science Samantha popped up. I found she had written her PhD on the education of computer scientists in Singapore, so I decided to read her dissertation. It completely blew me away and is one of the most interesting readings I have gone through. Her perspectives on gender made me choose course modules on this subject during my undergraduate. Computer scientists nowadays end up being part of shaping large decisions in society, as such it is interesting to understand critically how this education varies across locations.

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A very cool person

Anna Kirah

How does one meet Anna? I think Anna meets you. For me I think it was through a student of hers that she heard about me, and somehow I ended up at one of her discussion evenings at her home. She had brought a few of her design students and they were discussing topics I found immensely interesting.

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Anna can often be found smiling

Elisabeth Fosseli Olsen

I was introduced to Elisabeth during a weekend seminar at my university. She seemed to have some crazy ideas about blockchain and international development combined with her critical perspectives on technology informed by extensive qualitative research. I became very interested in working with her on a project. During an internship with KPMG in 2019 we managed to receive an almost year-long project working with Red Cross on financial innovation.

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Jessica Cussins Newman

I first saw Jessica speak at the Stanford HAI 2019 Fall Conference — AI Global Governance (CS+Social Good). Immediately after this I tweeted her and sent her an email. At the time I was writing about national strategies within artificial intelligence, and she had made a neat overview explaining aspects of the different strategies. We set up a video chat and I started contributing some policy summaries to the page she managed at the Future of Life Institute.

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Alexander Taylor

Another person I met through email and later had a video chat with is Alex. As I was writing a lot about data centres I wondered where to begin, as I wanted to locate ethnographic studies of data centres. He was very kind to answer med and to help give suggestions for the course module in Digital Anthropology I had taken the initiative for at the University of Oslo.

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Amund Grytting

I have known Amund for more than five years, worked with him a few of those, and collaborated loosely on a report to the government for the last years. Writing about participation and entrepreneurship in relation to the sustainable development goals with clear suggestions to the Planning Department would naturally shift into my writing.

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This is pretty much Amund every day

Emil Anker Wiik

I met Emil doing leadership training in 2015, and he had an undying enthusiasm and this winning smile that I thought was due to a special occasion. I was wrong Emil was always cheerful, optimistic, and he always had stellar advice. At the time I was setting up my company and he told me about what EBITA was (if you wondered it is Earnings before interest, taxes, and amortisation). Then we kept meeting each other in the entrepreneurship environment, later from advisor to friend.

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Håkan Silfvernagel

Do you sometimes get an important call that you immediately think could be a phone salesman? No? Håkan called me up out of nowhere and asked me if I could talk. He was running a chapter of a community called city.ai that was holding a series of talks at the Microsoft office in Oslo. He asked me if I would be interested in talking, I was sceptical and wanted to see if this was real. Then after a few emails I ended up speaking at an event during Oslo Innovation Week. I am really grateful that Håkan is a community builder in the field of AI here in Oslo, and that he invited me in. He is the kind of person who simply calls someone, and that you will be glad to meet.

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A friendly character

Virginia Dignum

Virginia is the only person on this list so far that I have not spoken to. As such, this is more of an appreciation of the work she puts out and her engagement. She is the Professor, Wallenberg chair on Responsible Artificial Intelligence at UMEÅ University. Additionally, she is the Scientific Director of WASP-HS (Humanities and Society). Her research focuses on the complex interconnections and interdependencies between people, organisations and technology.

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Kate Crawford

On the topic of people I have not met, but been influenced by, Kate is certainly one of those. Her work with Vladan Joler from 2018 is one of the most inspiring articles I have read to this date. To me it really pinpoints part of the issue of the large industry surrounding smart speakers, but it tells us something more about the material relationships that are ignored.

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Joy Buolamwini

Another inspiration that I have never met is Joy. She has been working really hard to create a movement towards equitable and accountable AI. The Algorithmic Justice League is one interesting organisation to follow. They combine art and research to illuminate the social implications and harms of AI. I had not been focused enough on the social inequality that AI can exacerbate.

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Photo by Niccolò Caranti

Oda Marchand

Returning a bit to Oslo. The friend of Solveig who I bumped into at the library is Oda Marchand. Solveig’s friend has been a good person to discuss with and her thesis is fascinating because I am unsure of how to deal with the material. Oda is working on a masters degree in political science and a bachelor in Russian at the University of Oslo.

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Oda looking sceptical

Thomas Hylland Eriksen

When I arrived to social anthropology Thomas was fighting cancer. That is what I came to learn. The very first semester at social anthropology I engaged with other students to see if we could learn more about digital and social anthropology in relation to one another. As a representative I suggested we set up a course module on Digital Anthropology. This was met surprisingly well by the programme council at the Institute for Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo. However, they estimated that this would take a few years (possibly two) to get into action.

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Jonas Bergan Draege

I was fortunate to receive a grant for a summer school at the University of Oslo in 2019. It was during this time taking a class in International Politics that I met Jonas. He is easily one of the best lecturers that I have ever had with his teaching style and how he facilitates discussions.

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Rune Flikke

When I started talking about creating a subject in digital anthropology at UiO Rune Flikke was the person who brought me out to meetings with businesses to consider how we could collaborate on a new subject. Through this I met social anthropologists working elsewhere. We continued to grab coffee together quite a few times to discuss social anthropology. He got increasingly busy as he became the leader of the department, but he still took the time to talk when I knocked on his door.

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Keir Martin

Can a lecturer be both wonderfully educational and a standup comedian? The answer is yes, and Keir Martin does both. As an Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo Keir challenged ways of thinking about a variety of subjects through his extensive knowledge of several fields.

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Jack Clark

I have never met Jack, the Policy Director for Open AI, but we have exchanged some messages on Twitter. OpenAI is a company working with artificial intelligence that has an increasing amount of responsibility, and as a growing organisation it is important to have people who engage with policy.

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Bjørn Høyland

As previously mentioned STV1515 Machine Learning and Programming for Social Scientists has been highly influential for me personally. This occurred before I started writing about artificial intelligence for 500 days. The creator and convenor of this course module is Bjørn Høyland. His dry humour with a dialect is funny until you realise what he just said and that you need to catch up to his speed. He takes his teaching in strides, and you have to do your best to keep up. Although his course module was difficult it was one of the most rewarding (and maybe even transformational) learning experiences I have been through.

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Serious with a smirk

Lars Martin Mediaas

Lars Martin works in the government. Saying this to my past self a few years ago that could bring up a lot of assumptions. Working with Lars Martin and his colleagues in the Planning Department I have changed my opinion. His bravery to speak out against the actions of his own affiliated party, and to be engaged in a wide sense within society is inspiring.

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Loosely translated: “The labour movement is not doing enough for the climate fight.”

Christoffer Bouwer

Throughout my time writing Christoffer has been incredibly helpful. We have had weekly or bi-weekly conversations about artificial intelligence and life in general. I met Christoffer while working at Young Sustainable Impact, and we were both interested in challenging thoughts about innovation.

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Christoffer Bouwer on far left. Me in the middle. Lenny Lei Liang on the right.

Written by

AI Policy and Ethics at www.nora.ai. Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own. twitter.com/AlexMoltzau

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