Templeton World Charity Foundation Awards Berggruen Institute with More Than $225,000 to Support Transformations of the Human Program “AI and the Human” Fellowship

The Berggruen Institute (BI) is proud to announce the receipt of a grant for more than $225,000 from the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF) in support of our research fellowship for the Transformation of the Human (ToftH) program.

Today the stakes of AI vastly exceed the predominant understanding of AI as exclusively an engineering discipline. With this observation in mind, the ToftH research fellowship places junior researchers, philosophers, anthropologists and artists within AI laboratories to work side by side with AI engineers on a daily basis. The fellows’ task is to discover philosophical questions—instances of the transformation of the human—that silently reverberate in the everyday work of the engineers.

The partnership with the Berggruen Institute and Templeton World Charity Foundation has already placed scholars in key AI labs, e.g. MIT and NYU; Facebook AI Research, to observe and participate in discussions with programmers.

Our first fellow represented by this TWCF / BI partnership is the placement of Jacob Browning, PhD in the lab of world-renowned Yann LeCun, chief scientist at Facebook AI Research. Browning, in this role, exercises a kind of philosophical due diligence by providing cautionary observations and reveals instances for philosophical reflection that might otherwise go unnoticed. As TWCF puts it, “The aim is to collect answers over time, tracking how the work of AI labs transforms concepts that are often definitive of our humanity—creativity, cognition, personality, caring.”

Nicolas Berggruen thanked the Foundation and noted that the TWCF and BI both share a deep commitment to human and non-human flourishing. “It is wonderful to be entrusted with this grant from the globally-recognized Templeton World Charity Foundation. Their support, paired with our intellectual partnership, will help uncover fruitful areas of research and new philosophical understandings.”

ToftH is also in the process of developing joint intellectual ventures with the TWCF Diverse Intelligence Initiative. The Initiative is designed to bring animal and artificial intelligence researchers together to expand the notion of intelligence and capacities. The working groups examine and illuminate the many diverse types of intelligences that are found in all manner of species and then bring this kaleidoscopic view to bear on AI research and development.

Director of ToftH Tobias Rees said, “I am delighted to have found a partner who is equally interested in exploring new conceptions of the human as an intelligent being that emerge from the study of animal intelligence and artificial intelligence.”