Director Iiris Härmä: “Artificial Intelligence has so much potential for both the good and the bad”

Director Iiris Härmä: “Artificial Intelligence has so much potential for both the good and the bad”

Who Made You? documentary encourages people to reflect on the way technology and Artificial Intelligence are evolving, and on the profound ethical questions that are linked to this process. For Iiris Härmä, the film was an eye opening experience and an opportunity to explore a new field.

What inspired you to make a film about technology and Artificial Intelligence?
My interest towards these themes was sparked in 2015 in a Science competition organised by the University of Helsinki. At an event I heard Michael Laakasuo talk about his project that focuses on studying the moralities of AI. It was an eye opening experience –t we are living at a very unique time in history. The growth of technology is exponential and comes very close to all of us, to our private sphere of life. In addition to this, we are all in the process of learning and no one knows where we are going and how exactly technology will evolve. I got a strong feeling that this is a unique opportunity to encapsulate the zeitgeist.

Why do you think it’s important to discuss science and topics such as Artificial Intelligence in art?
Documentaries such as Who Made You? have an important role as a link between the general public and scientists. I find it important to bring up topics like this in an easily approachable form, because we are all responsible for deciding what the ethical decisions behind the way technology progresses are going to be. Political regulation is essential if we don’t want our public services to be solely based on the worldview of those who design and code the systems. It is also important to stay on track of how our data is used and for what purposes. I’m happy that we have been able to have an impact through this film. We have taken part in events where this documentary works as a conversation starter. It allows ordinary people and civil servants to become aware of the issues in the field.

Has your own technology usage changed as a result of making this documentary?
At least my awareness of the field has increased. I now understand much better what we can do with all this new technology. It is for example possible to scan images out of someone’s brain. I have also become aware of how important it is to politically regulate the use of technology. It’s still possible to make a difference and impact the framework that will direct our use of technology in the future.

Do you have a specific vision in mind about what the future of technology and Artificial Intelligence will be like?
I wish I did! I think gadgets will get even smaller in size. On a broader scale, I think technology and Artificial Intelligence have so much potential to advance both the good and the bad. It’s very positive for global development that technology and AI advance equality. Even in the most remote regions people can access our shared global knowledge and gain access to better education.

Has technology stolen your heart? Are you going to continue working with these themes?
Not really! Besides technology, this documentary also talks about the relationship between humans and technology, explores the boundaries of humanity, and tries to get people to talk about values. My next documentary will focus on the relationship between humans and nature and it will be filmed in Northern Kenya with an indigenous tribe. Overall, the story will be very different from this one, but the undercurrent that explores humanity and society will be similar.

Who Made You? (dir. Iiris Härmä, 2019) screening in the The Future of Science theme evening organised by the Finnish Institute in Glasgow 30/1/2020 at 8.30pm. Duration 1h 20min, free admission.
Centre for Contemporary Arts, 350 Sauchiehall Street Glasgow G2 3JD


Text: Eeva Lehtonen Photo: Iiris Härmä

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