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Decision trees, real trees, and human feels: AI and the forest political goals

Lunch seminar 15 May 2024

Topic: Decision trees, real trees, and human feels: AI and the forest political goals

When: 15 May at 12.00-13.15

Where: Online

Speaker: Joakim Wising, PhD student in Political Science at Umeå University

Spoken language: English


Artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly important in forestry management and is now implemented at multiple levels of Swedish forest management. AI combined with satellite remote sensing and geographic information systems can be used to evaluate forest resources, monitor forest development and organize management, a technological advancement that is revolutionizing how forestry is conducted in Sweden and around the world.

Forests and how they are managed have important implications for reaching international and national policy objectives, such the Swedish National Environmental Objectives. The current legal framework allows for a great deal of leeway for landowners under the parole of “freedom under responsibility” – where landowners are expected to manage their forests in ways that are above the legal requirements in terms of environmental consideration. Achieving forest political goals is thus done through the actions of private landowners.

There is a political hope that AI will facilitate more environmentally friendly forestry, yet its potential benefits for achieving political goals are dependent on private forest owners. The benefits are not only dependent on the technology itself, but the social context wherein it is deployed as well. Technology-in-context,  a comparatively small area of research in relation to the technological side of remote sensing and AI.  

“How can the effects of AI deployment be understood within the context of Swedish forestry?” and “How are social aspects of technological development discussed in the scientific literature?” are two questions that need to be dealt with when decision trees are applied to real trees to achieve political goals.