Biographical and Background Information

Pieter Willem Adriaans
Universiteit van Amsterdam
ILLC, IvI Theory of Computer Science
Science Park 904, 1098 GH Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Mobile Phone     +31 6 54234459, Office +31 20 5256793/7462 (secr.)

Current Position
Professor, Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence University of Amsterdam, 1998-

Undergraduate Institution(s) Kandidaats Filosofie, University of Leiden, 1979
Graduate Institution(s) Doctoraal Filosofie, University of Leiden, 1983
University of Amsterdam, Computer Science PhD, 1992

1998-, Professor, Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence,
2003-2008 Chairman, CWI (National research center for mathematics and computer science), Amsterdam
1989-2000 Managing Director/Founder Syllogic B.V.
1985-1989, General Manager of Compu’Disc, General Manager at Info’Products Informatica Diensten
1983-1985, Software Developer, Service Manager at Buro Microsoftware

Honors and Fellowships
Advisory Board, Info-Metrics Institute, American University, Washington D.C. (2010-)
Member AcTI Netherlands Academy of Technology and Innovation (2004-2012)
Member AWT Advisory Council of Science and Technology Policy (2004-2012)
Project Leader Dutch Prognostics and Health Monitoring Joint Strike Fighter (1997-2001)

Graduate Advisors:
Prof. Dr. M.Fresco, emeritus University of Leiden
Prof. Dr. H. Philipse, University of Utrecht
Postdoctoral Sponsors:
Prof. Dr. P.E. Van Emde Boas, emeritus University of Amsterdam

Phd Students
S. Katrenko, University of Utrecht.
N. Netten, SPIE Nederland B.V.
G. de Vries, University of Amsterdam
W. Mulder, Logica CMG
F. Terpstra, Cap Gemini
P. Bloem

Short general biography

"I still believe in the old Renaissance ideal of the universal man, not in the sense of knowing everything about everything but as the ambition to understand universal structures from different perspectives." Pieter Adriaans

Over the years Pieter Adriaans (1955) has built up an impressive unusually broad oeuvre that varies from paintings and sculptures to installations, books, papers and musical compositions. This achievement is remarkable given the fact that Adriaans also has a masters in philosophy, a PhD in theoretical computer science and has, together with his business partner Dolf Zantinge, founded a very successful computer company. He is part-time professor of learning and adaptive at the University of Amsterdam.

"I see no fundamental difference between my work as a philosopher, as a scientist or as an artist" Adriaans states "It all has to do with creating new insights and understanding yourself and the world around you. Since the Renaissance there exists a pact between artists and scientists in Western culture that culminated in the notion of an experiment: the creation of a unique object, situation or event that is intended to test a theory. Only the context is different: in science and philosophy you try to find theories that help us to understand the existing world, in art you try to create new meaning for the future world. On rare occasions the two worlds come together in a work of art that both touches us emotionally and allows us understand the world from a new perspective."

Adriaans is the first to admit that there are tensions between those two ambitions. When he got a patent on the technology embedded in the Instant Composer Tool (a program that could compose music automatically developed with Maarten van den Dungen in the mid-nineties), he decided that he would not publish anything about this material in scientific circles because he felt this might hamper his ability to explore the artistic possibilities of the invention. In a world of extreme specialization commercial art gallery owners do not like experimental artists very much and I the eyes of most scientists colleagues that paint or make art are hobbyists at best. Yet there are signs that the tide is changing. In the Netherlands as well as internationally there is a development where science and art are trying to find new forms of cooperation. Adriaans has been involved in various projects to encourage artist and scientists to work together: at the Vrije Akademie in Den Haag and the Rijksakademie amongst others. Today Adriaans is getting more and more recognition for his work, culminating in the invitation for the prestigious Paradiso lecture "The work of art as a number" in 2007 and the acquisition of his work by research institutes and collectors.

Adriaans got his first drawing lessons at the end of the sixties from the well-known painter Jacobus Koeman in Bergen aan Zee. In 1971, at the age of sixteen he was accepted as a student at the St. Joost School of Fine Art and Design, but, being disappointed by lack of interest in the technical aspects of drawing and painting at this institute he decided to combine the development of his talents with a thorough intellectual training. Ever since this time he has combined a scientific career with artistic activities. In the seventies he was member of Teekengenootschap Pictura, in Dordrecht. He got painting lessons from G.E. Meertens, and from J. Van Kesteren. He studied philosophy (and some mathematics) in Leiden from 1976 till 1983, the Netherlands, under Nuchelmans and van Peursen. In the eighties he worked for a number of computer companies such as Bureau Micro Software, Compu'Train and Info'Products. Here he started research into knowledge based systems and logic programming. This culminated in to the founding of the software company Syllogic in 1989. The success of this company allowed Adriaans to further explore the interplay between art and science. Eight years, later when Syllogic was a leading firm in data mining artificial intelligence and systems management with offices in Holland, Dublin, London and California, it was sold to Perot Systems Inc. This allowed Adriaans to take up one of his most ambitious projects up till now: Robosail, the building and exploitation of a self-learning racing yacht. This high profile project ran successfully from 1997 till 2007. In 1992 got his doctorate at the university of Amsterdam and in 1998 he was appointed professor of learning and adaptive systems at the same institute. In the years 2000 and 2001 he visited the Vrije Academie in The Hague were he got lessons from Ed van der Kooy, Pien Hazenberg en Marijke Verhoef. Since then he has developed his own style of painting. Using multiple layers of acrylics paint he creates large radiant canvasses in his characteristic robust handwriting. These paintings are greatly appreciated by a growing group of admirers. Pieter and his wife Rini live in Kockengen in the Netherlands and part of the year on the island of Sao Jorge, one of the Azores.

 Short Scientific Biography

Pieter Adriaans (1955) started a career as a painter in his early teens paying his brothers and his sister to sit as a model. He has been combining science and business with his artistic work for the last 40 years. He studied philosophy in Leiden, the Netherlands, under Nuchelmans and van Peursen. He was research assistent of Fresco for a while with the study of the philosophical estate of the well known Dutch philosopher and poet Johan Adreas Dér Mouw 1863-1919 as a special assignment. In 1983 he graduated and started to work as a software developer, and later service manager for Buro Microsoftware. In 1985 he became general manager of Compu'Disc and later general manager of Info'Products Informatica Diensten. He has been active in research in the areas of artificial intelligence and relational database systems since 1984. He and his business partner, Dolf Zantinge, founded Syllogic B.V. in 1989. In 1992 Adriaans received a PhD in computer science at the University of Amsterdam, where he has been professor of machine learning/artificial intelligence since 1998. Dolf and Pieter sold Syllogic to Perot Systems ( in 1997, and stayed on as managing directors - a transaction which officially included time off for Pieter to sail the Singlehanded TransAtlantic Race 2000. For this race he developed the Syllogic Sailing Lab the most advanced open 40 racing yacht around at that time ( In this project he combined his skills in machine learning with his love of sailing to create a racing yacht that could learn to optimize its behavior. After his return from the ocean in 2000, Adriaans decided to dedicate his life to the combination of science and art. Currently he is primarily interested in meta-learning and learning as data compression using the theory of Kolmogorov complexity as a guiding principle. He is leading the VL-e (Virtual lab for e-science) project at the institute for computer science at the university of Amsterdam.

After a small TIA in 2008 Adriaans decided to step down from almost all of his managerial responsibilities. He is still member of the AWT (Advisory Council for Science and Technology Policy). He holds several patents on adaptive systems management and on a method for automatic composition of music using grammar induction techniques. Adriaans acted as project leader for various large international R&D projects: amongst others, the development of distributed database management software in co-operation with IBM and Prognostic and Health management for the Joint Strike Fighter. He wrote numerous articles and a number of books on topics related to both computer science and philosophy, including a book on systems analysis and books on client/server and distributed databases as well as data mining. Currently he is editor of the Handbook of Philosophy of Information, a project of Elseviers Science Publishers.

 Some projects

From 1987 till 1992 a team under my supervision created OBIS (Opleidingen Beroepen Informatie Systeem) for the SLO (Stichting Leerplan Ontwikkeling) in the Netherlands.  This was a database and expert system facilitating the development of vocational training and education profiles.
As a result of my Phd research I developed the EMILE language learning algorithm and embedded it in a toolbox. This tool is still used by researchers all over the world.
2002 - At the university of Amsterdam I developed the course ‘learning and deciding’ in which groups graduate students cooperate with representatives from industry to solve practical problems on real life data sets using data mining techniques. This some 60 students participate.  
From 1997 till 2005 I supervised the Robosail ( project, in which we built a self learning race yacht. The project the gather a lot of publicity was used extensively to train students.  
In 2008 I was co-editor of the Handbook of Philosophy of Information (Elseviers Science Publishers).