A students’ perspective on AI: Spence van Asperdt

“There are people who are afraid of AI. But in my opinion, it is a very usable tool, which forces us to be critical of our current ways of doing things.” Spence van Asperdt, a master’s student in AI at Radboud University, thinks that the future of AI looks promising. “Sure, ChatGPT helps students cheat on essays or tests. Does that mean that ChatGPT is wrong, or should we look for new ways of testing students?”

What does AI mean to you?
“Intelligent systems, algorithms and self-learning systems. You give input; the system uses an algorithm and learns from its output. This means that the system keeps getting better in performing a task.“

What is it like to study AI?
“You first learn the basics: programming, data sciences and ethics. Afterwards, it gets more specific with subjects like data learning and machine learning. You get the opportunity to specialise. Do you focus on neuroscience, data science, or look into the healthcare side of AI? There are many possibilities.”

What is the greatest benefit of AI?
“It creates change. Moreover, it provides many opportunities for new jobs in technology and healthcare. For example, think of AI to help in cancer cell detection. For doctors, it sometimes takes a long time to read a scan properly, but AI can do it in two minutes.”

And what about its dangers? 

“Bias creeps in quickly. Also, with AI. For example, do you want to use AI in a job application process and feed the system with algorithms from a company that employs more men than women? Then, the system is already biased based on what you teach it. And you will see that men get hired faster than women. You must be aware of that kind of danger; otherwise, it can have catastrophic consequences.”

What can we do to tackle or prevent these consequences?
“I think it’s essential to create awareness around AI and innovation in an ethical, social way. AI is already broadly used in our daily lives. In healthcare and banking, for example. Netflix also uses it. The current challenge is to make people aware of the chances but also the dangers. Initiatives like MKB Datalab give students a chance to put their theoretical knowledge to the test, which is great because this prepares students from my and future generations for the application of AI in our professional lives.”

What is your personal effort in creating awareness around AI?
“Together with a friend, I founded ERISC (Ethically Responsible Innovation Student Collective). With this initiative, we hope people will think things through before putting something on the market. How will my innovation impact people and legislation?”

Dirk van Schaijk and his colleague Anne Bergen are connecting SMEs with an AI related challenge to third-year bachelor’s and master’s students at the Radboud University. “Universities primarily work with big, international corporations. MKB Datalab however focuses on connecting students to opportunities at regional SMEs. To entrepreneurs, it’s an accessible and affordable way to get acquainted with AI and our students get the chance to learn in a professional setting.”

Want to know more about the latest innovations in AI? Make sure to join the INNOVATE AI Meetup on Wednesday, 28 February 2024! Innovators in health, high-tech, energy and SMEs will show how they are using AI to make a difference.