$125 million, five-year commitment by Eric and Wendy Schmidt will support leading researchers in artificial intelligence making a positive impact
New York — Today, Schmidt Futures announced the launch of “AI2050,” an initiative that will support exceptional people working on key opportunities and hard problems that are critical to get right for society to benefit from AI. Eric and Wendy Schmidt are committed to funding $125 million over the next 5 years, and AI2050 will make awards to support work conducted by researchers from across the globe and at various stages in their careers. These awards will primarily aim to enable and encourage these AI2050 Fellows to undertake bold and ambitious work, often multi-disciplinary, that is typically hard to fund but critical to get right for society to benefit from AI.
Conceived and co-chaired by Eric Schmidt and James Manyika, the initiative stems in part from issues raised in the bestselling book, The Age of AI: And our Human Future, co-authored by Schmidt, Henry Kissinger, and Dan Huttenlocher. It has also been inspired by the societal opportunities and issues discussed in the forthcoming April issue of the Daedalus journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on AI and Society, edited by James Manyika. Schmidt is co-founder with his wife Wendy of Schmidt Futures, and Manyika has been an unpaid senior advisor to Schmidt Futures since 2019.
“AI will cause us to rethink what it means to be human,” said Schmidt, who also chaired the U.S. National Commission on Artificial Intelligence from 2018 to 2021. “As we chart a path forward to a future with AI, we need to prepare for the unintended consequences that might come along with doing so. In the early days of the internet and social media, no one thought these platforms would be used to disrupt elections or to shape every aspect of our lives, opinions and actions. Lessons like these make it even more urgent to be prepared moving forward. Artificial intelligence can be a massive force for good in society, but now is the time to ensure that the AI we build has human interests at its core.”
“AI is a truly new technology—one with immense promise for human health, creativity and the natural world, but also one that will not recognize our ethics, values and freedoms unless we design it to do so,” said Wendy Schmidt. “Eric and I hope that by investing in the people who, like us, are both optimistic and cautious about AI, we will unlock the promise of this technology for public good.”
“Our motivating question for AI2050 has been this,” said Manyika, co-chair of AI2050. “It’s 2050. AI has turned out to be hugely beneficial to society. What happened? What are the most important problems we solved and the opportunities and possibilities we realized to ensure this outcome? We hope that this list of problems and opportunities in AI will drive discovery and crowd talent into the field today—when we can still shape how AI will affect society.”
Drawing on previous work in AI, and through numerous conversations with other experts, the initiative has developed an initial working list of the hard problems for AI2050 to take on. This list is aimed at realizing the opportunity for society from AI as well as addressing the risks and challenges that could result from the technology, and it will guide the initiative’s investments. This list will be updated often as society’s use of AI continues to evolve. The first iteration of the list was published today at: https://bit.ly/3GXXjax
AI2050 intends to be a collaborative, multi-disciplinary effort working together to surface and support the work of the initiative and AI2050 Fellows. An AI2050 expert group will help to achieve this goal. Initial invitees to the expert group include collaborators on the list, as well as contributors to the upcoming Daedalus journal.
To coincide with the launch of AI2050, the initiative has also announced an inaugural cohort of AI2050 Fellows, who collectively showcase the range of research that will be critical toward answering our motivating question. This inaugural cohort includes Erik Brynjolfsson, Professor at Stanford and Director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab; Percy Liang, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Center for Research on Foundation Models at Stanford University; Daniela Rus, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Director of the Computer Science and AI Laboratory at MIT, Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence at UC Berkeley; and John Tasioulas, Professor of Ethics and Legal Philosophy and Director of the Institute for Ethics in AI at the University of Oxford.
Some of the problems these fellows are working on include: Percy Liang is studying and improving massive “foundation models” for AI. Daniela Rus is developing and studying brain-inspired algorithms called liquid neural networks. Stuart Russell is studying probabilistic programming with a goal of improving AI’s interpretability, provable safety, and performance.
In the coming months, the initiative will share more information about ways to get involved with AI2050 and the nomination approach for AI2050 Fellows. The initiative aims to name its next round of AI2050 Fellows later this year. AI2050 Fellows will come from around the globe, and include qualified researchers and practitioners in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. The initiative will plan to support the work of talented researchers at various stages of their careers, to help encourage the next generation of researchers to focus on the hard problems in AI. AI2050 will also build upon and amplify Schmidt Futures’ work to support outstanding talent working with AI and other modern tools to solve hard problems in science and society, and will be part of the Schmidt Futures Network for one year.
AI2050 is the latest in a series of philanthropic efforts by Eric and Wendy Schmidt to support AI research. For example, last October, they formed the Special Competitive Studies Project, a bipartisan, non-profit initiative that will make recommendations to strengthen America’s long-term competitiveness for a future where AI and other emerging technologies reshape U.S. national security, economy and society. In December, the couple established the Schmidt Program on Artificial Intelligence, Emerging Technologies and National Power at Yale University, to encourage the study of AI through an interdisciplinary lens. In addition, among other efforts, Schmidt Futures’ AI Accelerator supports projects that use AI to advance research on topics from the architecture of the human brain to climate science and chemical discovery.
About Schmidt Futures:
Schmidt Futures bets early on exceptional people making the world better. Founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative that brings talented people together in networks to prove out their ideas and solve hard problems in science and society. To learn more about our method and the diverse types of capital and tools that we deploy, visit https://www.schmidtfutures.com.
AI2050 is an initiative of Schmidt Futures, conceived and co-chaired by Eric Schmidt and James Manyika, that aims to support exceptional people working on key opportunities and hard problems that are critical to get right for society to benefit from AI. To learn more about the initiative, visit: https://www.schmidtfutures.com/our-work/ai2050/
Managing Director, Communications