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The importance of an LU interdisciplinary AI initiative

Deputy vice-chancellor Sylvia Schwaag Serger sees an opportunity in the future to start a university-wide AI graduate school, similar to the one for Agenda 2030.
“The discussions have started, but they are at a very early stage.”
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Sylvia Schwaag Serger. Photo:Kennet Ruona

Developments in AI are happening very rapidly. There are many benefits, but complex social challenges arise alongside the technological breakthroughs. Deputy vice-chancellor Sylvia Schwaag Serger considers that LU has a crucial advantage in addressing these problems – breadth.

“An interdisciplinary approach is absolutely crucial for being able to manage the legal, economic and ethical challenges we face. At LU, we have expertise in all areas, a breadth that we can utilise in an even better way.”

One example that Sylvia Schwaag Serger highlights is the newly started network within AI at LU (AIML@LU). The network already has 200 researchers from all the faculties.

“The network brings together scholars in the social sciences, humanities, law and medicine with peers in science and engineering who are at the forefront of AI and machine learning.”

The interdisciplinary approach also permeates the contract education that LU will provide in the field of AI. At present, LUCE is developing short courses aimed at professional specialists. This has attracted a great deal of interest. There was a large number of applications for the first pilot course held in early December.

“Through contract education, LU contributes to raising expertise in AI. And we address the needs that exist in society.”

As AI is one of society’s major challenges, universities have an important role to play, comments Sylvia Schwaag Serger. However, academia has a problem regarding this role. We are not particularly agile. And now that non-democratic states and global companies are flexing their muscles and investing heavily in AI, we find it difficult to keep pace.

In order to be relevant, we must increase collaboration with different actors in society, argues Sylvia Schwaag Serger, such as agile research institutes, public authorities, companies and the public sector.

“We must realise that we do not have a monopoly on knowledge – that we are one actor among many that contribute to knowledge, development and innovation.”

Another major challenge concerns the University’s courses and programmes, as even here there is sluggishness in the system.

“It takes time to renew courses and programmes, at the same time as we have rapid developments in society.”

Sylvia Schwaag Serger considers that all students – in all disciplines – should have an understanding of what the new technology can entail for our society and the individual. She refers to Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern University and author of the book, Robot Proof, which deals with how rapid technological development will affect higher education. Aoun thinks that students need to be equipped with three types of skills – data literacy, technological literacy and human literacy – in order to adapt to the new conditions created by advances in areas such as AI. Knowledge must be updated throughout life.

“As a social scientist, I must understand the basics of programming and the implications of AI.”  

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The importance of an LU interdisciplinary AI initiative

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