Almedalen’s Love Story with Artificial Intelligence

Almedalen: Artificial Intelligence in Sweden and the Nordics

Almedalen was amazing — it is fantastic to see so many people and organisations interested in how Artificial Intelligence (AI) transforms their industry. What makes Almedalen particularly special this year: it marks the beginning of a love story between Artificial Intelligence and Swedish industry and government. AI was by far the primary topic in panels, presentations, networking events and exhibitions — all up, Almedalen hosted over 4000 events and 40000 participants.

Almedalen in 2017: The beginning of a love story between Artificial Intelligence and Swedish industry and government.

This shows that the Swedish and Nordic ecosystem is going into the right direction and aligns with the global movement. Once established, a sustainable AI roadmap addresses critical challenges, and reaches AI’s full potential, but we have to work much smarter to get there than we do now.

Artificial Intelligence continues to shape global ecosystems, at increasing speed

For over 20 years, I have been leading international AI projects in commerce, industry, innovation and science together with amazingly talented people that specialized in AI. In all these years, it is only now that I see an AI uptake at this breadth and depth. Indeed, AI is recognized as a major transformative force across many (if not all industries) globally, particularly in health care, finance and energy. However, what was distinctly missing in Almedalen were independent and leading AI experts (both, with a strong business and technology background) that deeply understand and communicate the potential and limitations of AI. This is key in successfully leading this global AI transformation and shaping its’ effect on industry and society.

I would like to share three observations on AI from my Almedalen experience (these observations are not meant to be complete or comprehensive, but are intended to reflect and improve on the status quo of the Nordic AI progress).

  • Deeper AI expertise needed. For the most part, panels and other events consisted of an impressive arrangement of people that are knowledgeable about their own field of expertise, including CEO, directors, senior executives, medical doctors and so on. However, there was a distinct lack of experts that have both, a strong scientific and industrial experience in AI. This limits the quality of these events. As a result, panels remained on a high level, and sometimes worse, conclusions pointed into wrong directions of AI. For a sustainable AI future in the Nordics, we have to do better than that (and we will)!
  • The AI competency need. AI in all its forms (machine learning, perception, natural language processing, etc) requires that key people understand what AI means to business models and operations. This does not mean that senior executives have to understand every scientific and technological detail of AI, but they do need to know enough to evangalise the value of AI in their organisation and with their partners. It is critical to include AI (business and scientific) experts into daily operations to create and communicate a clear roadmap that specifies the requirements for skills, infrastructure, product and partners. This is essential to make the Swedish and Nordic ecosystem and businesses ready for global AI leadership.
  • Dynamic AI panel debate. Reflecting on the previous two points, debaters in panels agreed that “AI is the future”, and that is true. However, such high level agreements contributed little to our understanding of what AI can actually do for us. With my AI contacts in my global industrial and scientific network, I continuously have deep and advanced discussions on how we can progress AI sustainable. This includes “constructive disagreements” in public debates and interviews, which in turn requires a balanced arrangements of positions in different panel.

In reflection of Almedalen, the speed at which we make AI a core strategy in the Nordic and global ecosystem is influenced by the “quality” of panels, debates, value propositions and products. In dynamic and progressive panels, scientific and industrial AI experts will confidently enrich such discussions, and be able to substantiate rebuttals by critics (which are key, too).

Artificial Intelligence as a core business strategy

People that just recently learnt about the concept of AI (say over the last few years) frequently make at least two types of mistakes: they set the potential of AI way under its’ real potential, or they suggest unrealistic time frames and outcomes. You will find highly engaged and well-intended AI novices sharing their views to the public, industries, and governments (as mentioned earlier, these novices are often highly skilled and successful in their own area of expertise). However, when it comes to economic and societal impact, novice opinions present a real risk to shape unrealistic expectations of AI, and worse, your organisation and society misses opportunities.

Ensure that your organisation engages leading AI experts and resources, as this is required to create and execute your organisational AI roadmap and strategy (see Nordic Artificial Intelligence Institute). As of today, AI is indeed “rocket science” and “rocket business” — requiring the brightest minds to address the potential and challenges of AI. Being able to communicate the right value proposition is as important as scientific, technological and product leadership. Don’t leave your AI core business strategy to AI novices, you would not do this with any other critical part in your organisation — the risk is too high.

For my international readers: Almedalen is Sweden’s biggest once-a-year event bringing together the leading “movers and shakers” of industry, media, and government — it extends the Swedish “meeting and mingle” work culture to a higher level. One purpose of the Almedalen week is to understand current and future trends and needs, and to extend networks with all stakeholders.

Leave your comments below — very interested in your thoughts!

Originally published at on July 18, 2017.