Art, artificial intelligence and Gesamtwissenschaft at the opening of the academic year

Art, artificial intelligence and Gesamtwissenschaft at the opening of the academic year
Art, artificial intelligence and Gesamtwissenschaft at the opening of the academic year

“We are sitting on gold,” says Ed Brinksma when it comes to the role that Erasmus University can play in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to solve societal problems. Until recently, AI was mainly something for techies, but now, according to Brinksma (an engineer himself), the ‘second phase’ has arrived in the use of artificial intelligence, in which the expertise of EUR is desperately needed.

Opportunities and threats

President of the Executive Board Ed Brinksma: ‘We are sitting on gold.’

Image by:
Levien Willemse

Brinksma: “AI is increasingly intervening in our lives, organizations and society. Devising the preconditions, legal and ethical implications are themes that tie in with this university. How can we use AI for good. Because there are not only opportunities but also threats.”

He mentions solving the water scarcity as opportunities – now very topical; how do we arrange that together? “It is no longer just about the bare figures, but how do you deal with this in an intelligent way. And that is precisely what our scientists can contribute to.”

And there are also threats, says Brinksma, and he calls the extensive use by the Chinese government of AI, which is turning the country into a police state, ‘we don’t want that’.

Art makes complex matters negotiable

But how do you get humanities and social science scientists involved in something with a highly technical image? Brinksma answers: with art. “Art is a language with which you can discuss matters that are too complex to explain in words,” says Brinksma. He does not hide his enthusiasm for the role of art and the union of art and science.

It is not without reason that one of the main guests at the Opening of the Academic Year is artist Refik Anadol. Anadol is a media artist who uses staggering amounts of data for his installations. These can be photos or other data that together lead to almost hallucinatory moving images.


Brinksma is enthusiastic about these art forms driven by technology and science. He himself makes the comparison with the Bauhaus, a training course for visual artists, craftsmen and architects that had a great influence on art education and art and design in general between the First and Second World Wars in Germany. “The ideas from the Bauhaus movement to Gesamtkunst coming up with artists and craftsmen, I also envision in this day and age: Gesamtwissenschaft in which artists and scientists find each other.”

Brinksma therefore refers to the collaboration between EUR and Codarts and the Willem de Kooning Academy as the ‘fourth leaf on the clover’ of convergence, the collaboration between Erasmus University, Erasmus MC and TU Delft. Precisely again to let art play a role in these collaborations and to make the connection between art and science, a new Bauhaus movement, as it were.

Another thing the university can learn from Bauhaus, according to Brinksma, is to have an eye for talent and not just for diplomas. He refers to the Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg, founder of the art movement De Stijl and involved in the Bauhaus education, who barely finished primary school but who had an incredibly great artistic talent and who has brought about innovation in the world of art and design. .

“This holds up a mirror to us. Has education not become too mass-produced, and are diplomas the most important selection criterion for genuine innovation? We should not only focus on the average, but also provide space for talent that does not comply with the rules of the system.”

‘Water up to the lips’

Brinksma does not want to go so far as to radically change the current education system, but he would welcome another form ‘besides’ the current system.

Incidentally, at the start of a new academic year, there are first of all other concerns, namely about the growing influx of students to university education.
Before the summer, Minister Dijkgraaf of Education drew the Language Accessibility Act. The law offered instruments to better manage the growth of students from abroad, in particular. Brinksma has mixed feelings about this. “On the one hand, I’m happy because the law would oblige us to grow, but the law also offered tools to respond specifically to unwanted growth, and we’re missing that now.”

But, says Brinksma, we will be discussing this with the minister from September. “We hope that something will come out of that consultation that will help us move forward. The minister really has to come up with something in the coming year, otherwise we will do it ourselves. “The water is up to our lips.”

The Opening of the Academic Year can be followed online here from 2.45 pm.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Art artificial intelligence Gesamtwissenschaft opening academic year

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