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The wiz of AI urges Sweden to step up its game

Dr. Christian Guttmann, founder and leader of the NAII, Nordic Artificial Intelligence Institute, wants to see more resources put into AI within healthcare.

“If we want to continuing the quality of care that we are experiencing today, or that we are expecting today from healthcare…you will not achieve it without new technology. You need it.”

He continues by comparing Artificial Intelligence technology to electricity.

“It is similar to asking; Do you think we are dependent of electricity when we are [practicing] healthcare and medicine? Every hospital or clinic relies on electricity. It needs to be there,” Dr. Guttmann said.

“If you don’t have [AI technology], it would eventually be like being in an environment where you don’t have electricity.”

Compared to other countries, Sweden is falling behind within AI.

“Here in the Nordics, and in Sweden, very little has been done,” he said.

There are some countries that have the ambition to take the lead.

“Most places in Europe and Asia have taken really big steps. China is one example. Last year they announced they will be the leader, the number one place for AI in the world, by year 2025. If they were to achieve that, then we will buy many of our future products from China. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just what’ll happen,” Dr. Guttmann said. “We want to maintain a strong position in the world when it comes to offering relevant products and services, which need to be interesting and essential because it’s a global market. We have to ensure, focus on, investing in the right technologies.”

He said investing into basic and useful AI research and applications should be a no-brainer.

“If the same question would have come up 20 or so years ago, whether we should put money into the Internet or not, and we would decide not to do it, I think the Swedish industry sector would be in enormous trouble now. That will be precisely the same with AI. If not significantly money is spent on this topic, in everything; research, industry and new regulations, the products and services we can produce will become irrelevant for the global market.”

Dr. Guttmann has more than 20 years of experience within AI, a journey consisting of many international experiences and lots of published work. He holds a doctorate in Distributed Artificial Intelligence from Monash University in Australia, a Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, a Master of Science in Theoretical Computer Science from University Paderborn in Germany, and a Bachelor of Psychology from Stockholm University, Sweden.

He has held positions such as; Senior Researcher and Theme Leader at Etisalat British Telecom in the UAE, United Arab Emirates; Area Lead in Health Care Analytics at IBM in Australia; CEO and founder of Director of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science in Sweden; board member at the Swedish Artificial Intelligence Society; Professor (Adj. Assoc.) in Artificial Intelligence at the University of New South Wales in Australia, and more.

He has dedicated his whole life and career to AI and innovation.

“I took it all the way,” Dr. Guttmann said.

Today, he is the Executive Director of NAII, Nordic Artificial Intelligence Institute, and Global Head of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science as well as Chief Artificial Intelligence Scientist at Tieto.

“In my case, I did psychology because I’m very very interested in and fascinated by intelligence behaviour. And, also creating and engineering,” he said and continues,”so, psychology and social studies enabled me to understand how humans and animals are interacting with each other and how they’re behaving. There are lots and lots of scientific insights. And then actually engineering it, building systems that are smart – maybe like us, maybe differently smart. All these insights have helped to build these systems that can act more dynamic and in certain environments.”

Dr. Guttmann said he once built an artificial soccer team which resulted in an award by the Swedish and Scandinavian Society of Artificial Intelligence.

“That was like World Cup of robotic soccer,” he said. “The challenges that come with these types of games…they are very dynamic. They are happening in the real world, and they are much more challenging as opposed to games which happen, for example, on the board.”

The choice of sport had a larger purpose.

“Until the ‘90s, many AI problems or games, like chess or certain games that relies on a very discrete world, were easier to model, and many even solved. But soccer, for example, is much more demanding, much more complicated. You need to be aware of other players, you need to think about teams, how the ball is moving. Once you manage to solve these types of problems, then you’re able to also build, for example, robots that can rescue, so that they can help people in autonomous and tricky situations, like houses that are on fire, or avalanches. It’s not a chess game, it’s a real-world scenario,” Dr. Guttmann added.

Robotics are already being implemented into healthcare around the world. They are being used for “simple procedures.”

“It’s not brain surgery yet, you know. It’s more simple procedures,” he said.

Dr. Guttmann predicts the first, more substantial, surgery performed by an autonomous robot will occur within the next five years. Currently, the most known robot within healthcare, which is remote as opposed to autonomous, is the Da-Vinci robot. It has been in place for 25 years.

“That’s used when one person sits i Singapore and performs a surgery on someone that’s in Sydney. But, it’s not like we’re offering completely autonomous robotic surgery at the new Karolinska.”

When it comes to robotics in the Swedish healthcare, he said its implementation depends on many other forces.

“It depends on so many factors, like political, investment of hospitals, regulations, ethical approval of technology.

“It’s a question of how much Sweden wants to be part of that future. If Sweden is able and willing to really get into this very heavily, then advanced robotic surgery can also happen [here] within the next five years. If not, maybe 20, 30 years.”

Dr. Guttmann has, however, one important message to the government and stakeholders interested in AI: To reach out and listen to the most knowledgeable people, not the most exposed.

“I’ve seen to many people that have perhaps recently got knowledge of Artificial Intelligence, and then they appear on panels, or they write newspaper articles, or do interviews. The answers that I’ve seen there…the responses are not accurate, often very misleading,” he said.

If decisions are taken based on recommendations by people not experienced enough, Sweden  might run the risk of heading into a wrong direction in the future, Dr. Guttmann claims.

“You need the right people…that have deep knowledge about the topic.”