USC Berggruen Fellowship: Transformation of the Human

Fellowship Seeks Innovative Thinkers

USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Berggruen Institute will sponsor up to five (5) fellowships at the University of Southern California for the academic year 2018-2019. The selected USC Berggruen Fellows will work on the topic area of “The Transformation of the Human”:

New technologies are changing how we understand ourselves as individuals, in relationships, and as a species. Humans have historically defined themselves by contrast to machines and animals, by having language and intelligence, and by the idea of a soul. Just as earlier changes such as the evolution of language, literacy, and better nutrition changed what it means to be human, so are new technologies changing our material realities and thus destabilizing old definitions of the human. We are interested, for example, in artificial intelligence and gene editing, as well as developments in neuroscience, bio-engineering, and interventions into the human microbiome. At the same time, we recognize that changing social and cultural norms are part of the process of redefining of the human, not least as different civilizational traditions inform and challenge each other.

USC Berggruen Fellows need not be academics, but they must be committed to intellectual work of the highest quality. We seek academics with an existing appointment (most likely for a sabbatical year). We also seek intellectuals without an existing academic appointment, for whom the Berggruen Fellowship may serve as a retreat from work in industry, government, or the arts. Applicants should have a terminal degree or commensurate research expertise in appropriate field of study.

USC Berggruen Fellows will be provided with an office in the Downtown Los Angeles headquarters of the Berggruen Institute, and will have access to the scholarly resources of the University of Southern California. They will also participate in a working group focused on the theme of the transformation of the human.

Fellows with academic appointments will be paid half of their annual academic year salary, up to $75,000 with the expectation that their home institution will make up the remainder. Fellows without sabbatical half-salary or a similar particle remuneration package can be paid up to $90,000, depending on position and seniority.

Founded in 2010, Berggruen Institute’s mission is to develop new ideas for shaping social and political institutions in the current era of Great Transformations. We study these transformations not only by looking at how new technologies are remaking the world, but also by considering cultural and religious shifts, upheavals in politics and efforts to reform governance, changes to the structures of economic organization, and environmental change. And we consider the scales of changes at everything from the level of human beings themselves; to social groups and other forms of collective identity; to human interaction on a planetary scale.


To Apply

In order to apply to become a USC Berggruen Fellow, please submit an electronic USC application; follow this job link or paste in a browser: . Please upload the following materials:

I. Full curriculum vitae


II. Project Statement

Your project statement, up to 750 words, should answer two questions:


Question #1:  What is your proposed project?

Concisely describe the work you plan to do during your fellowship years:

·         Explain the intellectual agenda of your project: what does the project imply for our thinking about the changing relation between technology and the human? What literatures or conversations is it most deeply engaged with? What is most innovative about the proposed work?

·         Address the public dimensions of this project: How will your project “make a difference”? How would you propose collaborating with the Berggruen Institute to raise public awareness of your topic and work?


Question #2:  What is your most important work to date?

Identify your most important book, book chapter, or article and explain why it was important—how it corrected a misconception in the literature, how it advanced thinking in some important way, and/or how it filled in an important gap in knowledge.

III. Two reference letters

At least one letter should be from an expert in your area of interest.

IV. One writing sample

Please provide the link to one short writing sample, such as an article, essay, or book chapter.

The application deadline is January 5, 2018.  Awardees will receive notification of their fellowships by mid-February, 2018. Inquires can be addressed to .

USC is an equal-opportunity educator and employer, proudly pluralistic and firmly committed to providing equal opportunity for outstanding persons of every race, gender, creed and background. The University particularly encourages women, members of underrepresented groups, veterans and individuals with disabilities to apply. USC will make reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with known disabilities unless doing so would result in an undue hardship. Further information is available by contacting .


1. When is the application deadline, and when are the selectin results known?

The application deadline is January 5, 2018.  Awardees will receive notification of their Fellowships by mid-February 2018.

2. Does this Fellowship come with a stipend?

Yes. Fellows with academic appointments will be paid half of their annual academic year salary, up to $75,000 with the expectation that their home institution will make up the remainder. Fellows without sabbatical half-salary or a similar partial remuneration package can be paid up to $90,000, depending on position and seniority.

3. How long is the Fellowship?

It typically runs through the full academic year of 2018-2019. But in special circumstances, a Fellowship may be awarded for the fall or spring semester. Preference, however, is given to Fellows who are able to stay for the nine-month academic year.

4. What are typical activities during the Fellowship year?

·         Attend required weekly seminar series in which fellows present and discuss their work on “The Transformation of the Human”

·         Organize seminars, workshops, and meetings for BI

·         Write for broad public audience

·         Engage in public appearances on behalf of BI

·         Attend symposia, special events and recreational activities organized by BI and USC

5. Where will the Fellows be based?

The Fellows will reside in Los Angeles and participate actively in the daily activities of the BI at its location in downtown Los Angeles, where each Fellow will have office space.

6. If it only takes a few hours per week, can I teach a course at a nearby institution during my fellowship?

No. Fellows may not hold a concurrent teaching appointment or have additional commitments (including research or collaborations) that result in prolonged or frequent absences from BI office.

7. Does this Fellowship provide health benefits?

It depends. We will assess health insurance needs for the Fellows and make necessary arrangements. In case where Fellows have a home institution, we will work with the Fellows to ensure that they continue to be covered by their home institutions during their Fellowship term. If Fellows are not affiliated with a home institution that provides health insurance, we will assess the needs case by case and provide basic health insurance if necessary.

8.  Does this Fellowship come with research fund?

Yes. Fellows will receive a research stipend of $3,000.

9. Does this Fellowship come with relocation subsidies?

It depends. For Fellows from the Los Angeles region, there is no relocation subsidiary. For Fellows from outside the Los Angeles region, relocation allowance will be provided of up to $5,000 based on the geographic proximity of the Fellows’ home to Los Angeles.

10. What services are provided to the Fellows?

·         USC library resources

·         Pleasant work space at BI downtown office

·         Housing information for relocating to downtown Los Angeles area

11. Are non-US citizens able to receive this fellowship?

Yes. We welcome international scholars who must be eligible to come to the US on J-1 scholar visa. To check your eligibility, inquire with your nearest US consulate.

12. Are paper applications accepted?

No. applications are submitted only via an online application portal.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.