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English version: Erasmus Descartes Conference 2018 - Artificial Intelligence

On the 15th and the 16th of November 2018 the Erasmus-Descartes Conference will be coming back to Paris, organised by the Dutch embassy in cooperation with the French embassy in the Netherlands and under the auspices of the Initiative Franco-Néerlandaise (IFN). The conference, which took place for the first time in 2002, has since been held alternately in Paris and Amsterdam. It seeks to encourage partnerships between France and the Netherlands, and is a key event in the countries' bilateral relations.

A total of 150 experts from the private sector, civil society organisations and the public sector have been invited to take part in this year's conference, which will focus, after Big Data in 2017, on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 2018.

The theme of the 2018 conference: artificial intelligence
Algorithms, deep learning, machine learning, neural networks and big data; these are just some of the terms used in the world of AI. This key enabling technology has made its way into daily life, and all the more in France and the Netherlands, pioneers in the field of digitalization. A joint study by Cédric Villani and Médiamétrie, commissioned by the French government, about the future of AI in our society shows the magnitude of public engagement with this issue. 93% of respondents thought AI will have a significant impact on daily life in France. And the same percentage considers AI will transform employment, with 69% believing that AI can help in carrying out administrative tasks.

Recent events have shown that AI really is at the forefront of our societies. On the 29th of March 2018, President Macron unveiled France's national AI strategy, and on the 26th of April the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI) was officially inaugurated in Amsterdam. Businesses, universities and public authorities will collaborate at the centre to advance both AI's development and its application. At European level, 25 countries – including France and the Netherlands – have decided to join forces to shape the future of AI. In addition, on the 25th of April, the European Commission published its AI action plan. In the same week, the call for a European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS) was launched. This consortium of six institutes, including the University of Amsterdam and France's National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (INRIA), aims to bring together research projects and help create a better climate for AI start-ups in Europe. Furthermore, the Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research in Europe (CLAIRE) was launched recently. CLAIRE is an initiative by the European AI community that seeks to strengthen European excellence in AI research and innovation. To achieve this, CLAIRE proposes the establishment of a pan-European Confederation of Laboratories for Artificial Intelligence Research in Europe.

Though AI has entered into the public eye – through mobile phones, cars, medical care and computers –, the technology is still very much in development. At present scientists, corporations, start-ups and governments are working on how these new technologies could, and should, be used in the healthcare, transport, environment and defence sectors as well as in finance, the arts, industry and trade.

Break-out sessions

Over two consecutive days participants will attend three plenary sessions dealing with cross-cutting themes affecting the various sectors, as well as taking part in three break-out sessions, each focusing on a specific domain. The conference will focus on the following three fields of AI application:

AI and mobility: mobility of the future, intelligent enough?

The Olivier Wyman consulting firm published a report predicting more change in the field mobility in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the last 60 years altogether. AI plays a big part in this evolution, not only applying to transport over land, but to aeronautical and maritime transport as well. In business – producers, transporters, original equipment manufacturers, insurance companies – and for the government this change offers unique chances and  the predicted developments bring a positive contribution to our living environment. The workshop AI and mobility will be divided into two sessions in which experts from business, academia and the government will update us on the current state of affairs concerning AI and mobility in France as well as in the Netherlands. The theme of the first session, which will be held Thursday afternoon, is “AI and autonomous and controlled vehicles”. During this session we will delve deeper into the subject of self-driving vehicles, the foreseeable trials and challenges, and the role of the government. The second session, Friday morning, will be about AI and Intelligent Transport Systems. This highlights the role of AI in the exploitation of transport systems and in “Mobility-as-a-Service” (MaaS).  


Every day the healthcare sector collects an abundance of data, off of which AI feeds. This explains why this field is so interested in the development of AI. This new technology surpasses the human brain’s capability to distillate patterns from the never-ending streams of complex data. For example in oncology, a computer combining the files of thousands of patients can quickly detect types of tumors which allows the doctor to assess the adequate course of action. How can we make these analyses understandable to doctors and patients alike? How do we guard the ethical boundaries in  the use of our data? And whom, between the doctor, the patient and the machine, holds the reins in this healthcare cycle? These are questions we will be discussing within the subject of health and AI.

Looking at ongoing projects in many areas, such as music and literature, cultural actors will speak about the application of AI in their work. Why and how do they integrate AI in their work? Where do they find others to team up with to take on the technological challenges (coding, programming)? Does AI change their job or is it only an object, like a pencil or a musical instrument, that can be used in the creative process? Some examples: musical composing and coding, being able to converse with your favorite literary character, creating a painting with(out) the artist’s final touch, a digital fashion collection or dance choreography.

Program 15–16 November

15-16 November 2018