Do You Know What Artificial Intelligence Really Is?

Learn Artificial Intelligence from credible sources - your future depends on it!

by Christian Guttmann Executive Director, Nordic Artificial Intelligence Institute, Sweden

NAII Article Series #3 - Artificial Intelligence insights from the Nordic Artificial Intelligence Institute (

If someone did a 2-week online course in medicine and told you they are ready to perform a complex brain surgery on you, would you take their offer? Or imagine you boarded a Boeing 747, and hear the pilot announcing "Welcome onboard, I read a book on flying last weekend, you are my first passengers - enjoy the journey!" - would you feel comfortable staying on board? Let me guess - your answer is most likely no to both questions.

Closing the gap of "real versus fake understanding" of Artificial Intelligence

We recognise that practising medicine and flying passenger planes is complex, and requires education and real world practice acquired over decades. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is possibly even more complex - including each of the many subfields, such as Machine Learning, Natural Language Understanding, Robotics, Planning, Reasoning and Distributed AI. AI has been an established area for over 70 years. I find it increasingly concerning when so many people and businesses shape their view on AI based on weak and questionable sources with little to no background in AI. This increases the chasm of "real vs. fake understanding". You can be truly misinformed and misguided about AI when you engage with weak partners that have no education and experience in the subject matter -- regrettably, I keep seeing this too many times.

With suitable partners and knowledgeable people in Artificial Intelligence, you will better understand the potential and limitations of AI, where to head, and where not to head. From a social and economic perspective, you can compete with companies globally. Several countries and companies are advancing quickly as they are rigorous in choosing their AI partners. As explained in the section below, look for partners with two qualities: strong industry expertise, and scientific/technological depth in AI (Check these qualities thoroughly! Check them at the next panel, interview, seminar and business meeting!).

The main message is this:

Choose and evaluate your sources of information about Artificial Intelligence carefully, and find the best partner in improving your understanding and exploring possibilities of Artificial Intelligence in your business and daily life. Particularly for businesses, as you need to be increasingly effective in making AI and ML part of your products and services to stay competitive, I recommend strongly: listen and learn from people that have a substantial background in the area of AI. And don't be guided by articles where an author is not an expert on the subject matter, and start questioning the depth of people's expertise in panels, seminars and interviews that are now broadcasted so widely. Reduce your risks and invest time and money based on sound and substantial advice.

Do you know what Artificial Intelligence really is and what AI means to you and your organisation?

Clearly, Artificial intelligence (AI) is the most significant driver in your business and organization today and for decades to come, and it has been a well established area for over 70 years. As a business, you need to offer quality products and services in a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive landscape, it is more important than ever to find a trusted and leading AI partner that enables you to unleash the full potential of AI in your context. This partner can effectively address 1) increase sales and product quality, 2) reduce costs and 3) most importantly reduce business risks.

With AI, you can often achieve all these three outcomes concurrently. Here is a good example for AI augmentation (not automation, mind you): for identifying abnormalities in retinal images, we know that AI is able to deliver results with much greater accuracy and speed than highly trained medical experts with decades of medical education and clinical training. Medical experts can focus on the really important issues regarding health and patients, while the AI deals with "Tedious Complexities", frees up resources and delivers better and quicker outcomes to patients than could be done by human teams alone.

What are the benefits?


Find partners with deep industrial, scientific, technological, and ethical experience in AI.

Two of the most important combined qualities of a strong AI partner are as follows. Firstyour AI partner has decades of genuine industrial experience in designing, building and deploying AI products and services in various industry areas. This includes having understood and developed viable business models around AI and ML. These business models are challenging as they have different qualities than traditional business models in IT. It also includes to have practical experience with real-world deployment of AI, mastering complex data sets, sensory systems, robotic systems, and distributed AI models, just to name a few. It does not include knowledge and expertise in Business Intelligence or Descriptive Analytics.

Second, you want your AI and machine learning partner to have a substantial technological, scientific and ethical understanding of the state of the art in AI and machine learning. This partner creates novel and high impact IP (eg patents and publications) demonstrating that they understand your business and what is feasible today with AI and constantly co-evolving with the latest state of the art.

These partners need to have, at a minimum, teams with PhDs in Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning and a significant tech and science track record. This also includes that the AI leadership have a very good understanding about the current global AI regulation, ethics, and quality standards. To point this out more clearly: A 2-week online course on machine learning is great to have, but the knowledge obtained from these short courses just won’t cut it for your ambition to seize serious AI opportunities forward. As mentioned above, this is similar to attempting to plan and execute brain surgeries after doing a 2-week course in medicine. Noone in their right mind would proceed with such an absurd proposition.

If you interact solely with people that lack the right background and expertise, you run a substantial risk of misaligning your business and organizational objectives. An AI leader with the above two qualities can comprehensively assess the AI capabilities that you need in your business and organizational environment, and will also enhance any panel, seminar or workshop that you run or attend.

Here is a list of some of my international colleagues that are also global AI leaders with both industrial experience and substantial technological expertise:

Anand Rao, Eric Horvitz, Andrew Ng, Yann LeCun, Fei-Fei Li, Katia Walsh, Nick Jennings, Michael Wooldridge, Stuart Russell, Jürgen Schmidhuber, Wolfgang Wahlster, Simon Thompson, Nader Azarmi, Michael Georgeff, Geoff Webb (just to name a few). Be prepared to set aside an appropriate budget and focus for developing an AI strategy and execution, and involve experts early. Move confidently and quickly forward as otherwise your competitors are likely ahead of the game and secure these critical resources in AI. In some cases you may also consider to improve your internal expertise on the topic (which is sometimes possible). My recommendation: Ensure that you act confidently today with a partner in the room that gives you the right advice on AI strategy, innovation, products, and services.

Do you agree? Do you have comments? Please let us know, and reach out, also on Twitter.


Christian Guttmann (PhD) has 20+ years of expertise in leading international Artificial Intelligence projects in the intersection of research, innovation & industry. He is in committees of global AI events, e.g. Joint International Conference on AI (IJCAI). His current roles: Exec. Director, Nordic AI Institute, Prof (Adj. Assoc.), University of New South Wales, Research Fellow (Adj.), Karolinska Institute, VP & Global Head of AI at Tieto. His PhD and degrees are in AI and Psychology.