AI pioneer, professor, editor: congratulations to Jörg Siekmann on his 80th birthday

One of the most notable researchers, teachers, and managers of the German AI landscape and one of the three founding directors of DFKI can celebrate his 80th birthday today. Professor Jörg Siekmann, internationally recognized for his work in the field of Automated Reasoning, in demand as an editor, as an advisor in politics and business, honored as a Fellow of the German Informatics Society (2002) and awarded as one of the "Ten Influential Minds in German AI History" (2020).

Prof. Jörg Siekmann at the Conference Dinner of the KI-94 Conference in Saarbrücken, 1994.

Jörg Siekmann is an outstanding scientist, a stirring speaker, and a committed university lecturer, trend-setting and opinionated. He spoke eloquently of AI as a billion-dollar market back in the 1990s, when the first browser for the World Wide Web had just been released. For him, the future cars were computers on wheels, when the first portables did not yet have a color display; when Apple was not yet the most valuable company globally but was on the verge of insolvency.

"Jörg Siekmann is not only a mathematician and one of the masterminds of German AI but also a carpenter and wood engineer, a founding father of DFKI, and a world-class AI researcher. But today is not just a day for looking back. I am also looking forward to the upcoming talks and discussions, to the valuable advice of Jörg Siekmann, who knows what he wants and opens up thoughtful perspectives. We owe him a great deal, both scientifically and as a person, and wish him all the best on his 80th birthday," congratulates DFKI CEO Prof. Antonio Krüger.

In the programmatic guidelines for the DFKI, which was still being founded in 1987, Jörg Siekmann wrote together with Prof. Michael M. Richter (died 2020) and Prof. Wolfgang Wahlster: "The scientific vision at the German AI Center should therefore be the creation of 'intelligent specialist systems.' The assistance provided by such systems should not only be based on the application of specialized knowledge in a narrow field, but also on a certain 'everyday intelligence.'" Despite the great AI successes of the past decade, common sense is still the dominant challenge today. It is the supreme discipline and, at the same time, the keystone that needs to be further explored so that AI systems are available to help people achieve their goals productively, transparently, and reliably in as many life situations as possible.

Jörg Siekmann was the fifth employee of DFKI, which was founded on July 4, 1988, and now has 1250 employees. As Scientific Director, he established the research department "Deduction and Multiagent Systems" and successfully led it for 20 years. DFKI honored him as a "DFKI Fellow" in 2013, the 25th year of DFKI's existence. After his operational time at DFKI, he remained connected to the company as a consultant and continued his involvement as a senior professor for computer science and AI at Saarland University. The functions change, but the energy remains. That's what distinguishes Jörg Siekmann, and it's in keeping with his Buddhist view of life. As research department head, chair, and conference chair, or simply as an interested and well-read interlocutor, he has challenged and inspired his colleagues and AI in Germany.

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Reinhard Karger
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German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence
Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz