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A new doctoral research field receives significant funding to study convergence of human and machine

Published on 17.6.2022
Tampere University
Convergenge of human and machine creativity. Images generated by DALL-E artificial intelligence for affective computing, gamification, extended reality, cybernetics, ubiquitous connectivity, pervasive computing, AI and machine learning, and robotics.
The Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation provides €3 million in funding to Tampere University’s Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences for doctoral education on the themes of convergence of human and machine. The project CONVERGENCE of humans and machines will establish a dedicated doctoral training field and train the first 16 PhD students to become holistic experts in the field.

The new doctoral research field at Tampere University will be based on the premise that technology has become an increasingly integral part of all aspects of human life and society. It can be said that the project has emerged from the need to redefine and renegotiate the roles of human and machine in society.

– We are moving towards a convergence of human and machine, in which on the one hand people are increasingly integrated with technology and our culture and practices are increasingly dictated by information technology. On the other hand, machines are becoming more alive, creative, and dynamic. In other words, human and machine are converging, leading to a need to redefine humanity and technology, says Professor Juho Hamari, who is leading the project.

CONVERGENCE brings together expertise of natural sciences and engineering and social sciences and humanities in multidisciplinary union. Doctoral research projects will be related to novel veins of development of technology in areas such as affective computing, gamification, augmented reality, cybernetics, ubiquitous connectivity, dispersed computing, AI & machine learning, and robotics & machine perception.

– The research builds upon intersections between technology and humanity, and thus supports and benefits from the interdisciplinary nature of both the Faculty and Tampere University as a whole. I am eagerly looking forward to witnessing new innovative doctoral research that shine both in their innovative and cross-cutting nature ,  Jyrki Vuorinen, Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences, declares.

Human points of view should be considered in technological progress

The new doctoral research field will teach specialists and researchers to grasp the challenges and opportunities of the convergence of human and machine. Industry, for example, currently craves for future innovators and vanguards that spawn the new wave of Finnish technology-based systems and services for future. But a technological perspective is not enough.

– When considering the importance and development of technology from a societal perspective, we must take into account people, interaction with people and the societal impact of technology. In addition to technology, the overarching themes must be human centered, sustainable development in its broadest sense, and resilience, i.e. society's ability to withstand and adapt to sudden changes, points out Sanni Siltanen, Senior Expert in Innovation Engineering in KONE.

The convergence of human and machine is profoundly changing the way societies and communities are structured and operate and presents us with new challenges in how to face a changing world and manage change in a sustainable and equitable way. Exploring new ethical issues requires a convergence of human sciences and technological understanding. Therefore, the project will respond to the needs of research, society, and industry by providing education and training that addresses the issue in an ethical, holistic, and sustainable way, seamlessly integrating the perspectives of technology and humanity.

Stakeholders propose real-life problems to be resolved

An important component of the six-year project is the networking of the doctoral researchers with the organisations that will co-operate with the project. Career development is an integral part of the training programme, and the doctoral researchers may aim at a career in research or in any organisation. Synergies between the project and stakeholders could be found, for example, through stakeholders bringing their own research problems for the doctoral researcher to solve.

–Tampere University has had strong studies over the decades around all these thematic areas, which are part of CONVERGENCE of Humans and machines. Nokia has worked with some of these areas closely over the years or even decades. Tampere University is unique place to do this kind widely converged studies because all professors are strongly linked to the society including companies, city of Tampere and excellent partner network with several other universities, says Petri Ahokas, Head of Tampere Technology Center at Nokia, enthusiastically about the start of the project.

The project CONVERGENCE of humans and machines starts in September 2022.

The funding decision is available on the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation website.

Further information

Juho Hamari
+358 50 318 6861
juho.hamari [at] tuni.fi