Image credits: slash
Earlier this month, at the technology conference Slush in Helsinki, this editor had the opportunity to sit down with Finland’s popular former prime minister, Sanna Marin. Although she became internationally known for her friendships, her accomplishments during her tenure are far more important. This includes successfully pushing Finland to join NATO in order to better protect it from her neighbor Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.
Marin left Finnish politics in September and now works as a strategic counselor at the Tony Blair Institute. She’s also working on a startup with one of her longtime political advisors. Still, based on the enthusiastic crowds Marin drew during her Slash conversations, it’s easy to imagine her eventually returning to politics.
She didn’t rule it out while we were sitting. But we’ll also explore what Russia’s invasion means for the rest of the world, why women should trust themselves more easily into positions of power, the promises and dangers of AI, and how to counter it. MPs spent more time debating what they should do. Below are excerpts from that chat. Lightly edited for length and clarity.
In late 2019, you started a job that is typically the culmination of a long career in the civil service, but you started the job pretty early on. [at age 34]. What was it like being forced into that position?
Of course, when you take on such a position or job, you are not fully prepared. It’s a leap forward because once you do the job, you realize what the job is all about. Although Finland has had several female prime ministers, the situation is not very good from a global perspective.The United Nations has 193 countries, but only 13 of them are led by women, so the world is not very equal. [when it comes to] Leadership, and it never was. I can only hope that in the future there will be more female leadership in the world.
We’re sitting here in front of a huge audience of technology founders who are breaking down walls and breaking down glass ceilings as well. What is your advice to them?
My main advice is to trust yourself. believe in yourself. If you are in a position to exercise leadership, think to yourself, “Maybe I have the ability.” Maybe I can do it too. ” Women in particular often have doubts about themselves. Are they ready for the job? Enough? Will they be able to do everything perfectly? Men don’t think like that. They think, “Yeah, I’m better.” I’m the best person for the job. ” I think women need that attitude too, and they need to be encouraged and supported to take risks and lead because they are great leaders. And if you’re at the point where you can get that position, it’s because you’re good and you’re capable. So, good luck.
You have experienced a lot as Prime Minister. Shortly after you were elected, the coronavirus swept the world. Last year, Russia invaded Ukraine. You have a very long and complicated relationship with Russia. The border with Russia is very long.Can you take us to the day you heard the news? [of the invasion] And what crossed your mind?
I remember it clearly like it was yesterday. Because by that time it was known that Russia was likely to attack Ukraine.During [preceding] For example, almost six months earlier, throughout the summer and fall, Russia slowed energy flows to Europe and reduced countries’ storage capacity. Therefore, Russia may later use energy as a weapon against Europe. Russia also stationed large numbers of troops near the Ukrainian border, saying it was a training exercise and not an attack. Now I know that was a lie. Many leaders tried to contact President Putin to find a diplomatic and peaceful route out of the situation before a full-scale attack began, but Putin lied to everyone. Now we have to learn from it. I have said on many platforms that the West, democracies around the world, need to stop being naive. We should wake up to authoritarian regimes, [recognize that’s how] They function and perceive the world, and their logic is very different from that of democracies. In the case of Russia, it would be very expensive and very foolish to start a war, so we believe that because we have close economic and business ties with Russia, those ties can ensure peace. I am. Because it’s stupid. From our point of view, it’s illogical. But authoritarian states don’t think like that. Therefore, nothing was hindered.
You’ve talked before about people’s naivety when it comes to dealing with authoritarian governments, including in relation to technology, and you think autonomy is also important here. For example, I’ve heard you express concerns about Europe’s widespread reliance on Chinese chips. How do you assess Finland’s progress in this area?
Finland is doing very well compared to many other countries. . .The most important thing when it comes to technology is to invest in education from childhood to university [and to invest heavily in] Research and development and new innovations. . . We have agreed in Finland that he aims to increase research and development funding to up to 4% of GDP by 2030. This is actually a very ambitious goal. . . But I’m an optimist, and I like to believe that technology can actually help solve the big problems of the future, like climate change, biodiversity loss, pandemics, and other big problems. Therefore, a technical solution is required. We need innovation. And we need to make sure that we also have the platform and the will to encourage people to build it. . .
How do you evaluate the European Commission’s efforts?
In many ways, the situation in Ukraine has deepened relations between Europe, the United States, and Britain. Europe as a whole has a major role to play in establishing internationally sound rules when it comes to big technology and AI development. Therefore, there needs to be ethical rules that all countries around the world can or should follow. We see that there are many risks if the European Commission and other legislative bodies do not cooperate with entrepreneurs and private companies, because the development of new technologies is so fast that cooperation is important. And I would like to see more exchange and cooperation between the private and public sectors.
We are already benefiting greatly from AI when it comes to healthcare and education. We are also hearing more and more about the risks to humanity. I think you’ve been excited about AI for a while. Has your view of that possibility changed?
All technology, all new things, comes with risk. There is always a negative side to everything. But there are positives too. That’s why I would like to see more interaction between the people who are creating the technologies and the legislators who are creating the rules for these technologies. . . Therefore, you can see that there are more positive aspects than negative ones.
I love the work-life balance in Finland. I also love that there is an aversion to vast wealth. The opposite is true in the United States, especially the Bay Area, where people tend to value themselves based on dollar amounts. The money they make. I’m wondering if that’s the ambition here or the gating factor to attract and retain entrepreneurs.
It is very important to have balance in life. If you only work, you can work hard for a certain period of time, but then you will burn out. I think we should encourage ambition, [ensure people] I have free time to spend with my family.In fact, Finland has also renewed its childcare leave system. [when] I led the government to encourage fathers to spend more time with their young children. [making it more possible] For mothers to build a career. I’ve never met her father, who says he really regrets spending time with him when his children were small. No one says that. Time away from work gives people perspective.
You are currently a political consultant working at the Tony Blair Institute. What do you think about TBI’s character as “McKinsey to world leaders”?
good, [my longtime advisor Tuulia Pitkänen] I previously worked in approximately 40 countries around the world, advising governments and heads of state on a variety of issues. Of course, agriculture, technology and many other things, and whether they are relevant to my work or not, vary from country to country. [at TBI] is to do [similarly] Advise heads of state and various governments on specific issues. When you’re in a leadership position leading a country, no one really understands it. You can’t read about it in books, you have to experience it. Therefore, leaders need such interaction. That means talking to people who really know the job, how difficult it is, and all the factors you have to consider to do it. That’s my job there. But I also do a lot of other things like speaking at various events and interacting with people. However, I still want to change the world.I haven’t lost my passion for the problem [that compelled me to enter into] Politics in the first place. I still have all those passions, but of course now I have the freedom to do other things and I’m open to them.
You were very popular as Prime Minister. You are still in the early stages of your career. Are you interested in returning to politics someday?
I’m not saying I’ll never go back. Of course, that’s a possibility. One day, that passion may lead him to pursue a career in politics again. But for now, I’m doing something else. And I believe that you should always close some doors in order to open new ones. Closing some doors, doing different things, and finding new avenues has worked well for me so far. So I’ve never had a five-year or 10-year career plan or anything like that. I believe that opportunities will come and it’s up to you to seize them. You can choose at any time. But my advice is to not plan too much about life. Life is always a mystery, always unknown, and that’s what makes it so interesting.