Grants for research on the impact of AI on people and society

15 December 2020

How does the new digital technology affect people and society? Two of the twelve grants this year in the WASP-HS research programme go to researchers at Uppsala University.

In a major 10-year national research programme, two Wallenberg Foundations are supporting research on the impact of the ongoing technology shift, involving digitalisation and artificial intelligence, on our society and our behaviour. Two of the grants in this year’s grant round have been awarded to research at Uppsala University for research on AI and cultural heritage collections and AI and financial markets.

The ongoing technology shift, involving digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence, will bring great opportunities and changes for society as a whole and individual people. Against this background, the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation and the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation last year initiated the national research programme WASP-HS (The Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Programme – Humanities and Society). The purpose is to learn more about the opportunities and challenges presented by artificial intelligence and autonomous systems in the humanities och social sciences. The Foundations are investing a total of SEK 660 million over ten years in WASP-HS. The primary focus is on analysing the impact of the ongoing technology shift in society on ethical, economic, labour market, social and legal circumstances.

“The ongoing technology shift is not just about technology, algorithms, and data power, but it will affect us all and society as a whole. It is therefore important that the humanities and social science aspects are also explored,” says Peter Wallenberg Jr, Chair of the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.

In this year’s grant round, ten projects in social sciences have been awarded grants by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation and two projects in the humanities grants by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation, totalling nearly SEK 70 million. Together with last year’s 16 projects, the WASP-HS programme now includes 28 research projects.

Two grants to Uppsala University

Two of this year’s twelve grants in WASP-HS go to researchers at Uppsala University – one in the humanities for research on AI and cultural heritage collections and one in the social sciences for research on AI and financial markets.

Anna Foka
Anna Foka, Department of ALM
Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

Anna Foka, Department of ALM (Archives, Libraries and Museums) has been granted SEK 4.9 million by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation for the four-year project “Quantifying Culture: A Study of AI and Cultural Heritage Collections”.

About the project:
Making cultural heritage more accessible and easier to understand, for future researchers and visitors as well as today’s, is a challenge. This project seeks to develop a digitalised model that, through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), enables scanning and automatic interpretation and classification of objects. The research is being conducted in collaboration with the Swedish National Heritage Board, the National Museums of World Culture, the National Archives of Sweden and Uppsala University Museum (Gustavianum).

The project group will investigate both how AI is currently applied and what its future potential might be for digital cultural heritage collections. The project aims to show how critical perspectives can be used for Swedish cultural heritage collections, in a context where AI is used to label archival material. The technology is reminiscent of that used for computer facial recognition or automatic online translation, for example.

The research group are aiming to establish mathematical models and algorithms to make the machines more advanced, so that they can pick out significant and more relevant information. The objective is to devise a machine that can be taught to identify people and cultural contexts in a range of cultural communities, or different parts of the world, with varying expectations and attitudes.

Innovative methods are bringing the humanities, social sciences and AI research together to explore how AI tackles qualitative aspects of the material. In this exploration, critical and ethical theories intersect with algorithms and mathematics.

Magnus Strand
Magnus Strand, Department of Business Studies
Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

Magnus Strand, Department of Business Studies, has been granted SEK 6 million by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation for the three-year project “AI and the Financial Markets: Accountability and Risk Management with Legal Tools”.

About the project:
In the financial markets, advanced artificial intelligence (AI) is used, for example, in algorithmic trading in financial instruments, and in credit assessment to see whether someone is eligible for a loan. AI has many advantages, such as superior efficiency and lower costs. But letting advanced algorithms manage financial decisions also entails risks.

Today, there is immense uncertainty about who is legally accountable for decisions taken by an AI and their implications for human beings and companies. Existing rules are extremely diverse in nature, and have varying purposes. What is more, legislation that keeps up with technological development is essentially unattainable. Players involved in the financial markets therefore need to act on their own. Their aim is to proactively manage their own accountability and the risks associated with AI.

In the project, the researchers will study, above all, how the players seek to distribute risks and accountabilities through their own assorted agreements and contracts – with AI programmers, customers, insurance companies and so forth. In addition, the researchers will study the overall ‘infrastructure of accountability’ laid down in the legislation, one reason being to see which gaps most urgently need to be closed.

Read more:

About WASP-HS
WASP-HS (Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Programme – Humanities and Society) includes a national graduate school with up to 70 doctoral students, the creation of at least ten new research groups across Sweden, support for twelve visiting professors to strengthen Swedish research and networking activities, and a number of research projects.

The Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation and the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation will invest a total of SEK 660 million during the period 2019–2028.

WASP-HS is an independent and parallel programme to WASP (the Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Programme), which aims to put Sweden at the international forefront in the areas of software, autonomous systems and AI.

About the Wallenberg Foundations
The Wallenberg Foundations are the collective name for the 17 public and private Foundations formed by the Wallenberg family or established in memory of family members.

The Foundations grant funding to excellent researchers and research projects as well as education with a national benefit focus and have since 1917 made grants totalling more than SEK 35 billion, of which almost eleven billion over the past five years.

The largest Foundation is the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, with a focus on science, technology and medicine. The two next largest Foundations are the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, with a focus on the social sciences, and the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation, with a focus on the humanities.