TAU’s AI Week Gathers 4,000 Experts to Advance Booming Field

Tech, industry and government reps bring diverse perspectives on artificial intelligence and its applications
08 March 2021
A crowd gathers at AI Week in 2020
A crowd gathers at AI Week in 2020

AI Week, an annual TAU conference that took place virtually on February 22-24, brought together participants from 80 countries with the collective aim to benefit society with AI applications. 


The Conference is a platform for thought leadership and addresses the most significant issues in the field, such as formulating national plans for the advancement of AI, the use of AI in medicine and implementing AI to advance the economy in a post-corona world. TAU is a leader in advancing AI development in Israel and the world, and emphasizes the importance of these advancements.


“Since 2017, over 30 countries have already published national strategies or plans in the field of AI, followed by billions of dollars as investments,” said TAU’s Major Gen. (Res.) Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel, in the opening session. “We at TAU are making Israel a world leader in the field of AI; there is no part of today’s world that isn’t affected by AI, and every nation needs to understand that.”


In 2017, Prof. Ben-Israel and his TAU colleague Prof. Eviatar Matania were selected by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office to launch and head Israel’s AI national strategy. Prof. Ben-Israel is the Chairman of AI Week and the Director of the TAU Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center, and Prof. Matania is the former Director-General of the Israel National Cyber Directorate and the Head of Security Studies at TAU.


At the conference, TAU’s Prof. Meir Feder announced the inauguration of a new interdisciplinary Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, which he heads. “TAU is blessed with strong research teams in many fields such as computer science, statistics, engineering, arts, media, medicine, and more. This Center is unique because it provides a way to work together to apply and evaluate AI techniques in various situations.” 


Feder also announced a call for proposals for an upcoming interdisciplinary research program sponsored by Google entitled "AI for Social Good." These announcements marked new milestones for TAU's role in advancing AI both in Israel and worldwide. On Monday, March 22 the inauguration of the program will be held presenting 5 of the awardees from TAU.


The conference sessions covered the incorporation of AI into various fields such as zoology, digital humanities, neuroscience, social science and law. According to TAU’s Prof. Amir Globerson of the Blavatnik School of Computer Science, the event provided an opportunity for practitioners and researchers to be part of the "democratization" of AI and data science tools and their use.


The conference was held online for the first time. Registered participants had access to live sessions as well as to recordings, and were able to "virtually visit" sponsor booths, send resumes to hiring companies, and set individual meetings with partners and sponsors. Viewers were encouraged to engage and ask questions throughout the live streamed events.


The conference was multinational in both content and audience. It kicked off with a panel on AI National Strategy, with representatives from Singapore, the UAE and the UK, as well as TAU’s Prof. Matania.


"The [UAE] government is ambitious and futuristic, and an AI strategy was rolled out by the National Council in 2017,” said Sumaya al Hajeri, the Head of Governance and Data, Office of Ministry of AI, UAE, in the panel.  “We are focused on 'sustainable competitiveness' where we cooperate and compete at the same time, including international cooperation." 


Prof. Globerson and Prof. Saharon Rosset of TAU’s Sackler School of Mathematical Sciences closed AI Week with a summary session that emphasized key action items.  They urged participants to contact the new Center at TAU for research collaboration opportunities and to examine the topic that arose throughout the conference: implementing AI education at universities. 


According to Globerson, TAU leads by example by offering a new degree program in Data Science together with special courses on AI in various faculties. “Getting this right is a challenge, but it's important in this day and age for university students to have the extra edge," he concluded. 



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