The University of Oxford today announced a transformational investment in the way Oxford teaches, researches, and shares the Humanities with the world. At the heart of the endeavour will be the new Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, made possible by a £150 million landmark gift from Mr Schwarzman, philanthropist and Chairman, CEO and Co-founder of Blackstone, the world’s largest alternative investment firm.
The Schwarzman Centre will serve as a dynamic hub dedicated to the Humanities – those fields which inform our understanding and appreciation of the human experience. For the first time in the University’s history, Oxford’s programmes in English; history; linguistics, philology and phonetics; medieval and modern languages; music; philosophy; and theology and religion will be housed together with a new library in a space designed to encourage experiential learning and bold experimentation through cross-disciplinary and collaborative study.
The Schwarzman Centre will be home to Oxford’s new Institute for Ethics in AI, which will build upon the University’s world-class capabilities in the Humanities to lead the study of the ethical implications of artificial intelligence and other new computing technologies.
Solving 21st Century Challenges
At a time when significant investments are being made in scientific and technological research and development, this gift recognises the essential role of the Humanities in helping society confront and answer fundamental questions of the 21st century.
One of the most urgent of these questions relates to the impact of Artificial Intelligence, which will challenge the very nature of what it means to be human and transform most aspects of our lives. From our health and wellbeing to the future of work and manufacturing, AI will redefine the way we live, work, and interact.
Just as the Humanities helped guide the debate on medical ethics 30 years ago, so they will be even more essential in providing an ethical framework for developing machine intelligence, for responding to the increasing automation of work, and the use of algorithms in all walks of life. The planned Institute for Ethics in AI, which would be housed within the Faculty of Philosophy, allows Oxford to deploy its unique resources and expertise towards these issues.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said: “It is essential that philosophy and ethics engages with those disciplines developing and using AI. If AI is to benefit humanity we must understand its moral and ethical implications. Oxford with its rich history in humanities and philosophy is ideally placed to do this.”