Students from The Bartlett, UCL’s Faculty of the Built Environment, spent four days at the Fourth Portal. Using emotional mapping software, students engage people in Great Yarmouth to gauge body reactions to the built environment when walking around the town.

Unit 8

Students and lecturers from UCL The Bartlett Unit 8, Engineering and Architectural Design MEng (MEAD) arrived in Great Yarmouth on Tuesday, 8th November 2022. Establishing themselves at the Fourth Portal, the four-day exercise encouraged public engagement using emotional mapping technology.

Unit 8, Engineering and Architectural Design in Market Row, Great Yarmouth

Day one: Students and lecturers arrive in Great Yarmouth

The group began their stay with an enjoyable visit to the Time and Tide museum before walking across Great Yarmouth as darkness fell. Arriving at the Fourth Portal, they met Gillian Harwood, owner of the buildings where the hub is situated. An overview and introduction to Great Yarmouth followed.

Catch The Tide Museum. Read about this important Great Yarmouth asset here

Day two: Guided tours and meeting local people

Students had two guided tours of historic Great Yarmouth before gathering at the Fourth Portal for an evening event. In the weeks leading up to the visit, the Fourth Portal team had been contacting local businesses, institutions and groups with an open invitation.

Fourth Portal invitation October-November 2022 

A range of local people came to discuss the town, including the principal of East Coast College and the chair of the Civic Society. The locally made short film, Love Letter to Row 116 was shown followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker, Karl Trosclair. Enjoyable conversations continued late into the evening. The feedback from attendees and students was positive.

Students and local people discuss Great Yarmouth at the Fourth Portal

Day three: Emotional mapping

Students employed the open-source electronic prototyping platform Arduino to construct emotional maps of Great Yarmouth. The Arduino proved fascinating to everyone coming into the Fourth Portal; even the students seemed excited.

Arduino emotional mapping devices

What is Arduino?

“Arduino designs, manufactures, and supports electronic devices and software, allowing people around the world to easily access advanced technologies that interact with the physical world. Our products are straightforward, simple, and powerful, ready to satisfy users’ needs from students to makers and all the way to professional developers.”


Emotional mapping walks

Two finger sensors connected to the Arduino were attached to the volunteers. The sensors measured how the body reacted to different urban environments as the volunteer walked around Great Yarmouth. Students set a pre-defined destination and followed the volunteer, who chose the walking route.

Volunteers and students set off on different walks

Analysing the data

Students worked late into the evening on the data they had gathered. Not all the Arduino boxes worked as was hoped. Data was interrupted for several reasons, including loss of GPS connection. As frustrating as it was for the students, enough data was collected for the exercise and to present results on day 4.  

Students analysing data from the emotional mapping walks

Day four: Presenting results

Day four saw the Fourth Portal mind space transformed into a room for student presentations. Each student group presented their findings to professors back at UCL in London. The 3D models provided a fascinating insight into how people react when walking around Great Yarmouth.  

Presentations and 3D emotional mapping visualisation of Great Yarmouth


Great Yarmouth would benefit from an extensive study using such technology as Arduino. Engaging a large sample of local people and those new to the town could provide a deeper understanding of what the citizens of Great Yarmouth feel about their hometown. Such an undertaking could be a positive step toward addressing some of the many issues the town suffers.

The UCL students also had a direct beneficial impact on the income of local businesses, particularly accommodation, restaurants and gift establishments. The Fourth Portal will encourage more academic partners to visit Great Yarmouth over the coming year.

John M


James Paget book and traffic sign pointing to wild rose growing randomly on a traffic island, summer 2020.

As an outsider coming into Great Yarmouth, it was essential to find a hook, so linking a local man from the 1800s, James Paget with technology and AI may prove to provide the perfect avenue of engagement. 

For interventions to have any value, it is essential to have Patience, Perseverance and Hooks. Attempting something original, by original meaning new to the audience being engaged, requires patience. It takes time for people to even acknowledge something different, never mind become involved. Perseverance comes with refusing to be deterred or discouraged by those who only see something not working or who are determined to see something not work. However, being dogged and determined is of little value if there are no hooks. By hooks I mean subjects or objects that people can engage and relate to fairly easily, and not in some abstract way.

Finding paths, methods, stories to engage the disengaged or disinterested sits at the heart of the intervention process. In the UK at least, so much is imposed upon communities and individuals. Too often, this imposition comes from a misguided belief from those in power that people are intrinsically disinterested. What is seen as disinterest may as likely be a lack of clear avenue into what is being discussed or proposed. Provide the avenue and often people will overcome scepticism, and often fear, to engage.

Paget Garden and AI

The Paget Garden is such an avenue in Great Yarmouth. Most people locally know James Paget’s name because that is the name of the local general NHS hospital. Beyond the name it’s clear little is known of the man amongst the local community – and this makes for a potential perfect hook! Paget has a fascinating story and connection to the local town, and this can be utilised to draw in the community and create an avenue of engagement with Fourth Portal, Portal B.

As with the name James Paget, a great many local people may have heard the term AI, Machine Learning, even possibly linked data and The Fourth Industrial Revolution, yet few are likely to have an in-depth understanding. So this has presented an opportunity to link these two seemingly unconnected areas, technology and James Paget, together as a fun introduction to both.

James Paget

Along with his brothers, James Paget published Sketch Of The Natural History Of Yarmouth And Its’ Neighbourhood, which listed all the fauna, flora and birds that they discovered around Great Yarmouth before 1834. Paget’s life desire was to access a modern microscope, the AI and Machine Learning of the time and an instrument that would not only seal his name in history but also significantly advance medical science. Paget changed the course of treating cancer, leaving a legacy of conditions named after his name, the most common of which is Paget’s Disease.

Making Connection

Using existing plant apps that identify plants, freely available to download, the Paget garden will encourage visitors to Portal B to begin identifying the different plants in the garden. The intention over time is to create a Portal B open source game app of our own that encourages participants to try and identify the plants and birds from the Paget list of 1834; a little along the lines of Pokemon Go game! In doing so, the ambition is to begin a wider conversation and introduction to AI and other advanced technologies, how they work and how a person can utilise them for their own purposes.

This post should be read in conjunction with JAMES PAGET, PAGET GARDEN and PAGET GAME blog posts to follow.

John M.


Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020

Believe in Yarmouth: Catch the Tide is Gillian Harwood’s personal manifesto to turn the fortunes of Great Yarmouth and assist with the transition into becoming a Fourth Industrial Revolution town.

Gillian Harwood owns the site of Fourth Portal B and is investing in restoring buildings in the town of Great Yarmouth to a high standard, recovering their architectural richness. This manifesto has been a joint effort to encourage other like-minded people to potentially invest to create a blueprint for collaboration and commerce in a post-Covid-19 world full of challenges.

Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020 p1
Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020
Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020
Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020
Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020
Believe In Yarmouth | Catch the Tide August2020

John M


Photo of pub 100 years ago on table for plant exchanges

Eighteen months after setting off on this Haphazard Business journey, stage one has completed with the opening of the first Innovation Hub today and beginning the next chapter, as I document trying to establish this enterprise in a time of Covid-19 and no live events.

Portal B

Named Portal B @ St John’s Head, the site is opening six months later than intended due to issues with the building, hygiene and of course Coronavirus. Using techniques developed through my Platform-7 interventions, I intend to slowly change the space over a period of weeks and months from a traditional old English boozer into a visionary space of the 4IR. How it will look in a few months’ time will be difficult to tell as there remains a mountain of challenges ahead, not least a potential further Covid-19 lockdown.

Haphazard Business Blog

The Haphazard Business blog will now begin to focus on the wider challenges the new venture faces while a daily journal will be kept on the Fourth Portal website documenting the day-to-day experience of developing the hub. Subscribe to the daily journal here.

Mission Impossible – Maybe!

This really might be a Mission Impossible! Even before Coronavirus, the town of Great Yarmouth where the hub is based was in trouble. Following months of lockdown, the town is now in real trouble with many of the main attractions either still closed or greatly restricted. As of writing, Casinos and Nightclubs must remain closed, a big draw for the town. Other attractions have restricted access and some larger chain stores have not reopened, Argos for example.

Although the seafront has seen an influx of holidaymakers this side of town, where Portal B is located, has seen little in returning office workers. A building opposite, which had 800 working throughout the day in February 2020 presently has less than 20 in the offices. All along the North Quay, non-retail businesses are either still closed or working on skeleton staff. Passing trade is minimal, even the normally busy road has only light traffic.


My speciality is creating intriguing live events that draw people in in such a way that they become part of the project I am creating. This has generally worked very successfully over the past ten years, and when I had bars in London for a decade. Now though, indoor live events remain banned and finding insurance cover for outdoor events is proving difficult.

My focus over July 2020 has been to get St John’s Head, the location of Portal B, clean and up to a standard where people can come in and feel comfortable. Now that has been achieved my mind will turn towards how to negotiate the myriad of new rules, which keep on changing, and encourage people to visit. This is going to be no mean task and going to take a lot of creative thinking.

Video | Portal B

This 2-minute video was recorded earlier providing a quick tour of Portal B.

Day One | Portal B

Visiting and Supporting

Portal B @ St John’s Head can be found on the North Quay, Great Yarmouth, NR30 1JB on the Norfolk Coast, with a stunning North Sea beach on one side and the gorgeous rivers Yare and Bure on the other leading out to the Norfolk Broads National Park.

I will welcome you visiting and telling your friends, particularly those in Norfolk or visitors to Norfolk, and any suggestions, presentations or events that you may have. Get in touch here.

Going Forward

This is by far my most challenging undertaking to date, even without Covid-19 it was going to be difficult. I am prepared that this may all peter out, unable to sustain itself or me, never mind anyone else. This acknowledged, I am also pretty resolute and determined, my inner core feels confident doors will open and surprises will be revealed.

Whatever happens. it’s going to be an interesting journey, a journey that many businesses in the UK, and most of the world are now facing. Please leave comments below.

Thanks for following, John M


Post-Lockdown Pub Opening | Soho 04 July 2020 | Credit: Daily Mirror

UK Prime Minister Johnson ululates ‘return to normality’ as pubs in England reopen post lockdown, however things are not returning to pre-2020 normalcy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution is only going to further accelerate the process of fundamental change to the way we live.

Cover Photo: Soho Frith Street, 04 July 2020 Post-Lockdown | Daily Mirror

Pubs and Restaurants Reopen

Yesterday, 4th July 2020 pubs in England could reopen after almost 4-months of Covid-19 lockdown. There was excitement in some quarters, yet within the industry there is some trepidation, with many smaller operators delaying opening for a few weeks to watch what happens. Viewing Twitter, it was a mixed bag, some places very busy, others empty. Great Yarmouth at 7.00pm was pretty quiet with seats to be had in all pubs and bars that were open.

Fourth Portal is opening in a traditional English pub so is subject to the same rules and regulations as all licensed premises. The plan opening is for the middle of July 2020 and then only on reduced hours. My barometer has been to watch Texas and Florida in the US, where there was a gun-ho approach fuelled by rising populism that saw pubs and bars open within a few weeks of initial lockdown. Now Texas hospitals are on alert for a patient ‘tsunami’ as cases rocket upwards.

John Hopkins University Texas Cases | Source: Sky News

See Sky News report Friday 3 July 2020 23:38, UK (click)

Race to Normalcy

Commentators early on in the pandemic were already predicting politicians, big business, and many institutions would attempt to return things to normal – however unlikely! Screenwriter Julio Vincent Gambuto predicted an onslaught of marketing to return a sense of normalcy ;

Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. (That never happened. What are you talking about?) Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. It will come in the traditional forms — a billboard here, a hundred commercials there — and in new-media forms: a 2020–2021 generation of memes to remind you that what you want again is normalcy. In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it. We want desperately to feel good again, to get back to the routines of life, to not lie in bed at night wondering how we’re going to afford our rent and bills, to not wake to an endless scroll of human tragedy on our phones, to have a cup of perfectly brewed coffee and simply leave the house for work. The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong. And every brand in America will come to your rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming.

Julio Vincent Gambuto

Allowing pubs and cafes to open is the UK government’s attempt at returning to that ‘normalcy’ and encouraging silly hashtags like #supersaturday to build expectation, as if it is a big international football tournament.

4IR Concertina

The World was on the cusp of dramatic change even before the Covid-19 pandemic as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) began to emerge, in essence the virus has just hastened that change. Zoom meetings, online shopping, in-store shopping apps, sharing technologies have all boomed during the pandemic. Even grandma learned pretty quickly how to use Apple FaceTime once she became cut off from visitors. The health sector, from care homes to Intensive Care Units (ICU) has had to embrace advanced technologies at speed to cope. Technologies that were predicted to take a good number of years to become everyday, have literally been adopted overnight, with the adopter curve virtually losing all meaning.

There are many benefits to this sudden shift, however there could be significant downsides in the short-to-medium term as the economy struggles to readjust and adapt, as my post on AI Supermarkets (Dec19) discusses;

“How much are the authorities and government preparing for the potential tsunami of job losses that may incur because of this technology and changing consumer behaviour? What new skills do people need to learn to still be economically active in the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)?”

AI Supermarkets, Haphazard.Business, 18 Dec 2019

The AI Supermarkets blog post surmises a 3-to-5 year timeline for governments to build training programmes and prepare. Now with Coronavirus still raging that timeline will be concertinaed into 6-to-12 months!

Leadership Failure

Much of the horrific slaughter of the early battles in World War One (WWI) came about because ageing generals applied Napoleonic War tactics in a time of mechanical technological change. Almost incredulous to a modern observer, when looking through the lens of hindsight, men on horses were sent to cavalry charge tanks and machine guns. There is reasonable evidence already available that when historians look back at the Covid-19 outbreak it will be noted that it was not that the technology to limit the devastating impact did not exist; it was an old mindset, incapable of adapting strategy and using new tools available that led to such devastation of lives and livelihoods.

The UK Track and Trace system is a shambles and does not work. Tens of thousands of people have been employed to use pencil and paper to phone people when many other more efficient methods could be implemented and to great effect. The whole concept is a car-crash of old and new cultural thinking about security, data, privacy and greater societal good. Meanwhile large technology firms have had a boom period, with a large proportion of the global population forced to stay at home with nothing but the internet and phone to communicate with the outside world.

Big Tech’s billionaire class will have more power after the crisis than they had before, argues Sally Hubbard of the Open Market Institute. Brick-and-mortar retail is hemorrhaging jobs at a time when Amazon is adding hundreds of thousands of their own. Google is gaining even more of a foothold in the home as educators across the country deploy Google Classroom to teach students remotely — whether you want your family to use it or not. 

Vox| Recode

With populism ravaging the Western democracies and authoritarian regimes cracking down hard on dissent, it is difficult to predict how the power of these giant private enterprises will be curbed. Regardless how disinterested an individual may be towards these issues will not indemnify that person from being buffeted by the consequences. A key objective of the Fourth Portal, and these Haphazard blog posts, is to raise the awareness of these competing forces and assist people in negotiating the rapid changes we are all undergoing.

Near Future

Once/if a vaccine is secured, or enough people are immune to this strand of Coronavirus, the planes will begin flying again to a schedule and the pandemic will seem like a vivid abstract distraction, distant and almost unbelievable. Of course, this will only be for those unaffected or uninvolved. For those who lived through it on the frontline, whether in health, care home, bus driving and many other risky roles, and for the survivors and those who have lost loved-ones, the pain, and maybe terror, will live on, possibly indefinitely. For the rest, the world will have changed dramatically and the years ahead will continue to change dramatically as technology and new systems infiltrate every single aspect of daily life.

John M


Julio Vincent Gambuto, 10 April 2019 · 9 min read, Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting* | You are not crazy, my friends, Forge. Online 13April2020 https://forge.medium.com/prepare-for-the-ultimate-gaslighting-6a8ce3f0a0e0

Theodore Schleifer@teddyschleifer ( Apr 7, 2020, 6:00pm EDT), These are the trade-offs we make when we depend on billionaires to save us | Now more than ever, the coronavirus crisis has Americans living in tech billionaires’ world. Vox. Online 14April2020. https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/4/7/21203179/coronavirus-billionaires-philanthropy-bill-gates-larry-ellison-mark-zuckerberg-jack-dorsey


Does the name Haphazard Business seem less abstract than two weeks ago? The haphazard response to the Covid-19 epidemic around the world provides a stark reminder how quickly situations can change and the importance of being open and nimble when faced with sudden disruption.

Photo: Changing The Lightbulb | Four White House staffers huddle together pre-President Trump’s press briefing announcing paramount importance in observing social distancing. (Screenshot from YouTube, 27March2020, by John McKiernan)

What’s in a name?

The name Haphazard Business took several months to decide upon. It was essential to convey the precarious nature of all plans; no matter how well laid out they may be on paper. Planning is very important in creating any business or pursuing an idea, however it is also equally important to create contingency throughout, and be ready to abandon previously hard held views.

On setting out on this journey to create a hub, few understood why I chose this name, it made no sense as it is not selling anything and is abstract. Yet today, with the Coronavirus keeping more than half the World’s population on lockdown, does Haphazard Business seem less abstract?

Changing Tack

The Washington Post in mid-March ran a headline combining ‘haphazard’ and ‘helter-skelter’ when describing the White House early response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Helter-skelter is not in the Haphazard Business Glossary, although soon to be added, and refers as much to the rollercoaster ride we are all embarking upon as to the more recongnised meaning; “in disorderly haste or confusion.” (Google)

Jared Kushner’s ‘haphazard and helter-skelter’ coronavirus response revealed by The Washington Post (Raw Story)

Kushner entered into a crisis management process that, despite the triumphant and self-congratulatory tone of public briefings, was as haphazard and helter-skelter as the chaotic early days of Trump’s presidency — turning into something of a family-and-friends pandemic response operation.

The administration’s struggle to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak has been marked by infighting and blame-shifting, misinformation and missteps, and a slow recognition of the danger. Warring factions have wrestled for control internally and for approval from a president who has been preoccupied with the beating his image is taking.

Washington Post

Although the businessman within President Donald Trump has been pivoting wildly in the last few days of March 2020, as the full scale of the crisis and the impact on the US has become apparent, it was by all measures a slow response. His unwillingness to listen to the professional advice being offered may prove his downfall. His fixed mindset refused to acknowledge wider factors beyond his own experience, and can be a lesson everyone can learn from.

Post Covid-19 World

At time of writing, no one knows how this global crisis will play out. What is fairly clear already is that individuals, communities, business and the global economy are going to stumble out of this into a new World. The Kaleidoscope has been shaken dramatically, and business as usual cannot resume.

Haphazard Business was not a prophesy of impending crisis, it was and remains a blog to demonstrate the need for flexibility and to encourage expanding the nuance within an idea or project being pursued; the importance of being open, adaptable and accepting of change and challenge. Creative collaboration trumps the lone scientist (pun intended), as Walter Isaacson points out masterfully in his book The Innovators.

Going Forward

It might be difficult today to believe, as the death toll mounts, that we will come out the other side of this pandemic. It is imperative that those in a position of power, wealth and stability, as well as the visionaries, now step up to the plate with urgency and begin to shape the post Covid-19 World into something that is more equitable and empathetic than our recent past.

I have already set in motion the speeding up of my plans and these will be revealed over coming blog posts. Please feel free to comment below.

John M


Brigham, Bob. 14 March 2020, Jared Kushner’s ‘haphazard and helter-skelter’ coronavirus response revealed by The Washington Post, Raw Story, Washington, Online. https://www.rawstory.com/2020/03/jared-kushners-haphazard-and-helter-skelter-coronavirus-response-revealed-by-the-washington-post/

Washington Post, 14 March 2020, Infighting, missteps and a son-in-law hungry for action: Inside the Trump administration’s troubled coronavirus response, The Washington Post, Washington. Online.https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/infighting-missteps-and-a-son-in-law-hungry-for-action-inside-the-trump-administrations-troubled-coronavirus-response/2020/03/14/530c28b4-6559-11ea-b3fc-7841686c5c57_story.html?arc404=true


The second Haphazard innovation hub will open during March 2020 and slowly evolve over the coming 12 months from a traditional old British boozer into an innovation hub fit for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Video | First view of St John’s Head shortly after collecting keys. 07 February 2020 | John McKiernan,

St John’s Head | Great Yarmouth

In a town where retail is in rapid decline and most of the pubs, cafes and restaurants are struggling to survive, St John’s Head in Great Yarmouth will appear an odd and unusual venture. Initially only opening for a few hours during the middle of the day, in an attempt to enticed local office workers out for a coffee, repairing and refitting back house will be the priority during the early weeks. There will be random one-off evening pop-up audio, folk and sound-art events throughout the spring. A stripped back menu will offer limited high quality items from ethical-led suppliers and new kinds of products sourced as local as is practical.

Technologies and Work Hub

Little will seem different on first opening. Only as time passes will customers begin to notice a slow change and the appearance of new technologies, some aimed specifically at the licensed on-trade, others with a more general purpose. Fast broadband will be installed to encourage customers to use the hubpub as a work, meeting and collaboration space. A range of non-alcohol drinks will accompany a selected small quality range of beers and spirits.

Build Steadily

Some of the Haphazard Business blog posts document the difficult trading conditions for retail businesses in Great Yarmouth. This will be no different for the Haphazard hubs, which will need to build a customer base from scratch, no easy task in any circumstances and particularly difficult in this part of Norfolk.

Beyond Robots and Self-Driving Vehicles

The 4IR will not only be about self-driving cars and robots, there will be a fundamental change in how most people will go about their business during daily life. The way the UK now shops and banks is a prime example of the change to life that the creation of the World Wide Web (www) brought about. The next generation of transformation, from AI Supermarkets to immersive gaming will be equally transformative.

Hub Two at St John’s Head will focus on the work, leisure and community elements of the upcoming revolution, particularly on the way these activities are likely to merge as the distinction between work and play continues to erode.


Subscribe to the Haphazard Business blog to follow how this idea has formed and is becoming a reality.

John M


Elements of AI is a FREE online course from the University of Helsinki. It is available for anyone wishing to understand the basics of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It describes what is possible (and not possible) with AI and how it affects our lives. The course has no complicated math or programming requirements.

Self-Education Like Never Before

An important strand of the new Innovation Hub (beginning Feb2020) will be free expert courses. The hub will encourage people to take advantage of the welter of FREE AI technology and self-learning courses available.

This course is from Reaktor and the University of Helsinki. They joined together to help people become empowered by AI rather than threatened.

Start The Course

Growing Fast

The course has over 220,000 registered students so far and has been ranked on Class Central as one of the highest-quality free online courses. The course in available in English, Finnish, Swedish and Estonian.

Available in All EU Languages by 2021

The Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU has decided to invest in people’s future skills and will make the Elements of AI online course freely available in all official EU languages by 2021. See more information here.


The course was designed by Reaktor and the University of Helsinki. The lead instructor of the course is Associate Professor Teemu Roos. The creator of the original course concept is Ville Valtonen, Head of Online Education at Reaktor. The course is a part of the AI Education programme of the Finnish Center for AI, and offered in cooperation with The Open University, and Mooc.fi. ( https://course.elementsofai.com )

Feel free to comment below on this course or anything else on the blog. Press follow button to subscribe.



In Finland, there are ongoing trials teaching prisoners the basics of AI and algorithms. It is part of a wider programme by the University of Helsinki “to reach out beyond the highly educated and tech-savvy audiences of typical online courses.”

The following is from the Finnish Centre for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI) outlining a new initiative…

FCAI is a nationwide competence centre for Artificial Intelligence in Finland, initiated by Aalto University, University of Helsinki, and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Our mission is to create Real AI for Real People in the Real World—a new type of AI, which is able to operate with humans in the complex world—and to renew the Finnish industry with the new AI.

Finland has taken an important step in supporting artificial intelligence education of inmates. All inmates in Finnish prisons have now access to the Elements of AI online course, a widely popular introductory course on artificial intelligence.

The inmates can access the course by using prison workstations or test devices of the Smart Prison Project.

The Smart Prison Project is currently one of the most central projects of the Criminal Sanctions Agency. It aims to facilitate access to online services for inmates. The goal is that each inmate in Hämeenlinna women’s prison would get their own device to their prison cell.

The devices used for the project are currently tested at two prisons in cities of Hämeenlinna and Turku. Project manager Pia Puolakka recently visited Turku prison and met inmates testing the devices.

“The test group has around 10 people who have all received an individual device. A number of them displayed their interest in taking this course,” says Puolakka.

Free courses on timely topics help to tackle social problems

Earlier this year, the Criminal Sanctions Agency started a collaboration with the technology company Vainu. In the project, Vainu offers inmates a chance to work by classifying data to train artificial intelligence algorithms.

“After we launched the Vainu project, we were thinking, how we can also support education and reskilling of the inmates concerning this timely topic. Then it crossed my mind that we could try this course out,” says Puolakka.

The Criminal Sanctions Agency believes that offering artificial intelligence training to inmates is important. Understanding artificial intelligence and how it can be applied becomes increasingly important in the future.

“This is an easy way to get familiar with the topic. I’ve even started doing the course myself. It provides a lot of useful information.”

Puolakka points out that, in terms of digitalization, people from different social backgrounds are often in unequal positions. She believes that courses like Elements of AI are one way of tackling these types of problems.

“The fact that universities offer free online courses that are easy to access and focus on timely topics, is excellent.”

The lead instructor of the Elements of AI, Associate Professor Teemu Roos from the University of Helsinki agrees. He finds it very important that the course is also available in prisons.

“Access to education is a human right and people in exceptional life situations need special attention. We have been working hard to reach out beyond the highly educated and tech-savvy audiences of typical online courses.”

Facilitating non-experts’ understanding of AI

The Elements of AI course has been designed to be easy to understand by non-experts. It requires no programming or complex mathematical skills. In addition to the basic principles of AI, the course focuses on societal implications, including threats to privacy and the changing work life.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re behind the bars, AI is affecting everyone’s life. There are also important ethical and political questions concerning the use of AI. What we are trying to do is support the public discourse by making the topic easier to understand by non-experts,” says Roos.

The free online course, Elements of AI, is organized by the Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence FCAI and IT consultancy company Reaktor. FCAI is a nationwide competence centre for Artificial Intelligence in Finland, initiated by Aalto University, University of Helsinki, and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Launched in May 2018, Elements of AI soon became the most popular course ever offered by the University of Helsinki. Currently, the course that attendees can take in three languages – English, Finnish and Swedish – has 170,000 registered users. People from 110 countries have already completed the course.

To find out more, visit FCAI – Finish Centre for Artificial Intelligence: Real AI for Real People in the Real World FCAI