Leiden University: Humanities and AI: A fruitful combination

What do a linguist, an artist, a Professor of Conservation and Restoration, and a lecturer at the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science have in common? They all use Artificial Intelligence. On 7 April they discussed the use of AI at Leiden’s Kijkhuis cinema.

More than fifty researchers, civil servants, artists and students gathered to discuss the part played by the Humanities in the development of AI and vice versa.

Humanities plays an important part
The conclusion was that there is an important role for the Humanities to play, for example, in considering how to ensure that this technology has a positive influence on our society, how to regulate it, and how to use AI to stimulate creativity. Conversely, AI helps the Humanities answer questions that would be impossible to answer without it. With AI, a Rembrandt painting can be recreated as if the paint of the original from the 17th century had only just dried, and the annotation process of linguistic data can be fully annotated.

Even the potential dark side of AI and its use was discussed. How can Humanities scholars help ensure that AI is used to support and defend democratic values rather than harm them?

‘Ich bin dein Mensch’
The day was brought to a close with a screening of the film ‘Ich bin dein Mensch’, which is about a woman who spends three days with an AI robot that teaches itself to become her perfect partner. The question is: will she fall in love with him, and what does that teach us about being human?

Collaboration
After the success of this event, initiatives will be taken to bring about cross-disciplinary collaborations in the field of AI. This was the first step towards a more prominent role for Humanities scholars from Leiden in the debate about and the development of this technology that is going to have a deep impact on our future.

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