Prof. Jan Post: 'Man determines what happens with AI'
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Prof. Jan Post: 'Man determines what happens with AI' Jan Post parries fears about the effects of AI (artificial intelligence) with a beautiful
metaphor. 'We worked for a long time on the building block and now that it's there, you can build houses with it or throw it through a window. But it's humans who determine what happens to it.'

So it is with AI, he wants to say. We can make computers (robots) as smart as we want, but those computers and robots are not going to dominate us. The metaphor is beautiful. Nevertheless, there is something to it because a computer or robot can make its own decisions and a stone cannot. But even then, if the robot autonomously makes the wrong decisions, we humans are the ones who throw up our own windows.

Post is quartermaster AI

Jan Post is the quartermaster of the AI Hub North Netherlands, say the regional implementation club of AI Coalition Netherlands. He is already the catalyst for Smart Industry in the Northern Netherlands, a professor of digital manufacturing and in charge of strategic partnerships at Philips Consumer Lifestyle. AI is the science of creating "things" that exhibit some form of intelligence. The AI Coalition North Netherlands brings together northern companies, knowledge institutions and other stakeholder organizations (government) to build a strong position in the development and applications of artificial intelligence. It is not just about regional cooperation but about joining the Dutch AI Coalition and joining the EU. Benefits: a more favorable business climate and better opportunities for business innovation and R&D funding.

'We're not even doing that bad'

The Dutch AI Coalition has an action agenda for thirteen domains (including healthcare, water, agrofood, energy, mobility, maritime and smart industry). Post: "We want to show what the Northern Netherlands can add. Yvonne Kooi (former director of Royal Goedewaagen) is assisting him, together with the RUG. The professor is not going to sell turnips for lemons, because when asked whether many companies are already running on AI, he sounds: 'Yes and no. A few companies are standing their ground, like Philips and Ziuz. We are not even doing that badly, but with us, in the Northern Netherlands the projects are more spread out. In any case, there are plenty of SMEs and a lot of interest, which needs to get connected across the board.'

Sailor Post: Do choose good route

The knowledge and applications in the field of AI should be used for welfare and prosperity, the Dutch AI Coalition believes. 'Yes, that is also our big goal,' it sounds. We cannot be left behind, Post believes, because digitalization is gathering steam. Smart Industry, a baby of Post's, is taking full advantage. Post: 'It is now time to exploit digitalization, because that world has grown immensely and has a lot of potential.'

Artificial intelligence is more or less a model of human brain in computer. You can store information (read data) in such an AI system and thus reuse the knowledge stored in the system as a form of intelligence. Based on that (knowledge and experience) those artificial brains can develop. Post: "We have to learn to understand how to use it. The path is not paved yet, we don't know where it ends. So we have to build experience and then you can walk along in the right direction.' And referring to his inauguration speech at the RUG, drawing on his experiences as a sailor: 'If you don't know where it ends, you can still choose the right route and direction.'

Right routes, right choices

Artificial Intelligence presents opportunities and threats. Post agrees, "It always leads to the brick you use to build a house or throw through a window. Right routes, right choices, that's what it's all about. Post: 'It's intelligence when you use information and make decisions based on it. Digitization, by itself, is not intelligence, because with it you are not yet making decisions.'

Repetitive actions and images are the basis for AI. They are well suited to the northern sectors that will participate. Post: "Sectors are not isolated, they are not isolated areas, there is also interaction between all these worlds. You sometimes learn to predict. Predictive maintenance is such an example. If you fly a helicopter to a wind turbine at sea, it is useful to know what you are taking with you and that you know which parts need replacement.' This kind of predictive maintenance and logistics can also be applied in the maritime sector and in industry.

AI is going to change the world

AI offers countless opportunities, as data about machines and human behavior leads to information and decision moments. Post: "You have to learn to use it well, though. It is going to change the world enormously. It is important to keep doing the right things with it. The systems are becoming more intelligent, so you have to keep paying more attention. We have to learn to control the negative aspects.


Partners in the AI Coalition Northern Netherlands are: University of Groningen, Hanzehogeschool Groningen, NHL Stenden, Van Hall Larenstein, UMCG, ASTRON, New Energy Coalition, TNO, Wetsus, Philips, Innovation Cluster Drachten and Metaalunie and FME through Smart Industry Hub (more than 2,000 companies). Dina Boonstra (director NOM) is chairman of the AI Coalition.

Jarno Duursma, speaker/author/trendwatcher on digital technology: 'Infinite ideas can emerge from it'

'Artificial intelligence can make physical stuff smarter. For example, with the Internet of Things (physical stuff connected to the Internet, ed.). Software on devices ensures that sensors become smarter and smarter. Take a car factory. Once every four hours, the robots in the factory were stopped because they had to be calibrated so that the robotic arms worked exactly as they were set up again. Today that happens in real time thanks to integrated artificial intelligence in sensors.

Another example is a tiny camera that can make decisions without connection to the Internet. For example, where cars can be parked. Or they count products, keeping track of inventory. If you zoom out from those applications, you can see that almost all tech megatrends have accelerated immeasurably because of AI.

AR and VR (Augmented and Virtual Reality) have also been improved by AI. Synthetic media are a new trend. They are created by artificial intelligence, which turns videos, photos, texts, sound clips into new media. Consider, for example, the videos where faces and voices are swapped and software systems that write believable texts.

There is a site "This person does not exist," as well as "This car, church, flower - you name it - does not exist. It's software that comes up with new faces or new cars based on a database. If you manage to keep coming up with new flower vases that way, it might inspire an interior designer at Ikea.

You can even create new recipes, such as marshmellows that taste like double espresso or gum that tastes like garlic. Infinite ideas can result. Smart software systems even come up with completely new business ideas, such as "a tool that can help you file patents. A wave of synthetic media has now emerged. Have you seen me and my avatar? I made a credible avatar of myself in 15 minutes.'

Gerben Dolsma, owner Nidaros from Hoogeveen (specialist automation robotic processes): 'There is gain in speed, flexibility and quality'

'We specialize in RPA, or Robot Process Automation. We provide a virtual robot that takes over all repetitive and administrative work. It allows the physical employee to perform meaningful and value-creating tasks. The robot uses the existing software, but makes no mistakes and works 24 hours a day. There are gains in speed, flexibility and quality. Between now and five years you will see that all serial operations will be digitized. Take pay stubs, they come in shapes and sizes. The items are never in the same place, so it takes a person time to find where what is. A robot, thanks to AI, instantly recognizes the items.'

Serge de Mul, owner of software company Ultraware from Assen: 'We have totally modified our office building. Everything sustainable'

'We make specific software for companies that we use to make our customers' dreams come true. AI has actually existed for a long time, but only now are the applications emerging. Among other things, we apply artificial intelligence in home automation. We have completely modified our office building. Everything is sustainable. All the buttons are out and the building has to move with the use. If someone starts every Monday at 7 a.m., that person's room will be heated a little earlier. You have data and wishes in such a building, you solve them with AI. You have to put the good things in, because it has to be a learning process. If you can get that done in one building, great, but there are thousands of buildings that can be made sustainable that way.'

André Harmens, Business Developer manufacturing industry and HTSM at NOM: 'Much is still in its infancy'

'Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is very broad. The branch that is currently furthest developed is computer vision, the analysis of images by computers, such as face recognition. A collection of images is presented and processed into its own neural network. If you then offer a new picture of a person, the probability score that it is a particular person goes up.

This is applicable in all kinds of industrial processes, such as quality control in injection molding. Much is still in its infancy; the vision applications are the furthest along. We are now going to conduct an assessment of 300 companies from Smart Industry Hub. All themes will be addressed in this, it gives companies self-insight. We will get a picture of the frontrunners but also of the companies that are taking the first steps.'

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