The new institute will focus on guiding artificial intelligence to benefit humanity.
BY AMY ADAMS
Stanford University is launching a new institute committed to studying, guiding and developing human-centered artificial intelligence technologies and applications. The Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) is building on a tradition of leadership in artificial intelligence at the university, as well as a focus on multidisciplinary collaboration and diversity of thought. The mission of the institute is to advance artificial intelligence (AI) research, education, policy and practice to improve the human condition.
The university-wide institute is committed to partnering with industry, governments and non-governmental organizations that share the goal of a better future for humanity through AI. As a part of this commitment, the institute is working closely with companies across sectors, including technology, financial services, health care and manufacturing, to create a community of advocates and partners at the highest level. HAI will be led by John Etchemendy, professor of philosophy and former Stanford University provost, and Fei-Fei Li, professor of computer science and former director of the Stanford AI Lab.
With world-class humanities, social sciences, engineering and medical schools located on the same campus as experts in business, law and policy, Stanford HAI expects to become an interdisciplinary, global hub for AI learners, researchers, developers, builders and users from academia, government and industry, as well as policymakers and leaders from civil society who want to understand AI’s impact and potential, and contribute to building a better future.
Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said artificial intelligence has the potential to radically change how we live our lives. “Now is our opportunity to shape that future by putting humanists and social scientists alongside people who are developing artificial intelligence,” he said. “This approach aligns with Stanford’s founding purpose to produce knowledge for the betterment of humanity. I am deeply thankful to our supporters who are providing foundational funding for the institute, which is a critical element for our vision for the future of Stanford University.”
Stanford HAI formally launches at a symposium on Monday, March 18 featuring speakers such as Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and California Governor Gavin Newsom, as well as leading experts Kate Crawford of NYU, Jeff Dean of Google, Demis Hassabis of DeepMind, Alison Gopnik of UC Berkeley, Reid Hoffman of Greylock Partners and Eric Horvitz of Microsoft Research. (Watch the livestream here.)
The institute launches with 200 participating faculty from all seven schools at the university. In collaboration with appropriate schools and departments, it also plans to hire at least 20 new faculty, including 10 junior fellows, from across fields spanning humanities, engineering, medicine, the arts or the basic sciences, with a particular interest in those working at the intersection of disciplines. It will also house research fellows, convene groups of professionals to solve critical issues to humanity and distribute funding to spur novel research directions. In addition, the institute will partner with organizations including AI4All, AI100, AI Index, Center for AI Safety and the Center for the Study of Language and Information. HAI, along with a new Data Science Institute, will anchor a planned 200,000-square-foot building that is intended to serve as a rallying point and catalyst for interdisciplinary collaboration.
HAI is the first initiative to launch out of Stanford’s long-range planning process, begun in 2017 with an open invitation to faculty, students and staff to submit ideas for how Stanford could empower creativity and agile research, and accelerate solutions for society. That process resulted in multiple focus areas with teams strategizing how best to leverage Stanford’s unique strengths to approach challenges in diverse fields including education, health, the environment and basic research.
The cross-campus collaboration arose out of that process as a pressing challenge as society enters the age of artificial intelligence. This new era can help us realize our shared dream of a better future for all of humanity, but also has the potential to bring challenges and disruptions that societies around the world will need to be prepared to confront.
Etchemendy, who is also the Patrick Suppes Family Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, said he expects the institute to become a global educator and convening forum for AI. “Its biggest role will be to reach out to the global AI community, including universities, companies, governments and civil society to help forecast and address issues that arise as this technology is rolled out,” he said. “We do not believe we have answers to the many difficult questions raised by AI, but we are committed to convening the key stakeholders in an informed, fact-based quest to find those answers.”
Li said Stanford’s position on the importance of the diversity of thought is unique within the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence. “AI is no longer just a technical field,” she said. “If we’re going to make the best decisions for our collective future, we need technologists, business leaders, educators, policy makers, journalists and other parts of society to be versed in AI, and to contribute their perspectives. Stanford’s depth of expertise across academic disciplines combined with a rich history of collaboration with experts and stakeholders from around the world make it an ideal platform for this institute.”