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Artificial Intelligence in our democratic society

12 November 2021
Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the central theme on Thursday during the Dies Natalis 2021: Bits for democracy. The 141st anniversary of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam was celebrated with inspiring guests, the Dies Natalis Lecture by Sandjai Bhulai, the awarding of an honorary doctorate to Marleen Stikker and the official farewell of Rector Magnificus Vinod Subramaniam.

Sandjai Bhulai, Professor of Business Analytics at VU Amsterdam and winner of the prestigious Huibregtsen Prize 2021, spoke in his Dies Natalis Lecture about the developments in the field of AI. He talked about how the use of technology can positively influence our lives, but that we must do this in a responsible way to keep a digital society open and democratic. 

After a musical intermezzo by the VU Orchestra, an honorary doctorate was awarded to Marleen Stikker, director and founder of Waag and De Digitale Stad.

After the awarding of the honorary doctorate, Bhulai and Stikker engaged in a panel discussion with Marleen Huysman, Professor of Knowledge and Organisation at VU Amsterdam, Evelyn Austin, director of Bits of Freedom, and honorary supervisor and professor of Computational Lexicology Piek Vossen about the role of AI in our democratic society.

This year’s event also marked our official farewell to Rector Magnificus Vinod Subramaniam, who has been affiliated with VU Amsterdam for six years. In search of a farewell gift, he asked for a contribution to the VU-fonds for the benefit of refugees with exceptional academic talents. In total, over 14,000 euros were donated to this project. The VU Association rounded up this amount to 20,000 euros. 

The new Rector Magnificus also made his appearance during the Dies. Jeroen Geurts will succeed Vinod Subramaniam in January. 

Did you miss the Dies Natalis 2021? You can watch it back via this link.