Mankind is proud of is innate and learned intelligence. But there is another kind – artificial intelligence (AI), which refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving.
AI can be of great benefit to humanity if carried out properly. Now, Google – the American multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products – and Tel Aviv University (TAU) have launched a three-year program for promoting AI-related multidisciplinary research abnd collaborations in data science and AI that can contribute to major social issues faced by humanity today.
AI for Social Good was established within the framework of TAD, the TAU Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science established in February and headed by Prof. Meir Feder of the Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering.
The program was launched at a recent ceremony at TAU, announcing 10 winners out of 27 proposals submitted in response to TAU and Google’s joint call. Seven of the winning projects are supported by Google. The grant winners, whose projects address different aspects of AI for Social Good, include researchers from a wide range of disciplines: zoology (Faculty of Life Sciences), biblical studies, electrical engineering, economics, statistics, communication disorders, , earth sciences and computer science, sociology and anthropology and more.
TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat, who aims to establish bridges among the different disciplines studied at his university, said at the ceremony: “I share a common vision with Prof. Yossi Matias. We believe that AI researchers can benefit significantly from collaborations with researchers in the social sciences and humanities, just as the latter benefit from new developments in AI. I am very happy about our partnership with Google. I look forward to seeing its fruits and hope to expand it further in the future.”
Prof. Yossi Matias, a Google vice president and managing director of Google Center in Israel, spoke of AI technologies and how they are already improving our lives dramatically: “AI already has great impact in various areas. We are delighted for this opportunity to harness the power of AI for social good and for science. Google is especially happy about its work on beneficial and even life-saving products, such as the worldwide project for accurate flood forecasting, a technology enabling the hearing-impaired to conduct phone conversations, and studies on the use of AI to enhance disease diagnosis.”
Prof. Matias thanked Porat, Feder and all other partners in the initiative and spoke of the special opportunity to generate collaborations between researchers. Noting that he is a great believer in connections between different disciplines, Matias added: “There are some deep and fascinating research questions associated with AI in many different disciplines, creating substantial opportunities for collaboration. Good things happen when different ideas and different approaches come together.”
The joint venture will include a joint seminar on machine learning (ML), led by TAD director Dr. Shimon Shahar and Dr. Deborah Cohen, a scientist at the new Google Center in Israel.
Feder emphasized that “the AI revolution is expected to impact every aspect of our lives, from drug development and data-based personalized medicine, to defense systems, financial systems, scientific discoveries, robotics, autonomous systems and social issues. In addition, it is very important to train human capital in this area, and therefore the Center will provide every student at TAU with a basic AI education.”
TAU is special in having researchers who specialize in basic science and AI, as well as researchers who apply AI in the humanities and social sciences,” Feder concluded. “We are happy that Google has decided to join forces with TAU in this important matter. The collaboration with Google will enable utilization of the power of AI and data science, channeling it toward the benefit of society.”