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About SAILS

Social Sciences, Humanities, Law, Artificial Intelligence and Life Sciences

SAILS is a new, university wide initiative which aims to enable collaboration on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). By building on and expanding the already existing expertise of AI the project intends to advance science and improve the quality of daily life. All the different disciplines of the University of Leiden: Archeology, Humanities, Social Sciences, Law, Public Administration, Sciences, and also the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) will collaborate and appoint new staff with joint interests.

AI appears to be a modern phenomenon, however, humans have been trying to create automated systems for centuries. Philip II ordered in about 1560 a robot monk to be built; the automaton could move around and operate its mouth and arms in prayer. The machine still works to this day, thanks to a mechanical clockwork system.

More recently, AI has developed and is applying itself to more practical usage and is key to improving a huge range of issues. It is therefore important to all faculties of Leiden University. AI is used in for example in Archeology to spot Roman villas from the air, in Medicine to recognise diseased tissues and in Languages to help understand speech. Modern society would not be the same without it; it affects our life on a daily basis: in (data) security, in what news we read or what we buy online.

To remain a central part of new advances in this field, multidisciplinary research and teaching is vital.  This programme will do just that by developing further the extensive knowledge already present at Leiden University. Moreover, the synergy flowing from this collaboration will bring new creativity, funding and inspiration with it. Additionally, the project aims to address the social, political, legal and ethical questions some of these possibilities raise. How can artificial and human intelligence work together? What decisions can AI make, who will be responsible? How will society change, what new possibilities will emerge?

Leiden University will sponsor SAILS by creating 7 new Chairs across the disciplines.

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