Connected Learning – EWMD Networkers Go AI

"In June 2019, Waltraut Ritter and I attended the UNESCO Meeting in Paris where we learned – among others –  about a free Artificial Intelligence (AI) online course produced and published by the Finnish Government and Helsinki University. The initiative recognized that AI and related sciences are the big future. The Finnish Government was determined to embrace AI and avoid any AI bias, fear, or misinformation which could lead to disaster.
About this course: Elements of AI was designed for a large stakeholder group, not just university students, but common citizens of Finland.  Upon successful roll-out of the Finnish version of the course, the course was then translated into many European languages so that they too could benefit from the relevant AI content. At the same time, making the free course available to European citizens also has enhanced Finland’s reputation and served as an image booster for the next generation. To date, more than 500,000 people have taken the course.
Bringing the course home to EWMD: We confirmed demand among EWMD members that there is indeed a big need to understand what AI is and what it is not. We followed the motto “Get out of the hype and get to know the basics first.” The online course is available at this page and contains 6 chapters. It was an easy decision to develop a learning plan based on online learning and group discussions, allowing for remote collaboration. We would dedicate one month to each chapter of the course.  The participating EWMD member would go through the online content and exercises at her own pace. Pairs were established at the outset to allow for a 1:1 exchange throughout. We would then meet virtually as a group and talk about what we learned, clarify any remaining questions, and – importantly – discuss how the content related to our professional lives. 
What we learned: It is all about statistics and the theory of probability. AI is based on studies developed as early as in the 50s (for example, the Turing test) – and incorporates a lot of psychology and behavioral science. More or less, we already knew all of that. Starting in the 90s, there was a big hype about machine learning that changed to hybrids between machines and human interaction. But there still is a long way to go. A lot what is sold as the ‘inevitable AI future’ is not based on data, science or tests. The goal of driving with AI remains wishful thinking. While it might work in isolated cases, the big concept for an integrated mobility system is still missing.
Leveraging EWMD: More interesting than the online course were our monthly one-hour discussions which took place from November 2019 to May 2020. With the help of an assigned and rotating moderator, we learned so much from our diverse perspectives. Of course each of us had our own experiences in some content areas which was most inspiring. Moreover, we collected and shared articles, studies, posts, TV documentaries about AI – including about current publicly available AI events.  We also became our own researchers on the topic and compiled relevant documents in our EWMD portal project space. Above all, we had a lot of fun and also benefited from getting to know each other better.
We started-off with 24 EWMD members interested in the topic.  A core team from three nations (4 from Austria, around 4 from Germany, and 2 from Switzerland) made it through the entire initiative. Upon successful completion of the study programme, the university issued a certificate to each student. Timewise, we found lunch time to work best for our group get-togethers.

After six months of inspiring online team learning, our small group decided to take a well-deserved break.  COVID-19 has certainly had a significant (negative) impact on many AI -related industries, including the automotive sector. One thing is clear: technology overall is getting a big boost and we will make sure to watch the space.

We hope to pick-up this AI initiative again – possibly with a new angle that has to do with business, our jobs or our careers.  EWMD members may also want to explore a similar learning initiative around other topics altogether."
Claudia Schmitz, Carmen Niethammer and Waltraut Ritter for EWMD International. 
August 16, 2020