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,
2006-2008 Director IvI, University of Amsterdam
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, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

 Short Scientific Biography

Pieter Adriaans (1955) attended the Johan de Witt Gymnasium in Dordrecht. He studied philosophy and mathematics 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. During his years in Syllogic he coordinated and participated in about 200 projects concerning the industrial applications of AI and machine learning techniques. 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. He was leading the VL-e (Virtual lab for e-science) project at the institute for computer science at the university of Amsterdam and participated in the Commit project. 

 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. He is editor of the Handbook of Philosophy of Information, a project of Elseviers Science Publishers and of the lemma on Information in the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy. 

Currently he is primarily interested in Philosophy of Information and learning as data compression using the theory of Kolmogorov complexity as a guiding principle. After a TIA in 2008 (which incapacitated him for more than a year) Adriaans decided to step down from almost all of his managerial responsibilities and dedicate his life to the combination of science and art. He currently lives on th Azores where he exploits a cultural centre (Atelier de Kaasfabriek) on the island of São Jorge with his wife Rini. 

 Some projects

From 1987 till 1992 a team under Adriaans' 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 his Phd research he developed the EMILE language learning algorithm and embedded it in a toolbox. 
2002 - At the university of Amsterdam Adriaans developed the course ‘learning and deciding’ in which groups of graduate students cooperate with representatives from industry to solve practical problems on real life data sets using data mining techniques. 
From 1997 till 2005 he supervised the Robosail ( project, in which a self learning race yacht was built. The project gathered a lot of publicity was used extensively to train students.  
From 2002 till 2007 he was involved as a project leader in the Vl-e project, Virtual lab for e-science. In 2008 he was co-editor of the Handbook of Philosophy of Information (Elseviers Science Publishers).  From 2012 till 2017 he worked in the Commit project. 

Recent Activities
Originally my chair “Learning and adaptive systems” had a strong industrial component, related to my commercial machine learning and data mining activities. In the past decennium after the release of the “Handbook of Philosophy of Information” my focus of attention has shifted to cognition and philosophy of information. In short, my research program is the application of insights of algorithmic complexity theory to the analysis of issues in cognition and philosophy. 

Pivotal is the lemma on information that I wrote for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( This article, that took me several years of research, gives, for the first time, 1) a comprehensive overview of the development of the notion of information from antiquity to modern times, both from the perspective of history of ideas and the development of the terminology, as well as 2) an extensive analysis of the emergence of the formal notion of information in the 20thcentury in the context of algorithmic complexity theory. This perspective gives rise to a number of open problems in the philosophy of information that are enlisted at: update of the SEP entry is in preparation and will be published in 2018.

In the past 4 years I have been working on several of these open problems, specifically the issue of meaningful information, and the issue of the interaction between information and computation. Some preliminary results have been published ( but the bulk of the work is still under construction ( The research into the definition of meaningful information by means of two-part code optimization ( was seriously impaired by the growing concern that an a priori separation of a data set in a structural part and an ad hoc part was not mathematically feasible. In 2017 I succeeded in proving this conjecture: using generalizations of the Cantor pairing function any data set can be split into any set of parts at constant cost. The results will, modulo refereeing, be published in 2018 as a book chapter  (Informatics Institute - Oxford University Press). 

The past few years I have lead a small complexity research group within the Data2Semantics Commit project ( We have done work on Kernel representations for RDF databases, feasible approximation of Kolmogorov complexity, two-part code optimization and motif extraction from large graphs. The thesis of Peter Bloem called ‘Single Sample Statistics’, which was defended on May 31 2016, gives a good impression of the results. In 2015 it was decided to discontinue the group and the activities are merged with the group of Cees de Laat  at the UvA  and Frank van Harmelen at the VU. 

Apart from this work I have been involved in a number of smaller projects. Amongst others: 

Background information 
In the coming decennium I hope to continue and combine my work as an artist, philosopher and scientist.  My current practice has a strong international orientation and my output consists of scientific papers, book, paintings, exhibitions, and musical performances, courses and lectures. Only a small part of these activities fit in to an academic setting, and I will spend only a small part of my time in the Netherlands. 

In 2015 my wife and I founded a cultural center at the island of São Jorge on the Azores. The ideal is to combine art, science and business in to a sustainable, eco-friendly, artistically rewarding and financially healthy venture. Here I have my painting studio, but we also give painting and music classes, organize concerts and facilitate artists and scientists in residence. We are setting up international partnerships with organizations like Earthrain (, an NGO and bio cultural leadership organization in Panama, and Geoversity that is developing a field station at Sao Jorge. Apart from that I am fellow of the Info-metrics Institute in Washington (