Working Toward Better AI

Stanford opens a multidisciplinary center to better chart the future of artificial intelligence.

A new institute will become a multidisciplinary hub for the study of artificial intelligence at Stanford University in California. Launched in March, the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) includes 200 participating faculty from all seven schools at the university. It will partner with industry, governments, and nongovernmental organizations across sectors to build “a better future for humanity through AI.”

The initiative will be guided by associate directors from the fields of biomedicine, physics, computer science, political science, and economics. The institute also has inducted an inaugural group of 19 Distinguished Fellows who will serve as ambassadors for its mission; these individuals represent academic institutions such as Cornell Tech, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Tufts, the University of California in Berkeley, the University of California in Los Angeles, and the University of Toronto, as well as organizations such as DeepMind, Google, McKinsey & Company, and Microsoft.

The institute has already supported approximately 55 interdisciplinary research teams. These teams are working on a range of projects, including a plan to assist in 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.

HAI’s “biggest role will be to reach out to the global AI community … to help forecast and address issues that arise as this technology is rolled out,” says John Etchemendy, professor of philosophy and former Stanford University provost. He will co-direct the institute with Fei-Fei Li, professor of computer science. “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.”

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