Aimee van Wynsberghe awarded in Berlin

Official presentation of Alexander von Humboldt Professorship to AI ethicist

Twenty-one top researchers were the focus of an award ceremony held on Thursday evening in Berlin, where they were presented Germany’s most valuable research award, the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship. Among them was AI ethicist Aimee van Wynsberghe, who has been conducting research at the University of Bonn for the past year and a half. During the festive event, Federal Minister of Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger and Hans-Christian Pape, President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, presented the awards which come with up to 5 million in funding.

The award ceremony honoured Humboldt Professors for Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the first time. This programme line is part of the German government’s national AI Strategy. It targets leading international researchers whose work revolves around the exploration and uses of AI and its effects on society.

Aimee van Wynsberghe, who has held such a professorship at the University of Bonn for just under a year and a half, focuses on the ethics of artificial intelligence. The Sustainable AI Lab she leads is a space for excellent researchers from different fields to work, collaborate, and brainstorm about the environmental, social, and economic costs of designing, developing, and using AI across society. The questions to be explored span multiple disciplines and levels of analysis, for example: the normative rationale for the value of sustainability; the strength of the concept of sustainability; how to measure the environmental costs of AI; understanding the intergenerational impacts of AI; and inform public policy guidelines for the development of green, proportionate, and sustainable uses of AI.

"Backed by a strong team of researchers and also artists and knowledge partners, we are working to strengthen Germany as an excellence hub for research and awareness projects dedicated to the sustainability of AI," Aimee van Wynsberghe said.

First Humboldt Professorships for Artificial Intelligence

"We need science and its worldwide collaboration in order to find solutions to the existential crises of our age and to make life more sustainable", said Hans-Christian Pape, President of the Humboldt Foundation. Humboldt Professorships make this possible in the area of cutting-edge research. "With these professorships, Germany is investing not only in science - it is also investing in all our futures."

Federal Minister of Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger noted: "With this award we are strengthening research in Germany and are ensuring our ability to compete internationally. At the same time, we are expanding our technological sovereignty, which is of crucial importance in connection with, for example, artificial intelligence since we want to be a global player in this area. Our researchers and the experts in industry are particularly important for accomplishing this." Stark-Watzinger continued, "I am therefore particularly pleased that we are also able to award the first Alexander von Humboldt Professorships for Artificial Intelligence this year. The recipients are among the best in this field worldwide. With these awards, we also want to further increase the number of AI professorships beyond the 100 that have been additionally created."

The Alexander von Humboldt Professorships

The Humboldt Foundation awards up to ten Alexander von Humboldt Professorships every year to eminent researchers of all disciplines who have been working abroad to date. Alexander von Humboldt Professorships each come with 5 million in funding for individuals conducting experimental research and 3.5 million for researchers working in theoretical fields. In addition to the candidates’ outstanding scientific and academic qualifications, a deciding factor in the selection process are the concepts developed by the universities that will offer the researchers and their teams long-term career prospects in Germany. Alexander von Humboldt Professorships are financed by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

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