Brussels, Belgium – The second edition of the FARI Brussels Conference has brought together thought leaders, policymakers, experts, researchers, and innovators from around the world to see concretely how AI, Data, and Robotics can become truly sustainable for cities and local organizations (public, private or civic). The conference took place from the 11th to the 12th of September at Bozar in Brussels, Belgium. This year’s conference hosted more than 400 participants.
The conference gathered 61 speakers from 17 different countries to Brussels and 45% of our speakers were female. Our two-day-conference comprised a total of 8 sessions, covering a wide range of topics under “Local & Sustainable AI, Data, and Robotics”, including:
➡ Local and Sustainable AI, when technologies meet communities
➡ Methodologies to involve citizens around AI, Data, Robotics
➡ AI, Robotics, and Mobility as a Service
➡ AI, Data, and Robotics in Public Services towards a new “algocracy”
➡ AI and Justice
➡ AI Procurement and Sandboxing
➡ Legal Protection Debt in the ML Pipeline
➡ Sustainable Robots and Cities
We were honored to have the participation of researchers, scholars, and local authorities who contributed their unique insights into these topics. State Secretary Thomas Dermine, State Secretary Barbara Trachte, and Minister Bernard Clerfayt took part in our opening ceremony.
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Local & Sustainable AI?
While it is essential to focus on sustainable AI at a macro level, it is often neglected to understand the needs at the local/city level. “We are not able to understand what’s happening on the local level, but the governance of AI is far more agile and legitimate on the local level because of how it impacts the citizens,” said Stefaan Verhulst, PhD, co-founder, the GovLab, New York University. Rather than focusing on urban stories, optimization should be a guiding value for local and sustainable AI, added Taylor Stone, senior researcher at the Institute for Science and Ethics, University of Bonn.
Talking about citizens’ needs, our speakers from Quebec Benjamin Prud’homme and Shazade Jameson pointed out some important key aspects to consider including understanding the needs of the cities, making an explicit choice for the local AI project, and focusing on accessibilities for people to gain benefits from the projects. At the conference, there are presentations of important projects and organizations that are working to actively engage citizens in the development of AI, data, and robotics projects. Those projects aimed at consulting citizens, debilitating AI to increase the representation of citizens’ interests, empowering youth participation in AI, and increasing citizen dialogue through the typology of AI. One common emphasis these different projects share is the importance of including the voices of citizens by encouraging them to offer their opinions and to actively participate in AI projects.
The conference’s discussions on sustainable AI also cover the advantages and drawbacks of the transformation AI brings to public services including mobility, legal and justice, procurement and sandboxing, and sustainable robotics in cities. We also gathered different perspectives from researchers, lawyers, and data scientists on how existing legal protection frameworks like the AI Act and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) support and put barriers on their domains of work.
Insightful reports from our student committees and observatory committees on the conference’s discussions will be soon published on FARI Website.
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“Many contributors highlighted the necessity of an interdisciplinary perspective when dealing with the complexity of AI systems and solutions – minding governance, ethical, legal and sustainability aspects as much as the technological ones. Testing conceptual solutions against the real-life requirements in practical use cases also proves to be of detrimental value. Therefore, we want to continue our commitment at FARI to enable applied, interdisciplinary research based on and in collaboration with actors in the field. Where necessary, we also want to provide them with the training and tools to be able to arrive at meaningful use cases and applications,” said Karen Boers, FARI’s managing director.
FARI Brussels Conference is an annually held conference in Brussels. It serves as a platform for thought leaders, policymakers, experts, researchers, and innovators from around the world to explore and discuss how AI, Data, and Robotics can become local and truly sustainable for cities. The conference aims to foster collaboration and exchange of knowledge and perspectives that will shape the future of local and sustainable AI, Data, and Robotics.
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FARI is an independent non-profit initiative in the field of artificial intelligence under the guidance of two Brussels universities: the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). It gathers the interdisciplinary expertise of 10 research groups working on AI, data, robotics, social sciences, ethics, and law. The initiative aims to help citizens, politicians, businesses and non-profit organizations address contemporary challenges in the Brussels-Capital region, Belgium and Europe.
FARI brings together leading and future researchers on projects that serve the city in the field of AI (explainable and reliable), data (open), and robotics (human-centered). It also builds bridges with governments, industry, and citizens to promote sustainable AI, with a focus on urban and public priority areas such as health, mobility, climate, and energy, and a participatory and inclusive society.