Artificial Intelligence: New funding initiative established

A new funding initiative of the Volkswagen Foundation aims to promote the responsible development of artificial intelligence systems. Interdisciplinary research consortia in the social sciences and the engineering sciences can apply for up to 1.5 million euro for up to four years. Next deadlines for applications: 

Illustration of a robots hand holding a human brain
The new funding initiative on AI set up by the Foundation aims to enable joint, integrative research approaches in the social and technical sciences. (Illustration: Phonlamai Photo -

The funding initiative "Artificial Intelligence - Its Impact on the Society of Tomorrow" is aimed at researchers who join together in consortia comprising disciplines in engineering, the social sciences and / or the humanities to tackle the challenges arising from the impact of artificial intelligence on society. Since such cross-disciplinary constellations have mostly yet to be envisaged, in addition to the funding of selected projects over a period of up to four years, it is also possible to apply for a one-year planning grant prior to submitting a full application. The first closing dates for applications are July 5, 2018 and July 4, 2019.  

Be it self-driving cars or autonomous robots, researchers in the field of artificial intelligence are achieving phenomenal technological advances that experts thought were impossible just a few years ago. For example, computer programs that autonomously learn functions and whose behavior is therefore no longer completely comprehensible to its designers are no longer merely a figment of the imagination.

Opportunities and threats of artificial intelligence

These developments are accompanied by opportunities and threats that are currently difficult to assess. Recent developments in image recognition systems, for example, use an algorithm which on the basis of, among other things, facial proportions and expressions can with great accuracy draw conclusions about the sexual orientation of the person depicted. What could be the consequences, though, if a single photo can assign certain characteristics to a person – for example, in countries where homosexuality is prohibited? On the upside, AI systems open up many new possibilities in the medical field: In the analysis of tumors in the body, for instance, the properties of the surrounding tissue structures can now be ascertained by means of image recognition in order to improve the diagnosis of such diseases.
These advances raise completely new questions of responsibility or the need for regulations and laws. In order to design new technologies with regard to their importance for society and individual persons, engineering and the social sciences must be involved in development right from the start. This field of cooperation presents both research areas with new challenges, but also opens up opportunities for further development.

Detailed information about the funding initiative can be found under "Artificial Intelligence – Its Impact on the Society of Tomorrow"