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AI Technology for People

08 May 2020
- by Marcel Worring, Professor in AI & Data Science, University of Amsterdam and Director ICAI Amsterdam

The effect of AI on our daily lives continues to increase. Rather than reacting to the constant advancements in technology, Amsterdam has chosen to place itself at the forefront of these developments with the initiative AI Technology for People.

Amsterdam Data Science (ADS) has created a tremendous network in which academia, companies, and the municipality come together in meetups and other events. Furthermore, its newsletter reports news from the community, and ADS seed projects encourage collaboration between research and companies. These are powerful means to build an ecosystem around data science, a field in which various disciplines have to come together to be successful and where fundamental research and application in real world settings go hand-in-hand.

AI affecting the world in which we live

Recently ADS has added AI to their agenda and rightly so – AI is transforming the world at a very rapid pace. It builds upon the foundations laid out in big data research and data science. It introduces intelligence in the form of being able to really understand unstructured data such as text, images, sound, and video, and techniques for giving machines a form of autonomous behaviour.

Over the last months the knowledge institutes in Amsterdam (AUMC, CWI, HvA, NKI, UvA, VU), in conjunction with Sanquin, the Amsterdam Economic Board and the City of Amsterdam, have formed a coalition and developed a joint proposition for AI in Amsterdam: “AI Technology for People” building upon three foundational themes.

  • Machine learning has been the main driver in the emergence of AI – and will continue to push it forward. Techniques include data-driven deep learning methods for computer vision, text analysis and search approaches that make large datasets accessible and knowledge representation and reasoning techniques to work with more human-interpretable symbolic information. Related activities include the analysis of complex organizational processes, and knowledge representation and reasoning techniques to work with symbolic information.
  • Responsible AI is key to assuring that technology is fair, accountable and transparent (FAT). Methods need to prevent undesirable bias and all outcomes should be explainable through the identification of comprehensible parameters on which decisions are based. When high-impact decisions are involved, the reasoning behind them must be understandable to allow for ethical considerations and professional judgements.
  • Hybrid intelligence combines the best of both of these worlds. It builds on the superiority of AI technology in many pattern recognition and machine learning tasks and combines it with the strengths of humans to deploy general knowledge, common sense reasoning and human capabilities such as collaboration, adaptivity, responsibility and explainability. Hereby combining human and machine intelligence to expand on human intellect rather than replace it. See the recent blog by Frank van Harmelen on the Hybrid Intelligence project.

The focus of AI Technology for People

The coalition focuses on three application domains.

  • AI for business innovation: As described in Max Welling’s blog, research excellence has already inspired several international partners to start research labs in Amsterdam within the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI). Other companies, both regional and inter)national, continue to follow suit. Amsterdam hosts the headquarters of major companies that rely on AI to innovate, many small- and medium-sized high-tech AI businesses and a strong creative industry. The city provides an ideal ecosystem in which business innovations – both small and large – can flourish.
  • AI for citizens: With its multitude of cultures, large numbers of tourists, rich history, criminal element and intense housing market, Amsterdam has all the challenges and opportunities of other major world cities, but in a far smaller area. With the excellent availability of open data in the city, AI can be applied directly to improve the well-being of citizens – with the city itself becoming a living lab.
  • AI for health: The coalition is building on the work of renowned medical research organisations such as Amsterdam UMC, NKI, Sanquin and the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. The cross-sectoral health-AI collaboration has also been institutionalized in other ways, such as through ecosystem mapping and Amsterdam Medical Data Science meet-ups, with all initiatives being bundled under Smart Health Amsterdam.

Achieving its Goals

To realize the above ambitions, the AI coalition partners not only plan to make their own major investments in AI, they also aim to attract significant external funding, for example through labs within the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI) and other funding instruments through the National AI Coalition (NL AIC). Ecosystems in which science, policy, industry, and society (the quadruple helix) come together are the basis for these national initiatives. Amsterdam and the ADS ecosystem provide a successful regional example of collaborations in many forms, such as industry funded PhD students, joint appointments, professionally oriented education and partner meetings. ICAI, which has its headquarters in Amsterdam and labs all over the Netherlands, is a member of ADS and creates industry funded research labs that produce research presented at top international academic conferences. Let’s use the momentum to bring the ecosystem to the next level.

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