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Farewell Prof. Emile Aarts: Artificial Intelligence as a driver of sustainable prosperity

Published: 16th June 2022 Last updated: 16th June 2022

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In his farewell address on June 24, Aarts outlines the history and development of Artificial Intelligence (KI) since 1955, its birth year. He argues that KI has become systems technology that will affect society in every dimension: economic, social, societal and cultural. Therefore, he advocates for a large-scale systems approach in all levels of society so that KI can be entertained into commonplace for the promotion of our sustainable prosperity. In this, he foresees a leading role for knowledge institutions.

Aarts argues that there are three conditions for this systemic approach. First, there must be adequate and structural support for the AI innovation system. 'Too often, activities dwindle when funding goes away after a certain period. In May of this year, the National Growth Fund allocated over €200 million for AI innovations.  With that, we're not going to make the difference and then when this subsidy period ends, we'll clean up everything and the whole game will start all over again. Let's avoid that by ensuring continuity in terms of resources and activities,' he says.

UN Sustainability Goals

Secondly, he argues for long-term and in-depth experimentation with AI solutions that are tested against insights in a societal context. 'In doing so, look for connection with the Sustainability Goals of the UN. AI can contribute to each of the 17 goals. Use the concept of the ELSA Labs (for eliminating poverty and debt) to realize the connection with society. This can be done in quadruple-helix context: private companies, government, knowledge institutions and residents.' 

Finally, he argues that the Dutch should be involved in the debate about AI in the broadest sense. 'Show what AI is, discuss the expected AI prosperity. Introduce children and schoolchildren to AI at an early age and encourage policy makers and implementers in the public sector to embrace digitization and make it a new tool; it's definitely going to make their work more exciting.'

Role of knowledge institutions

As drivers of innovation ecosystems, knowledge institutions themselves can contribute to structural support for the AI innovation landscape. Financial support can then be channelled from various sources: local, regional, national and European.  

Emile Aarts (1955, Roermond) completed his physics studies in Nijmegen cum laude and received his PhD in mathematics and physics in Groningen in 1983. In that year he joined Philips Research Laboratories as a researcher, where he would become head of research and management. In 1990, Aarts became Professor of Computing Science at TU/e. From 2015 to 2019 he was rector magnificus at Tilburg University. And then he became Professor of Computer Science here. 

More information
On 24 June, Professor of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, Emile Aarts will take his leave by delivering his farewell speech 'Artificial Intelligence: up to here ... and beyond' at 16.15 in the auditorium of Tilburg University. Prior to the farewell address, a symposium will be organized. For press inquiries, please contact; persvoorlichters@tilburgunidersity.edu or tel. 013 4664000.