Canadian University Dubai (CUD) has hosted the eighth general assembly of the Silk Road Universities Network (SUN), bringing together delegates from international institutions to debate the theme, ‘The Role of Higher Education in the Era of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data: Challenges and Opportunities’. Staged at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, the flagship event convened a panel of academic and industry experts to discuss the hype and the reality surrounding artificial intelligence.
Commencing with a traditional Emirati dance performance, the opening ceremony was presided over by the guest of honour, Dubai Buti Saeed Al Ghandi, chancellor of CUD and vice-chairman of World Trade Centre, who remarked: “Artificial intelligence and big data present complex discussions that require a collaborative approach on a regional and international scale. We are pleased to facilitate this academic interaction in Dubai, which is a meeting point between East and West and a strategic position on the Silk Road map.”
Opening the General Assembly, professor Jaewan Yang, chairman of SUN, reflected on the economic, societal, and environmental challenges currently faced around the world, and reaffirmed the Network’s commitment to building a peaceful and sustainable future. Welcoming members of the Assembly to the iconic library building, prof. Karim Chelli, president and vice-chancellor, CUD, spoke of the rich cultural heritage that transcends the Silk Road.
Reporting on the seventh annual academic conference of the international association for Silk Road studies, which was hosted by CUD in 2022, prof. Chelli said: “Through 28-panel discussions and 23 research papers we have established a multi-disciplinary exchange, to create networks across academia and industry. We are proud to provide this platform for delegates to come together to share experiences and explore new frontiers in artificial intelligence.”
The assembly went on to hear a special lecture by Professor Emeritus, Myungsoo Kim, on living as an intellectual in Korea, followed by the panel discussion, titled, ‘Is AI the ultimate winner over classical techniques? Demarcating hype from reality'. Moderated by prof Dr Adel Ben Mnaouer, CUD, the panel brought together a Dr Aiman Erbad, associate professor, Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Doha, Dr Bernd van Linder, CEO of Commercial Bank of Dubai, prof Dr Marcello Pelilo from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy, and underwood distinguished professor, Dr M Jae Moon from Yonsei University, Korea.
Discussing some of the limitations of AI, the panel pointed to the lack of transparency and the inability to explain outputs that are based on machine learning, raising concerns over the trustworthiness of the technology. The debate also considered the ethical principles and governance considerations that are emerging as AI proliferates across society. Highlighting the opportunities that AI has to offer, the discussion explored how higher education institutions can help to localise solutions, to meet the need of stakeholders in specific communities. The panel concluded that AI has immense potential to support social good, but human interaction will remain critical to manage the technology effectively.
The General Assembly closed with a roundup of the network’s activities from the past year and the presentation of the award for the three SUN contests of 2022. The delegates went on to receive a warm welcome to the CUD campus at Dubai City Walk, where a cultural exhibition and student workshops were organised by the university students of the SUN, providing opportunities for students from the Silk Road institutions to meet, collaborate, learn, and celebrate diversity. Simultaneously, the university heads and Assembly delegates collaborated and exchanged ideas with the university presidents of the SUN Workshop.
The final day of the three-day gathering saw delegates and students receive a tour of the City Walk campus. There was also a chance for guests to enjoy an immersive cultural experience, with the opportunity to visit some of Dubai’s most iconic landmarks and witness the traditions and heritage of Emirati life. A spectacular gala dinner marked the conclusion of the eighth general assembly of the Silk Road Universities Network.
The Middle East education market is anticipated to reach $175 billion by 2027