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Oxford University receives £150m private investment for AI ethics

Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman has donated 150 million pounds ($188.6 million) to Oxford University to create a new institute that will study the ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI).

The American millionaire said he wants the funds to also go towards building a centre to house all of the institution’s humanities subjects in a single space to boost collaborative study.

“AI is going to be the fourth revolution, and it is going to impact jobs, excellence, efficiency,” Schwarzman told the BBC. “It is a force for amazing good and also a potential force for not good.”

The millionaire compared the rise of AI to the internet, which the first founders initially defined as something “cool”.

“And parts of it were cool — interconnectedness, globally the ability to communicate, it is pretty amazing,” he said. “What they forgot were all the negatives, this inability to control cyberbullying, lack of freedom of speech — all kinds of negative things.”

Because of this, Schwarzman also highlighted the importance of tackling bias in building effective AI. Ethics and AI is “one of the major issues of our age”, he said.

Commenting on the news, Oxford University’s vice chancellor Louise Richardson said: “This generous donation from Stephen A. Schwarzman marks a significant endorsement of the value of the Humanities in the 21st century and in Oxford University as the world leader in the field.”

The university has since announced that this  “transformational investment”, that marks the largest single donation to the University since the Renaissance, will be used to create the Schwarzman Centre.

“The new Schwarzman Centre will open a vibrant cultural programme to the public and will enable Oxford to remain at the forefront of both research and teaching while demonstrating the critical role the Humanities will play in helping human society navigate the technological changes of the 21st century,” Richardson added.

It is not the first time Schwarzman makes donations aimed at educational institutions. Blackstone, the private equity firm he co-founded, has some $512 billion assets under management and is a well-known investment firm.

Last October, Schwarzman gave $350 million to create the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, also aimed at addressing the challenges of AI.

In 2013, he founded “Schwarzman Scholars,” an international scholarship program at Tsinghua University in Beijing worth $575 million.

And in In 2015, he donated $150 million to alma mater Yale University and gave $40 million to the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, an institution providing tuition assistance to underprivileged children attending Catholic schools in New York.

Image via Wikipedia and PXhere.

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