The robots are taking over, and some of the tech billionaires who drove their rise are stepping up to give big to programs focused on artificial intelligence.
Since 2015, nine wealthy donors have given a total of about $583.5 million to nonprofit institutions that are developing new artificial-intelligence tools and studying the effects of A.I. on human life, according to a Chronicle tally of publicly announced gifts.
Of those nine, five are technology moguls. Among them is the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died recently. He gave $125 million in February to his Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a Seattle nonprofit he launched in 2013. His last gift during his lifetime went to a new research program that is studying ways to instill common sense in artificial-intelligence programs to improve problem-solving without human input.
Allen’s institute operates several programs that center on creating new A.I. systems and tools, and his gift reflects the majority of those donating large sums to A.I.: philanthropists who want to back the creation of new ways of applying artificial intelligence by supporting new research, academic courses, and professorships.
Allen was joined in that effort by others, including Dwight Diercks, an executive at Nvidia, a tech company specializing in A.I. and supercomputing, who gave the Milwaukee School of Engineering $34 million last year for a center for courses on A.I., robotics, and related technologies; and Austin McChord, a cybersecurity entrepreneur who dedicated $20 million of a $50 million donation he gave to his alma mater, Rochester Institute of Technology, to hire more A.I. and cybersecurity faculty.