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How can we make sure that machines behave morally? This is a question that Junior Professor Eva Schmidt from TU Dortmund University is exploring in a joint project with Saarland University. The Volkswagen Foundation is funding Schmidt’s research and that of a doctoral researcher with around €160,000.
Big data, digitalization, deep learning – new technologies raise new questions. How, for example, should an autonomous car “decide” when forced to choose whether to run someone over? Should it hit the pensioner rather than the teenager? The one has already lived their life, the other has their whole life ahead of him. Which decision in such a situation is the right one for the machine?
This is a question caught up in the friction between artificial intelligence (AI) and society. In the framework of its funding initiative Artificial Intelligence – Its Impact on Tomorrow’s Society, the Volkswagen Foundation has approved a total of around €12 million for cross-disciplinary and transnational research into the responsible further development of AI systems. In this context, the foundation is supporting eight interdisciplinary and international research alliances in the social and technical sciences. Researchers from, for example, law, linguistics, and social sciences as well as from computer science, medicine, philosophy, and cyber security have joined forces in the program. The projects are scheduled to run for three to four years. The one in Dortmund will start in the late spring.
How can we understand decisions made by AI systems better?
Junior Professor Eva Schmidt from the Institute of Philosophy and Political Science at the Faculty of Human Sciences and Theology is working on it. She has been investigating this topic for quite some time: What opportunities does AI offer? Where do the risks lie? And more specifically: Why is it important that we understand the decisions made by AI systems? How does the explainability of AI systems foster, for example, trust and responsibility?
In Schmidt’s project “Explainable Intelligent Systems (EIS)”, the following disciplines are working together: Computer science, philosophy, psychology, and law. The project is concerned with the explainability of AI-based decisions and thus with one of the key questions related to the use of AI systems in society. Involved in the project alongside Eva Schmidt from TU Dortmund University are Junior Professor Lena Kästner, Professor Georg Borges, Professor Ulla Wessels, Dr. Markus Langer and Professor Holger Hermanns, all from Saarland University in Saarbrücken. “Among others, we’re looking at the overarching question: How can and should intelligent systems be designed in such a way that they deliver explainable recommendations?” says Eva Schmidt. She is assisted at TU Dortmund University by Sara Mann, who will complete her doctoral degree in the framework of the project.
In the framework of her research work on explainable AI, Eva Schmidt has also lectured in Hannover, Zurich, and Cambridge as well as recently online at the “Usability in Germany” conference on the topic of “Autonomy and Justice in the Framework of Artificial Intelligence”. In collaboration with the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence in Cambridge, TU Delft, and Leibniz University Hannover, the EIS project is organizing the workshop series “Issues in Explainable AI”. The Dortmund workshop in the series is scheduled for autumn 2022.
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Location & approach
The campus of TU Dortmund University is located close to interstate junction Dortmund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dortmund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is “Dortmund-Eichlinghofen” (closer to South Campus), and from B 1 / A 40 “Dortmund-Dorstfeld” (closer to North Campus). Signs for the university are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dortmund.
To get from North Campus to South Campus by car, there is the connection via Vogelpothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at North Campus and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.
TU Dortmund University has its own train station (“Dortmund Universität”). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dortmund main station (“Dortmund Hauptbahnhof”) and Düsseldorf main station via the “Düsseldorf Airport Train Station” (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 20 or 30 minutes). The university is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.
You can also take the bus or subway train from Dortmund city to the university: From Dortmund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station “Stadtgarten”, usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At “Stadtgarten” you switch trains and get on line U42 towards “Hombruch”. Look out for the Station “An der Palmweide”. From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dortmund University leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dortmund main station to the stop “Dortmund Kampstraße”. From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop “Dortmund Wittener Straße”. Switch to bus line 447 and get off at “Dortmund Universität S”.
The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dortmund Airport (DTM) to Dortmund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dortmund Central Station, you can continue to the university campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of international flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the university station.
The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dortmund University. There are two stations on North Campus. One (“Dortmund Universität S”) is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the university directly with the city of Dortmund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the “Technologiepark” and (via South Campus) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at North Campus and offers a direct connection to South Campus every five minutes.
The facilities of TU Dortmund University are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the university are located in the adjacent “Technologiepark”.