Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Billionaire friend of Donald Trump pledges Dh693 million to Oxford University

Stephen Schwarzman wants more research into the ethics of artificial intelligence

Stephen Schwarzman co-foudned private equity firm Blackstone. EPA
Stephen Schwarzman co-foudned private equity firm Blackstone. EPA

An American billionaire has donated £150 million (Dh693 million) to Oxford University to fund a centre for humanities and the study of the ethics of artificial intelligence.

Stephen Schwarzman, a confidant of president Donald Trump and head of private equity firm Blackstone, said his pledge – the largest single donation to Oxford in its history – would support programmes ranging from history to music.

"For nearly 1,000 years, the study of the humanities at Oxford has been core to Western civilisation and scholarship. We need to ensure that its insights and principles can be adapted to today's dynamic world," said Mr Schwarzman.

The eponymously named centre will house an institute dedicated to looking at the ethics of AI intelligence.

"At the moment, most governments are utterly unprepared to deal with this, and why would they be, it's a different type of technology," Mr Schwarzman told the BBC.

“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,” said Sir Tim Berners-Lee founder of the World Wide Web.

The building will include performing arts and exhibition venues for students and the public, including a 500-seat concert hall and 250-seat auditorium.

Mr Schwarzman has also donated to U.S. universities, including $350 million (Dh1286 million) to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and $150 million (Dh551 million) to Yale. He founded a $575 million (Dh2112 million) international scholarship programme in 2013 at China's Tsinghua University.

His equity firm Blackstone manages over $500 billion (Dh1837 billion)in assets.

Some contenders in the race to become UK prime minister have said more needs to be done to understand the effects AI will have on the future job market.

Updated: June 19, 2019 04:09 PM