Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, and Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn, are among a group of investors that have created a $27 million fund, with the money going toward the humanities, the social sciences and other disciplines in an effort to develop artificial intelligence.
According to a press release announcing the new fund, the investors said MIT Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University will serve as founding academic institutions for the initiative, which will be named the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund. The fund will support a cross-section of AI ethics and governance projects and activities, both in the United States and abroad.
“As a technologist, I’m impressed by the incredible speed at which artificial intelligence technologies are developing. As a philanthropist and humanitarian, I’m eager to ensure that ethical considerations and the human impacts of these technologies are not overlooked. Omidyar Network is participating in the fund to ensure that critical areas, like ethics, accountability and governance, are considered from the earliest stages of design,” said Omidyar.
The investors said they are focusing on AI because it, along with complex algorithms in general, fueled by Big Data and deep-learning systems, are changing the way people live and work. But while AI is pervasive, the impact is often concealed, which is why the investors said it’s “imperative” that AI research and development be shaped by a broad array of people and not only engineers and corporations. That means it should also include scientists, ethicists, philosophers, faith leaders, economists, lawyers and policymakers.
Hoffman and Omidyar Network each committed $10 million to the fund, while Knight Foundation committed $5 million. With MIT Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center, they will form a governing board to distribute awards and facilitate other activities that provide meaningful links among activities in the connective tissue between computer sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Jim Pallotta, founder of the Raptor Group, have each committed $1 million to the fund, which is expected to grow as other funders come on board, noted the report.