Alicante ELLIS Unit on Human(ity) Centric Artificial Intelligence

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The ELLIS Unit located in Alicante will focus on 3 research areas in the intersection between humans and Artificial Intelligence

  1. RA1: Human Behavior Modeling: Research on novel machine learning techniques to automatically recognize, model and predict human individual and aggregate behavior from data. Use cases of special interest are those related to United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals

  2. RA2: Development of Intelligent User Interfaces: Development of new machine learning approaches to build intelligent user interfaces that interact with humans. Areas of focus include the development of context-aware mobile services and personal assistants (chatbots), with a special interest towards two demographic groups: the elderly and students

  3. RA3: Human-centric Challenges in AI: Study of human-centric challenges, risks and potential negative consequences derived from the use of machine learning tools to inform and automate consequential decisions for humans, in areas such as criminal justice, medicine, employment, education and welfare programs. Challenges of interest include algorithmic discrimination, opacity, computational violation of people's privacy, lack of veracity and threats to democracy and human autonomy. This research area is fully aligned with the ELLIS program on "Human-centric Machine Learning"

ELLIS Mission

We are at a crossroads where

  • Machine learning is at the heart of a technological and societal artificial intelligence revolution involving multiple sister disciplines, with large implications for the future competitiveness of Europe.
  • Europe is not keeping up: many of the top labs, as well as many of the top places to do a PhD, are located in North America; moreover, AI investments in China and North America are significantly larger than in Europe.
  • The distinction between academic research and industrial labs is vanishing, with a significant part of the basic research now being done in industry (with substantial research freedom, and higher salaries), rapid commercialization of results, and academic institutions worldwide struggling to retain their best scientists (with negative implications not only for research but also for the education of future talent). This further weakens Europe since most of the companies doing top research in this field are controlled from the US (or China) – many European companies whose future business crucially depends on AI are not perceived as competitive.
  • As an important measure to address these points we propose to found a European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS), involving the very best European academics while working together closely with basic researchers from industry.

    The mission of ELLIS is to benefit Europe in two ways:

  • We want the best basic research to be performed in Europe, to enable Europe to shape how machine learning and modern AI change the world.
  • We want to have economic impact and create jobs in Europe, and believe this is achieved by outstanding and free basic research, independent of industry interests.
  • ELLIS Units

    During the NeurIPS conference in Vancouver, ELLIS announced the establishment of the first 17 ELLIS units across 10 European countries and Israel. Built around outstanding AI researchers, the newly established research units are devoted to tackling fundamental challenges in AI with a focus on research excellence and societal impact. An open call resulted in 28 proposals from 13 countries, each of which committed local funding of at least 1.5 Mio € per year for at least five years, 20% thereof reserved for ELLIS network activities such as student and faculty exchanges and the organization of joint ELLIS research programs and workshops. Proposals from Alicante, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Darmstadt, Delft, Freiburg, Helsinki, Linz, Lausanne, Leuven, Oxford, Prague, Saarbrücken, Tel Aviv, Tübingen, Vienna (IST Austria) and Zürich (ETH Zürich) were selected by an international evaluation committee, based on proven scientific excellence and the implementation of measures to foster the ELLIS mission. To avoid conflicts of interest, all the reviews were done by scientists of countries different from the units being evaluated. The list of directors of ELLIS units includes European researchers such as Wolfram Burgard, Sepp Hochreiter, Thomas Hofmann, Sami Kaski, Nuria Oliver, Bernhard Schölkopf, Yee Whye Teh, Luc van Gool and Max Welling.