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CDA President Welzl follows invitation to University of Oxford

Vienna/Oxford, 27 January 2023 – 21:00 CET/ 8:00 pm BST


Against the backdrop of the rising impact of AI, big data and converging deep tech Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Principal of Jesus College and Professor of Computing Science in the Department of Computer Science at University of Oxford, invited CDA President Alexander G. Welzl for a bilateral exchange of thoughts. This was at the same time CDA’s first official visit to the University of Oxford. In their meeting held at the Principal’s office Shadbolt and Welzl addressed amongst others the impact of digital transformation in European countries and China, aspects of national governance to balance private gains and the public good in the world wide web and they talked about the next step in human evolution in the 21st century driven by geo-innovation and a rising planetary patriotism (as suggested by CDA). With regard to frontiers in machine learning Sir Nigel and President Welzl also discussed progress in AI and potential self-awareness of humanoid robots which still is a distant goal in fundamental and applied AI-research at the time being. The discourse on privacy and trust in the Digital Age also made reference to the Open Data Institute which Nigel Shadbolt formally launched in December 2012 together with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web in 1989 and is also Professor of Computing Science in the Department of Computer Science at University of Oxford. At the occasion of this personal meeting Welzl and Shadbolt explored fields of mutual interest and potential cooperation.


From left to right: Sir Nigel SHADBOLT (Principal of Jesus College and Professor at University of Oxford) and Alexander G. WELZL (President of CDA) in the Elizabethan Hall


Nigel Shadbolt - One of the UK’s foremost Computer Scientists


Sir Nigel Shadbolt FRS FREng CITP CEng FBCS CPsycho is Professor of Computing Science at the University of Oxford and Principal of Jesus College, Oxford. He undertakes interdisciplinary research in Computer and Engineering science. He has researched Artificial Intelligence (AI), Computer Science, Computational Neuroscience, and the emerging field of Web Science. His work has advanced our understanding of intelligent behaviour in humans and machines. A major current research interest is to understand and design effective Social Machines. Social Machines are systems at web scale comprised of people and computers that can solve problems and achieve tasks beyond any of the individual elements.


He has also researched and promoted the use of open data. He has been central to the development and practical implementation of open data policy and helped establish the UK as internationally leading in this area. Alongside his Oxford appointments he is Chairman and Co-Founder, with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, of the Open Data Institute. He seeks to promote the fundamental importance of computer science and the practical application of his research. He has provided advice and guidance across Government as well as undertaking specific Reviews for Government.


Sir Nigel is co-author of the book ‘The Digital Ape: How to Live (in Peace) with Smart Machines’ discussing how smart-machines revolution is reshaping our lives and our societies. In this book he dispels terror, confusion, and misconception. Chapter by chapter The Digital Ape outlines how humankind’s choices and the use and adaptation of the tools we've created can lead to opportunities for the environment (both built and natural), health, and our security.


In an ongoing project Shadbolt and Tim Berners-Lee until May 2024 aim to reform the concentration of power on the World Wide Web by developing and deploying new forms of technical and legal infrastructure. Called Ethical Web and Data Infrastructure in the Age of AI (EWADA) this is an ambitious 3-year programme that is funded by the Oxford Martin School. Thirty years ago, the World Wide Web launched as an open, common, universal infrastructure that anyone with a computer and a modem could use to communicate, publish and access information. In recent years, however, it has radically diverged from the values upon which it was founded, and it is now dominated by a number of platform companies, whose business models and services generate huge profits. To reform the centralised Web and create “architectures for autonomy”, EWADA aims to investigate novel re-decentralisation architectures and privacy-preserving AI methods and define new institutional and legal constructs that are required in this transformation.


With regard to China Nigel Shadbolt together with Ge Wang (UCL) and Jun Zhao (University of Oxford) published research results in 2019 discussing What concerns do Chinese parents have about their children's digital adoption and how to better support them?. In this report, the scholars present findings from their online survey of 593 Chinese parents with children aged 6-10 in February and March 2019. The study particularly focused on understanding Chinese parents' awareness and management of their children's online privacy risks. The goal of the survey was to examine the current adoption pattern of digital devices by Chinese families with young children, the concerns Chinese parents have about their children's online activities and the current practices they use for safeguarding their children online. The study’s findings imply that there is a need to continue presenting specific guidance to parents in order to support their choice of digital content for their young children. Further, there is a need to look more deeply into the roles schools are taking in children's online activities, how can we support schools and teachers when they are making recommendations to parents and children.


On 2 Mar 2023 Nigel Shadbolt and Lu Zhang (School of Law, Tsinghua University) et al published a paper addressing the status-quo ‘Before and after China’s new Data Laws: Privacy in Apps’. Privacy in apps is a topic of widespread interest because many apps collect and share large amounts of highly sensitive information. In response, China introduced a range of new data protection laws over recent years, notably the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) in 2021. So far, there exists limited research on the impacts of these new laws on apps' privacy practices. To address this gap, this paper analyses data collection in pairs of 634 Chinese iOS apps, one version from early 2020 and one from late 2021. In their work the authors find that many more apps now implement consent. Yet, those end-users that decline consent will often be forced to exit the app. Fewer apps now collect data without consent but many still integrate tracking libraries. The authors see their findings as characteristic of a first iteration at Chinese data regulation with room for improvement.


Jesus College 450 Anniversary in 2021 – Nobel Laureates and Digital Hub


On 27 June 1571 Queen Elizabeth I issued letters patent for the foundation of ‘Jhesus College within the City and University of Oxforth’. In 2021 the College therefore celebrates the 450th anniversary of the royal charter, and a new landmark in the history of this institution. In choosing a successor to Lord Krebs in 2015 the Governing Body was the first Oxbridge college to elect a computer scientist, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, as Head of House. They allowed its new Principal to continue research as a professor in the Department of Computer Science.


A great advantage of college life is its interdisciplinary nature. Subject families and disciplines mix daily, as students and faculty, Fellows and guests, teach, research and socialise together. The ideas, interests, methods and techniques of historians and mathematicians, philosophers and engineers, classicists and computer scientists – all manner of subjects – are constantly in contact, mixing, influencing one another. Colleges are, at their very core, sites of intellectual exchange. Hence the commitment in Jesus College to maintaining a broad balance of subjects and disciplines. The College is rightly proud of its achievements, proud that their Fellows past and present continue to achieve at the highest level. Sir Peter Ratcliffe a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus from 1992 to 2004, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2019, is the latest notable example.


In 2022 the Cheng Yu Tung Building, located on the corner of Cornmarket and Market Street in the heart of Oxford, was opened. The founding of the College’s new building was made possible in large part thanks to a transformative £15 million donation to Jesus College’s 450th Anniversary campaign by Hong Kong entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr Henry Cheng Kar Shun, through his London-based property company Knight Dragon. The development is named in honour of Dr Cheng’s father, Dr Cheng Yu Tung. Amongst others the new building also houses the Digital Hub, a new interdisciplinary education and research space. It will be named after Dr Henry Cheng Kar Shun and be known as the Cheng Kar Shun Digital Hub.


University of Oxford and China – Joint Research and Activities in China


Oxford is engaged in China research as well as in research collaborations with research institutions in the country itself. The University of Oxford’s first Chinese language book appeared in its library in 1604, and bears an inscription from Sir Thomas Bodley, the founder of the Bodleian Library. Oxford would host its first visitor from China in 1684, and in 1876 would welcome James Legge as the first Oxford Chair of Chinese. The University of Oxford’s China Centre was founded in 2008. Prof Andrew Goudie, a distinguished physical geographer and the former Master of St Cross College, served as the Director from 2011 to 2013. In 2013, Prof Rana Mitter OBE, a leading historian of China, assumed the directorship of the China Centre. His tenure, lasting until 2020, would mark an expansion of the activities of the China Centre, with a robust schedule of external speakers, events, and engagement activities. In 2020, Prof Todd Hall, a scholar of international relations, became director of the China Centre. In 2021, the Oxford China Centre began a partnership with the Great Britain China Centre to provide China-focused capabilities training for policymakers, civil servants, and members of the private sector through the Future Leaders Programme, and in 2022, it initiated its DPhil Associates Programme to bring together DPhils across Oxford working on China-related topics.


Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Oxford Institute is China’s first medical sciences institute in the UK hosted by University of Oxford, a collaboration between the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) and the University.


Officially inaugurated on 22 November 2018 the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR) is the University of Oxford’s first and only engineering and physical sciences research institute located in China. OSCAR is located in Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) and draws on the resources of the Mathematical, Physical, and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division which is one of the four academic divisions of the University of Oxford. OSCAR builds on MPLS’ research strength and leads research in modern biotechnology, advanced materials, computational approaches and manufacturing techniques to provide innovative solutions to current global healthcare, energy, environmental and financial challenges.


Alexander G. Welzl Distinguished Visitors Lecture at Oxford’s ODID


During his time as senior researcher in economics at a Vienna/Austria based macroeconomic think tank CDA President Alexander G. Welzl was invited by Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) to deliver a lecture in ODID’s Distinguished Visitors Lecture Series at Queen Elisabeth House at University of Oxford. With then ODID Head Professor Valpy FitzGerald as a convenor Alexander Welzl gave a talk 'On the Origin of Wealth by Means of Adopting a New Value Paradigm'. The date of the speech – 24th November 2009 – was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s pathbreaking book ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’ which was published on 24th November 1859.

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