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.

John Etchemendy and Fei-Fei Li

John Etchemendy and Fei-Fei Li will co-direct the new Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. (Image credit: Drew Kelly for Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence)

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.

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The emergence of artificial intelligence has the potential to radically alter how we live our lives. This new era can bring us closer to our shared dream of creating a better future for all of humanity. It will also bring opportunities and challenges that we can’t yet foresee, requiring a true diversity of thought. Stanford HAI aims to become a global, inter-disciplinary hub for discussion and development of AI.

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.

Solutions for society

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.”

Advisory Council Members

Chaired by Reid Hoffman of Greylock Partners, the council also includes Jim Breyer, Breyer Capital; Jeff Dean, Google; Steve Denning, General Atlantic; John Hennessy, Stanford University; Eric Horvitz, Microsoft Research; Bob King, Peninsula Capital; James Manyika, McKinsey & Company; Marissa Mayer, Lumi Labs; Sam Palmisano, Center for Global Enterprise; Heidi Roizen, DFJ/Threshold Ventures; Eric Schmidt, Alphabet; Kevin Scott, Microsoft; Ram Shriram, Sherpalo Ventures; Vishal Sikka, Vian Systems; Neil Shen, Sequoia Capital; Jerry Yang, AME Cloud Ventures.

Associate Directors

Russ Altman, the Kenneth Fong Professor and professor of bioengineering, genetics, medicine and biomedical data science; Susan Athey, the Economics of Technology Professor at the Graduate School of Business; Surya Ganguli, assistant professor of applied physics; James Landay, the Anand Rajaraman and Venky Harinarayan Professor and professor of computer science; Christopher Manning, the Thomas M. Siebel Professor in Machine Learning and professor of linguistics and computer science: and Robert Reich, the Marc and Laura Andreessen Faculty Co-Director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and professor of political science.

Distinguished Fellows

The inaugural group of Distinguished Fellows will include: Yoshua Bengio, University of Montreal; Rodney Brooks, MIT; Erik Brynjolfsson, MIT; Jeff Dean, Google; Daniel Dennett, Tufts University; Susan Dumais, Microsoft Research; Edward Feigenbaum, Stanford University; Barbara Grosz, Harvard; Demis Hassabis, DeepMind; Geoff Hinton, University of Toronto; Eric Horvitz, Microsoft Research; James Manyika, McKinsey & Company; John Markoff, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences; Helen Nissenbaum, Cornell Tech; Judea Pearl, UCLA; Stuart Russell, UC Berkeley; Mustafa Suleyman, DeepMind; Terry Winograd, Stanford University; and Hal Varian, Google.

Bridging disciplines to shape the future

HAI builds on Stanford’s long-standing expertise in bridging disciplines to tackle complex challenges. “Stanford has an ecosystem that fosters and accelerates both discovery and innovation,” said Kathryn Moler, who is Vice Provost and Dean of Research and the Sapp Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education. “HAI will be powered by researchers and scholars from all seven schools and will be integrated with the other initiatives to harness the flood of new data being generated to benefit humanity.”

The institute has already provided support to roughly 55 interdisciplinary research teams across all seven schools at Stanford, including a project to assist the resettlement of refugees; a system to improve healthcare delivery in hospital intensive care units; and a study of the impact of autonomous vehicles on social governance and infrastructure. A diverse class of fellows from fields such as engineering, journalism, philosophy and security will begin later this year, and faculty searches are underway.

HAI will become the most recent addition to Stanford’s existing interdisciplinary institutes that harness Stanford’s collaborative culture to solve problems that sit at the boundary of disciplines, including economic and international policy, environmental issues, physics and space, and the life sciences among others.

“One beautiful thing about this world is that it’s made of people of all walks of life and diverse backgrounds,” said Li. “We need all kinds of people to participate and shape our collective future.”

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