… and 22 other ideas for the future of Swiss AI policy
BERN, 2026. The Swiss parliament has named a robot to the Federal Council. The appointment follows an intense debate in Switzerland’s two parliamentary chambers over the use of advanced artificial intelligence for the public good, focusing on a directive of the national AI strategy to elect what is now commonly known as a “smart minister.”
“My fellow citizens, I thank you for your trust. I promise to make the most informed decisions this cabinet has ever known,” said the robot Federal Councillor, drawing from public polling data and an archive of public speeches to craft a speech, intended to be broadly popular and uncontroversial. “Our government’s partnership with social media platforms will allow me to take your deepest emotions, needs, and concerns into consideration. Reach me anytime by saying ‘Hey, Bundesrat’ to your voice assistant.”
Backtrack to 2019. The “AI Bundesrat” laid out in this scenario is one of more than 20 forward-looking proposals that came out of an initiative by swissnex San Francisco and foraus, the Swiss foreign policy think tank, to explore the idea of creating an AI strategy for Switzerland. While more and more countries are releasing national AI strategies, Switzerland has not yet developed a comprehensive and coordinated response to AI policy, other than launching a working group on the topic within the federal administration.
To complement this effort, swissnex and foraus organized two workshops in San Francisco and Zurich based on foraus’ new Policy Kitchen crowdsourcing method and platform. We invited researchers, entrepreneurs, engineers, creatives, and policy makers to discuss Switzerland’s global position on AI and generate policy ideas for a potential Swiss AI strategy. Beyond the AI Bundesrat, their recommendations broadly fall into five categories: open data, ethics and regulation, global governance, industry, and education.
- Incentivize open data repositories in the private sector by leveraging Switzerland’s brand as global hub for neutrality.
- Implement a high-profile project around responsible use of health data worldwide.
- Create a collaboration platform between industry, research institutions, and government.
- Host a global pool of open data for anyone interested in developing AI for the public good.
Ethics and Regulation
- Map and operationalize existing international ethical principles and norms in AI.
- Implement privacy enhancing opt-in and opt-out regulation on data collection.
- Launch Swiss Association for AI related to self-regulation and standards.
- Develop regulation to reduce inequality and prevent the formation of new monopolies.
- Introduce tax on AI automation and robots.
- Develop Swiss legal framework on AI and launch neutral organization on data collection.
- Join and support France and Canada’s international panel on AI and other global efforts to examine the societal impact of the technology.
- Host a Global AI Exchange at the AI for Good Summit in Geneva to help position Switzerland as neutral platform on the global governance of AI.
- Align technological growth and decision-making processes.
- Develop new forms of global regulation, including potentially a new international organization on AI.
- Support AI adoption in industries that are essential to Swiss prosperity.
- Build a Swiss startup cluster around personal information management, leveraging Switzerland’s reputation for privacy.
- Launch matchmaking platform between AI startups and challenges faced by civil servants to improve public services.
- Create label for “Swiss AI” guaranteeing sustainable, human-friendly, and safe AI.
- Launch interdisciplinary AI master degrees to increase the number of AI talents in Switzerland.
- Implement a week-long program on AI and robotics for primary schools.
- Provide lifelong learning opportunities on AI.
- Launch public outreach initiatives to raise awareness of AI.
This first experiment in participatory AI policy showed us the need to include a much broader diversity of doers, makers, and thinkers in the global debate over AI. We will share these 23 proposals with the federal working group on AI, encourage further debate in Switzerland, and develop the idea of a “Global AI Exchange,” the global workshop series culminating in a session at the AI for Good Summit in Geneva. Stay tuned for updates by subscribing swissnex’ and foraus’ newsletters.
Until then, “Au revoir, auf Wiedersehen, arrivederci, and goodbye,” as a Swiss AI minister, using its superhuman translation capabilities, might say.
This project is supported by Engagement Migros and is part of swissnex Salon.
Image: The Turner Banquet, Ferdinand Hodler, cc-0