4 October 2023

Digital Technology Guru

Digital Technology Guru Reviews

The Role of Philanthropy in Shaping the Future of Artificial Intelligence

2 min read
The Role of Philanthropy in Shaping the Future of Artificial Intelligence

Philanthropists, including established foundations and tech billionaires, have been increasing their grants to support the development of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. This philanthropy is focused on “ethical AI” and how to address and mitigate the potential harmful effects of AI systems. Some believe that AI can be used to predict climate disasters and discover new life-saving drugs, while others warn of its potential to disrupt white-collar professions, spread misinformation, and pose threats to national security.

One notable example of philanthropic support for AI is Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, and his wife Wendy Schmidt, who have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to AI grant programs through Schmidt Futures. Their initiative aims to accelerate the next scientific revolution and advance research in AI. Another philanthropic foundation, the Patrick McGovern Foundation, has made AI and data science a priority and has committed $40 million to help nonprofits use AI and data to protect the planet and foster economic prosperity. Salesforce, a software company, has also pledged $2 million to advance the ethical and equitable use of AI in education, workforce development, and climate initiatives.

Tech billionaire Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, believes in the potential of AI to improve humanity and has funded research centers at Stanford University and the University of Toronto to further this goal. However, not all tech billionaires share the same enthusiasm for AI. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, takes a mixed approach through his Omidyar Network, supporting nonprofits using AI for scientific innovation while also advocating for data privacy protection and regulation.

On the other hand, foundations that are unaffiliated with the tech industry tend to have a more skeptical or negative perspective on AI. The Ford, MacArthur, and Rockefeller foundations are among those funding nonprofits that examine the harmful effects of AI. Researchers like Timnit Gebru and Joy Buolamwini have received grants from these foundations to study racial and gender bias in facial recognition technology. Gebru recently launched the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute to focus on AI’s harmful effects on marginalized groups, while Buolamwini continues her research and advocacy through the Algorithmic Justice League.

Even among the tech elite, there are skeptics of AI. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has warned of the potential “civilizational destruction” caused AI. He has donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing existential risks associated with AI.

Philanthropy plays a crucial role in shaping the future of AI. By supporting projects and institutions that prioritize ethical AI and addressing its potential harms, philanthropists can influence the trajectory of AI development and ensure that the technology is used in a way that benefits humanity.

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