Alexander von Humboldt professorship in the name of human-centered AI: Official prize-giving ceremony for Prof. Dr. Vincent Müller

Preisträger und FAU-Prof. Vincent C. Müller und FAU-Präsident Joachim Hornegger Bild: FAU

For artificial intelligence that serves human purposes

He started at FAU in June 2022, and the official prize-giving ceremony for his Alexander von Humboldt professorship was held on the evening of May 11: Prof. Dr. Vincent Müller, Chair of Theory and Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, has received Germany’s most prestigious research prize for outstanding international researchers. His aim: To pave the way for human-centered artificial intelligence (AI)

Researching and implementing responsible AI is still a very young discipline, and Humboldt prizewinner Prof. Dr. Vincent C. Müller is one of its pioneers. His interest in the philosophy and ethics of artificial intelligence began even before the topic sparked wider public debate. He also has an excellent reputation in the field of computer science, and is one of the few people to have been appointed as a fellow to the Alan Turing Institute in London in spite of having a background in another discipline.

Bridging the gap between technology and the humanities

At FAU, Müller carries out research into theoretical and ethic issues behind AI. “I do not deal with questions from computer science, I deal with theoretical questions about computer science,” Müller clarifies. These questions include, for instance, what impact does AI have on humanity’s self-image? Bearing this in mind, should machines be granted responsibility and rights?

Interdisciplinary exchange is extremely important for the Humboldt professor. He is convinced: “Cutting-edge research can only work if you work together with people who know something that you do not know.” In a bid to bridge the gap between research into technology and the humanities as well as towards industry and public administration, he often meets with representatives from other research areas. For example with the eight other Humboldt professors at FAU from entirely different research areas.

AI in the name of humanity

Müller’s focus is to establish a structure for this new area of research at FAU and in Erlangen, and in Germany as a whole, and help it make a breakthrough. “The topic of ethics in relation to AI was virtually non-existent in Germany until a few years ago,” Müller explains. “That is the reason why we are seeing a lot of experts coming in from abroad to research the topic.” The intention is that Müller will work in Germany to develop a guiding vision for “humane AI”, in other words an intelligence that genuinely serves human purposes.

His Alexander von Humboldt professorship entails funding of 3.5 million euros. Müller intends to use this funding to complete projects that have already been started: a handbook on the topic of the philosophy of AI as well as a book that explores the question of whether machines can think. In addition, he will establish a research center connecting applied ethics and applied philosophy to artificial intelligence. The center should make an impact not only in academic circles but also in politics and in society. Plans are also in the pipeline for establishing a whole new institute: the new international and interdisciplinary Center for Philosophy and AI Research (PAIR) that is to become the future hub for AI philosophy at FAU.

About the new Humboldt professor Vincent C. Müller

Vincent C. Müller is originally from Germany, but has been a professor of philosophy and ethics at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands since 2019. He obtained his doctoral degree from Universität Hamburg in 1999. He went on from there to become an assistant, then an associate and finally a full professor at Anatolia College in Thessaloniki, Greece. He has had several stays as a visiting professor at universities in the USA and the UK (2005 to 2006 in Princeton, 2011 to 2014 in Oxford, 2016 in Leeds, 2018 Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute in London). He is the president of EUCognition – European Society for Cognitive Systems and the chairman of the Topic Group ‘Ethical, Legal and Socio-economic issues’ at euRobotics, the international non-profit association for stakeholders in the European robotics sector.

About the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards this professorship to internationally leading researchers from all disciplines who are currently working abroad. The aim of Alexander von Humboldt professorships is to enable German universities to bring top researchers to Germany and to offer them a long-term perspective for their work here. The professorships are funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research and are endowed with up to five million euros over five years.

Further information about the Humboldt professorship:

All FAU Alexander von Humboldt Professorships