Digital Diplomacy
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Digital Diplomacy

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Norway and the United States Signs Agreement on Collaboration on Artificial Intelligence

Norway signs agreement with the US Department of Energy to work more closely on research, innovation, education and ethical issues in the field of artificial intelligence.

It has been a secret for a while, yet I am now happy to say that an agreement has been signed between Norway and the United States on collaboration in the field of artificial intelligence. The official agreement is not released to the public yet, however the general context can be understood from the press release published on the 16th of March 2022 by the Norwegian government. This press release is the topic of my article.

I would like to stress that this is my personal blog on Medium and not an official statement from NORA.ai.

This being said, I am not one of the key people in setting up this agreement, and according to someone I spoke to that was involved for a long period of time the agreement was a process lasting 4–5 years. I would like to write more about the whole process once Norway and the U.S. release the official document to the public.

So how have I been involved? I have been following this process since I started working for the Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Research Consortium (NORA.ai) assisting our CEO. I started working in NORA.ai one and a half year ago with AI Policy and Ethics both with international collaboration as well as national engagement.

How does NORA.ai relate to this agreement?

NORA.ai is a Norwegian collaboration between 8 universities, 3 university colleges and 4 research institutes within AI, machine learning and robotics. We are strengthening Norwegian research, education and innovation within these fields.

NORA.ai has been part of the writing process of this agreement for the last few years. Again, I have to stress there were others involved at an earlier stage and throughout the process from Norway and the U.S. I may be able to mention more about this in a future article on my blog.

Why was this agreement made?

One of the main reasons cited in the press release is that it is:

A common contribution to solving important societal challenges.

On a broad sweeping level this agreement is about collaboration in the field of artificial intelligence. On a more detailed level it tackles specific issues such as energy, climate and health.

Norway as a nation has strong competencies within these areas and a prior history of extensive collaboration with the U.S that have enabled Norway to excel in these fields. Now the two nations have declared that we want to build competencies and capacity in the field of AI together.

“Large amounts of data and new types of supercomputers now make it possible to use advanced methods in artificial intelligence to solve tasks that were not previously possible. This can contribute to breakthroughs in a number of areas.”

What is this agreement about?

This agreement is written between the Department of Energy in the United States and the Ministry of Research and Education in Norway.

“Norway and the United States will collaborate more on artificial intelligence.”

This is the title of the current press release and cuts to the core of what this agreement is intended for. Specifically the press release mentions artificial intelligence can contribute to these areas:

  • Carbon capture and storage.
  • Smarter energy systems.
  • Better climate modeling.
  • More personalised medicine.

Norway has now signed an agreement with the US Department of Energy to work more closely on research, innovation, education and ethical issues in the field. Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education in Norway Ola Borten Moe has the following to say about the agreement:

“I am glad that we have put this agreement in place. The United States has very strong professional environments in artificial intelligence, and we look forward to working with the best to develop methods and technologies to solve societal challenges in areas such as climate, energy and health. This is technology with enormous potential, and an important ambition is collaboration on the development of artificial intelligence that is adapted to Norwegian interests and business,”

Moreover, the agreement has these focal points in facilitating collaboration on:

  1. Joint research and innovation projects.
  2. Exchange of researchers and students.
  3. Sharing of technology and equipment.
  4. Joint educational programs.
  5. Further development of ethical and responsible use of technology.
  6. Legal and technical solutions to ensure privacy in data sharing.

It is a broad agreement that covers a range of areas between two nations.

Who initiated the agreement?

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has initiated the agreement. This is a long-term effort on partnerships in AI. Norway as a nation has welcomed this effort and agreed to build together going forward with this initiative in the coming years.

Examples of cases where collaboration could happen

Within the press release Norway outlines a range of cases that could be of interest in the coming collaboration:

1. Carbon capture and storage: This is a promising technology with great development potential, and it can be improved, among other things, through simulations of large-scale storage. Here, SINTEF, Equinor and DoE are already in the process of data sharing and analysis2. Supermodeling of weather and climate: The goal is to develop better climate models to be able to create seasonal forecasts and predict multi-year development3. Development of new drugs: Data from medical tests can provide information that enables researchers to ask new questions and develop better drugs that can be used quickly.4. Personalized medicine: Cancer prevention and treatment, diabetes and cardiac diagnostics are examples of medical fields where further precision can be achieved using artificial intelligence for the benefit of the patient. Here, the Cancer Registry and one of DoE's national laboratories have already collaborated on cervical cancer.

What is the next step?

As can be expected there are talks on how to operationalise the agreement and what needs to be done going forward. Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education in Norway Ola Borten Moe had originally planned a trip to the U.S. and Canada in February 2022, but it was postponed to June 2022. The agreement is signed virtually and is due to be signed physically in Washington.

An agreement for collaboration may require greater coordination between Norway and the U.S going forward.

In my personal opinion it is important that Norway has a clear overview of areas outlined in the agreement to proceed:

  1. AI Research. What is the AI-related research output related to AI in Norway? How many AI researchers in Norway are active within the different areas outlined by the agreement and what actions are taken to facilitate connection with these communities in the U.S. This also requires a similar overview by representatives in the U.S. How many AI-related students graduate in Norway each year (BA, MA, PhD, etc.)? How can we learn more about AI infrastructure for research together? An overview of available AI-research related compute capacity and processes regarding facilitation of usage for AI researchers. How can new capabilities within AI hardware be jointly developed or strengthened?
  2. AI Education. We have already mapped out the AI-related courses in Norway on MA- and PhD-level in NORA.ai. If we have a similar overview within the U.S. it might be possible to see what is being taught and also consider areas where a common effort is needed for new courses in the field of AI. NORA.ai runs a national research school for AI. This could be synchronised with national efforts in the U.S. especially in regards to PhD exchange or AI summer/winter schools.
  3. AI Innovation. Both public and private innovation in AI has importance for collaborations in AI to benefit citizens in Norway and the U.S. If solving important societal challenges is to be undertaken then Norway needs an overview of AI, ML and Robotics projects in the Norwegian state. Where in the Norwegian state are AI models running or being developed? A lot of innovation is already ongoing, one example is the innovation in AI within the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, digital innovation was crucial with the large unemployment numbers during the pandemic. Another is an overview of private sector innovation in AI and case studies (overview) particularly in energy, climate and health within both countries.
  4. Ethical issues in the field of AI. Discussions in the intersection of ethical, legal and societal issues. Especially interesting to see how to address the continuing challenges to privacy and the challenges by the The Norwegian Data Protection Authority (Datatilsynet) to various American companies. What ethical issues can be seen in energy, climate and health? There are already different approaches to how this is managed for the population in both countries. How are these differences in privacy or approaches reconciled or navigated by AI researchers who wish to collaborate? Furthermore, solutions are deployed with the necessity to navigate a range of regulatory frameworks and ethical principles for AI in both countries. Norwegians are excellent at adopting digital technologies, yet with mainly public healthcare different concerns for AI models might need to be considered. Norway is a signatory to UNESCO Recommendation on the ethics of AI (not yet signed by the U.S.) and may want to pilot Ethical Impact Assessments to complement Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) required under the GDPR (also an obligation for high-risk AI systems in the proposed EU Artificial Intelligence Act). Additionally insights from the Norwegian Sandbox for responsible artificial intelligence focused on personal data could be shared with similar initiatives in the U.S. or help map projects in both countries that may require particular caution or attention.

These are a few of my initial thoughts of what Norway could map to get a clearer view of potential points of collaboration. We have an overview of some of these points in NORA.ai, yet many remain and a concerted effort by many in Norway will be needed to increase the coordination on these matters.

Admittedly, collaborations do not necessarily happen due to a complete overview and might to a greater extent be about friendships or moments of serendipity. It is about meeting people and exchanging ideas. Mapping will not immediately help with this, and many involved in the process have good ideas about who they might want to work with. Actions to facilitate meetings such as the one scheduled in June 2022 are of equal or greater importance.

Perhaps Norway could use this agreement with the U.S. as part of an argument to build capacity within the state to tackle these larger questions related to artificial intelligence. For AI-related research to take societal concerns into perspective — ensuring responsible AI for citizens— I believe we need to develop capacity in both countries within the state to handle such a collaboration.

After all, this agreement happens with the backdrop of an ongoing energy crisis, climate crisis and a war in Ukraine together with a global pandemic. For concerns in health, energy, climate and ethics we will be building new lasting friendships across the Atlantic in the field of AI. We wish to bring our countries closer. Friendships are surely needed to tackle these shared challenges that we see in the present, unfolding in front of us.

This is #1000daysofAI and you are reading article 511. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence for 1000 days. The first 500 days I wrote an article every day, and now from 500 to 1000 I write at a different pace.

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Alex Moltzau

Alex Moltzau

1.4K Followers

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