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Oxford University receives biggest ever donation - to 'investigate' AI

by Ciarán Daly
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OXFORD - A US billionaire has donated £150 million GBP to Oxford University to fund a new Institute for Ethics in AI within a new Centre for the Humanities, in what is being called the largest donation to the university since the Renaissance.

Stephen A. Schwarzman, 62, is Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of Blackstone, one of the world's leading investment firms with over $500 billion in Assets Under Management. The donation will be used to create the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, which will bring together Oxford's seven humanities disciplines along with exhibition and performance spaces.

Crucially, the Centre will house Oxford's new Institute for Ethics in AI, which will act as a focal point for the study of the ethical implications of artificial intelligence and other new computing technologies.

It is estimated that Mr Schwarzman's donation is the biggest cash donation in Oxford University's near 1000-year history. University historians are confident it is the "largest donation since the Renaissance", when the Archbishop of Canterbury gifted land to All Soul's College in 1438.

Having previously donated $350 million to MIT in October 2018 for the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Mr Schwarzman told the Telegraph: "What motivates me, among other things, is to have the core of humanities, the basic values of people, be considered in the context of technological development."

"If we used the study of the Humanities to reaffirm western values and set up a new institute for artificial intelligence that values ethics, all of this together would be a very unique opportunity to help the world adjust to changing times."

The new Centre will sit at the heart of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, with facilities including a 500-seat concert hall and a 250-seat auditorium. Oxford's Vice-Chancellor anticipates that the faculty will eventually offer external advice to corporations and government with 'intellectual academic autonomy'.

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