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Stanford University launches Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence

John Etchemendy and Fei-Fei Li will be directing the new Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. Photo by Drew Kelly.

Stanford University is launching a new institute to study, guide and develop human-centered artificial intelligence technologies and applications.

The mission of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) is to advance artificial intelligence (AI) research, education, policy and practice to improve the human condition.

The university-wide institute is working closely with companies across sectors, including technology, financial services, health care and manufacturing, to create a community of advocates and partners. 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.

According to a news release, Stanford HAI aims 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.

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 launched at a  symposium on March 18 featuring speakers such as Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and California Governor Gavin Newsom, as well as 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.

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 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 explore critical issues and distribute funding to spur research.

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.

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.”

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 research.

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