Star Trek Creator's Foundation Offers $1M Prize for AI Promoting Good

The Roddenberry Foundation wants startups to boldly go and build the next generation of ethical AI

Ben Wodecki, Jr. Editor

June 24, 2024

2 Min Read
The cast of the Star Trek TOS on set
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The foundation honoring the late creator of “Star Trek” has announced a $1 million prize for startups using AI to shape a brighter future.

Gene Roddenberry's vision for humanity as seen in “Star Trek” was one where humanity coexisted peacefully, putting aside material wants in pursuit of scientific curiosity and bettering oneself.

This year’s Roddenberry Prize contest focuses on AI and machine learning in the hopes of unearthing solutions that align with the vision of the show’s creator.

Judges are looking for AI and machine learning technologies with real-world impact capable of scaling to support billions of people.

Proposed solutions must be respectful of individual rights, be designed to avoid biases and support at least one of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The foundation, established by Roddenberry’s family following his death in 1991, said the competition affirms Roddenberry’s confidence in humanity’s wisdom and creativity to build a better future.

“As AI becomes more powerful and ubiquitous, we call for its use in service of a more equitable and prosperous world in which all of us, regardless of our background, can thrive,” according to the foundation.

The contest will feature three rounds: an exploratory first round, followed by a deeper dive with a select group in the second round. The final round will include hour-long meetings with five startups in October and November.

Related:Future AI Could Share Knowledge Like the Borg in ‘Star Trek’

The application deadline is July 12.

The competition is open to global startups that have raised seed funding and not exceeded series A. Nonprofit entries must have an annual budget of less than $5 million.

“As we enter the AI era, we find ourselves at a critical juncture in human history, poised on the brink of profound technological transformation,” according to the foundation. “The rapid advancement of AI promises to revolutionize virtually every aspect of society, from the way we work and communicate to how we navigate the complexities of the modern world.” 

AI was greatly interwoven in the lore of Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” universe, from the interactive computer systems found on Starships to the Emergency Medical Holograms capable of treating patients on Voyager.

One AI-related story still fascinates scholars to this day: The Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man,” in which a legal hearing is called to determine whether android crewmember Data was sentient or merely a machine.

Captain Kirk himself was turned into an AI chatbot back in 2021. Actor William Shatner was immortalized by StoryFile, a company he part-owns. However, the StoryFile filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year.

Related:NASA Scientist Evokes Star Trek Diversity to Enable Interplanetary Travel

About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Jr. Editor

Ben Wodecki is the Jr. Editor of AI Business, covering a wide range of AI content. Ben joined the team in March 2021 as assistant editor and was promoted to Jr. Editor. He has written for The New Statesman, Intellectual Property Magazine, and The Telegraph India, among others. He holds an MSc in Digital Journalism from Middlesex University.

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