Vilas Dhar

Vilas Dhar

Inaugural President of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation; Senior Berggruen Fellow


Vilas Dhar is a scholar, entrepreneur, and philanthropist with a lifelong commitment to re-imagining society and its institutions for the betterment of humanity. His current research explores fundamental questions about our preparedness to enter an artificial intelligence enabled age. By critically evaluating social, economic, and technical factors that lead to inequality and injustice in the genesis of new technologies, his work guides our shared response to a great challenge – the creation of resilient institutions that can defend and empower our fundamental conception of what it means to be human in a technology-first world.

Vilas serves as Trustee of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, a large philanthropic endowment focused on advancing neuroscience and technology for good, and serves on several public and private sector boards and advisory committees.  His career has included founding and serving as CEO of a recognized public interest law firm, investing in and serving as board director of socially conscious companies, and creating one of the world’s first nonprofit organization incubators – leveraging private sector expertise for the public good.

He has served as the Gleitsman Fellow on Social Change at Harvard University, Practitioner Resident on Artificial Intelligence at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Lake Como, Italy, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Illinois. He holds a J.D. from NYU School of Law, an M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School, and dual Bachelor’s degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Illinois.

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.