Government usually isn't the place to look for innovation in IT or new technologies like artificial intelligence. But Ott Velsberg might change your mind. As Estonia's chief data officer, the 28-year-old graduate student is overseeing the tiny Baltic nation's push to insert artificial intelligence and machine learning into services provided to its 1.3 million citizens. "We want the government to be as lean as possible," says the wiry, bespectacled Velsberg, an Estonian who is writing his PhD thesis at Sweden's Umeå University on using the Internet of Things and sensor data in government services. Estonia's government hired Velsberg last August to run a new project to introduce AI into various ministries to streamline services offered to residents.
It began three and a half billion years ago in a pool of muck, when a molecule made a copy of itself and so became the ultimate ancestor of all earthly life. It began four million years ago, when brain volumes began climbing rapidly in the hominid line. In less than thirty years, it will end. Jaan Tallinn stumbled across these words in 2007, in an online essay called Staring into the Singularity. The "it" was human civilisation. Humanity would cease to exist, predicted the essay's author, with the emergence of superintelligence, or AI, that surpasses human-level intelligence in a broad array of areas. Tallinn, an Estonia-born computer programmer, has a background in physics and a propensity to approach life like one big programming problem.
Estonia is building an artificial intelligence powered robo-judge that will rule over a backlog of small court cases. It will be fed legal documents and analyse them before coming to a decision based on its pre-programmed algorithms and training. The'robot judge' would preside over disputes of less than €7,000 (£6,000/$8,000) and free up more time for humans to work on bigger cases. Any ruling would be legally binding but could be appealed to a human judge. The project and technology is still in its infancy and no set date has been announced for its roll-out, but the larger AI project it is part of will announce its results in May.
Government usually isn't the place to look for innovation in IT or new technologies like artificial intelligence. But Ott Velsberg might change your mind. As Estonia's chief data officer, the 28-year-old graduate student is overseeing the tiny Baltic nation's push to insert artificial intelligence and machine learning into services provided to its 1.3 million citizens. "We want the government to be as lean as possible," says the wiry, bespectacled Velsberg, an Estonian who is writing his PhD thesis at Sweden's Umeå University on how to use AI in government services. Estonia's government hired Velsberg last August to run a new project to introduce AI into various ministries to streamline services offered to residents.
We know tech giants like Amazon, Baidu, Facebook and Google have AI advantages like collecting enormous amounts of data, access to top talent, huge investments in research and development, over smaller companies. However, the possibilities offered by AI are not reserved only for the largest companies and biggest economies. Estonia is looking for ways how to attract international talent and investments; and on the other hand, its small size with limited resources requires the public administration and government to work efficiently. No wonder that in Estonia, both the government and companies have noticed the potential of AI technologies to solve these current demographic and economic challenges, as the impact of AI on GDP in the Nordics alone is expected to be considerable: 9.9% of GDP (1.8 trillion). There is a large spread of AI readiness in Europe, but even the most advanced countries are lagging the US in AI frontier.
Happening this year on March 7 in Tallinn, the North Star AI annual conference will bring together leading AI practitioners and companies around the world to talk about real-world applications of data science and machine learning. It also aims to stimulate AI adoption in Northern Europe and educate the population on how to harness the opportunities offered by AI while providing them with the necessary skills to partner with machines. We know that tech giants like Amazon, Baidu, Facebook, and Google have AI advantages like collecting enormous amounts of data, access to top talent, huge investments to R&D, over smaller companies. However, the possibilities offered by AI are not reserved only for the largest companies and biggest economies. Estonia is looking for ways on how to attract international talent and investments.
Just before Christmas last year, Telia and Ericsson opened a 5G pilot network on Tallinn University of Technology's campus. It's a permanent network, created for TalTech scientists and the local startup hub to test new applications that need next-generation technology. Its first trial was to stream live 4K video from the Christmas market in Tallinn, which according to Telia Estonia, was the first live 4K broadcast in the region. Although it will take some time until mobile end users in Estonia can start signing up for 5G, there are other areas where the technology is already being put to use. One exciting project that's now powered by Telia's 5G network is ISEAuto, the first self-driving vehicle built in Estonia.
An artificial intelligence system has identified a previously unknown human ancestor that roamed the planet tens of thousands of years ago and left a genomic footprint in Asian individuals, scientists say. By combining deep learning algorithms and statistical methods, researchers from the University of Tartu in Estonia, Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), and the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Spain found that the extinct species was a hybrid of Neanderthals and Denisovans and cross bred with modern humans in Asia. The finding, published in Nature Communications, would explain that the hybrid found last year in the caves of Denisova -- the offspring of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father -- was not an isolated case, but rather was part of a more general introgression process. Researchers used deep learning for the first time ever to account for human evolution, paving the way for the application of this technology in other questions in biology, genomics and evolution. One of the ways of distinguishing between two species is that while both of them may cross breed, they do not generally produce fertile descendants.
I feel that there was a sort of explosion a couple of years ago after which the whole topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI) suddenly sprang into a wider audience's consciousness. All of a sudden we had Siri, Amazon's Alexa and we started talking about self-driving cars. Jaan Tallinn, how did it happen? There were two different explosions. I believe that a lot of the latter had to do with the works of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. Most importantly, the former was the revolution of deep learning.
Tallinn Digital Summit 2018 will host government ministers, entrepreneurs, and innovators from digitally minded countries around the world. The McKinsey Global Institute, the Lisbon Council, the Centre for Public Impact, and the European Centre for International Political Economy are amongst those bodies taking part. AI is a burning issue which requires immediate action, said Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. "AI will bring major changes in the near future and we cannot leave this to chance," Mr Ratas said. "We need a common legal framework, and guidelines on ethics and technology which would boost development and innovation while ensuring safety and trust.