This is part of our ‘Meet Our Delegates’ series where we introduce you to social scientists and technologists who are attending the conference. 

Hei Jani, nice to meet you! You’re the AI Lead at Solita, which is headquartered in Helsinki. Can you tell us a bit about Solita and what your job involves?

Solita is a digital transformation company driven by data and human insight. We create culture, services and tech solutions that help us reinvent businesses and society for the better. Our services range from strategic consulting to service design, digital development, data, AI & analytics and managed cloud services.

My job title at Solita is AI Lead, I work in the no-man’s-land situated between design, machine learning, technology and human insight. I help people understand, and utilise, the possibilities offered by machine learning, hopefully in a sustainable and responsible manner.

In March Solita published a report on the ethics of artificial intelligence. In it you talk about the ‘black box problem’. For those who haven’t read the report, can you summarise your perspective on this important issue? 

The black box problem is a label often attached to machine learning solutions built using artificial neural networks (ANN), an algorithm very loosely modelled on neural systems found in the animal kingdom. In the last decade or so ANNs have become hugely popular due to the high-quality results data scientists, the specialists deploying machine learning, have been able to get from using them. How an ANN produces its results can be difficult, if not impossible, to understand, which means that any solution built using an ANN may produce great results, but the why and how remains unknown. Thus the popularised term “black box”.

At the end of the day if we cannot understand exactly how an AI application produces its results it is difficult to measure how fair, or ethical, the results are. Trusting such an application is a leap in the dark, that many of us take every day when using AI applications embedded in social media, search engines, online stores etc.

You work alongside a social scientist, Antti Rannisto, who is also coming to the conference. As a technologist, what are the benefits, in your opinion, of having social scientists on tech teams?

Technology is used to build services for people. Social scientists have a scientific framework for understanding people, thus, they enable technologists, such as myself, to build better services. Developing services without human insight is a waste of resources. Simple as that.

Why are you excited to attend the conference and what do you hope to get from attending?

I am really looking forward to hearing the keynotes, but most of all I am excited to meet people who understand people better than I, as a computer man, would ever be able to.

In your opinion, why do you think other technologists should attend the conference?

Technology belongs to people, not the other way around. With the ever increasing speed of AI development, we cannot repeat this too often.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us or say?

Looking forward to it!

Kiitos, Jani, we look forward to meeting you in October!