Opposition: In Kempner, Zuckerberg buys Harvard University and destroys humanity | Opinion

Meet the Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence: Harvard’s latest and most glamorous academic initiative, the brainchild of a $500 million donation by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan 2007, is the wildest dream of any AI researcher — and in our view, It is a terrible dream slip by our institution.

Due to our board of directors wide support For both the Kempner Institute and the donation that created it, we find ourselves, the editors-in-chief, in the unusual position of having to dissent.

Let us preface this opposition by acknowledging the enormous potential social benefits of AI technology, lest our center turn into the status of Luddites or fear-mongers. We are not blind to the writing on the wall. Few other areas are as likely to have as much of an impact on our lives or as shape our reality as artificial intelligence in the coming years. There is plenty of reason to believe that its role will often be positive in nature, which is easy to improve cancer screening Technologies that help us Better predict and prepare For natural disasters, on a large scale Increase productivity. Our robotic masters – Autonomous driving algorithms? weird art makers? – It may be useful.

Why, then, is opposing an institute likely to help stimulate research in an area we know is so important? Why the irony? Roko Basilisk In this foolish public way?

Our opposition to the Kempner Institute is not exclusively, or even primarily, concerned with the object of his study. In fact, our first objection to Harvard’s new AI lab is a much more banal and boring objection than the super-sophisticated realms of imagination that AI enthusiasts conjure. It’s the economics, stupid – the economics of university funding, that is.

It can be argued that our institution – the entire elite higher education system – has a tendency to auction off academic priorities to the highest bidder. We hate that a single individual, if he has enough capital, can influence the course of our university’s research. Zuckerberg and Chan are not alone. Penny S. Pritzker ’81 wakes up feeling especially generous and the economics department gets a degree 100 million dollars and a new administrative facility; It seems that a pair of private equity is so upset about rising sea levels that 200 million dollars The Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability materializes out of thin air. The whim of a philanthropist is the mission of the Academy.

The problematic dynamic thread in these donations is not that the research is funded (we really appreciate that) or even that we have to put up with the pseudo-rich naming tendencies (Zuckerberg chose the paternalistic path, following the path of Chan brothers). Rather, it is a fact that a variety of high-impact financing decisions depend almost entirely on the whims of the few, regardless of the needs of the many.

Other academic departments – orClusters of groups‘, if you wish – you can use a Pritzker’s donation much more than Harvard’s most popular and well-known field. Some research areas, such as climate change resistance, have been underfunded for decades, and remain underfunded if they fail to spark Donor Attention If our academic allegiances lie in VERITAS, our allocation of resources—the kind of decisions that determine whether students get a new facility or faculty in less glamorous departments have a path to a position—is often more closely tied to our funders’ projects .

We are sure the university will protest loudly. administrators since then President Derek C. Bok We have argued that donors’ desires must be met to attract donations and increase research that is inherently valuable. The “social good” arising from academia was the university’s favorite apology for the stark connection between donor preferences and scarlet capital flows. However, we struggle to believe that any attempt to maximize educational benefit at a broad social level will begin with channeling an additional hundred million into the world’s richest university. If anything, the system widens the gap between our institution and those — community colleges, public universities, and HBCUs — least likely to attract many charitable wealth hoarders. While we understand the reticence to reject any multi-million dollar contributions, we find other funding regimes – including those with stricter policies for not allocating mega gifts, as well as those that extract and redistribute involuntary donations Of the ten-digit characters – infinitely more acceptable.

This donor-focused funding model, sponsored by Bock and his successors, will almost certainly have consequences in the case of Zuckerberg’s pursuit of artificial intelligence.

Zuckerberg will likely benefit the development of technology based on research conducted at Kempner, who has described AI as “the key to unlocking the Metaverse” and has invested massively in AI systems over the past 10 years. Given Harvard’s history of allocating a great deal of pedagogical influence to donors – take, for example, the title of Visiting Fellow, Private Campus Office, and direct contact with faculty in the Evolutionary Dynamics program that have been saved For billionaire comet Jeffrey Epstein – it seems likely that the research conducted at Kempner will align with, if not directly contribute, to Meta’s goals.

One does not need a Ph.D. in technology ethics (fortunately, given the low odds that some millionaire might help fund it) to understand why this latter realization should be cause for concern; One only needs to be alive and awake for the past decade. Despite the stated meta mission of “Giv[ing] People have the power to build society and bring the world together,” the lasting legacy of Zuckerberg’s brainchild in the twenty-first century will be at least in part. destroying american democracy – almost verbatim transcription of a comment made by a former US chief technology officer – through rampant, uncensored, algorithmically promoted disinformation that fueled partisan divisions in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election and fueled a rebellion in the US Capitol in January 2021 All while lining Zuckerberg’s pockets.

In addition to dealing potentially fatal blows to a centuries-old enterprise, the profit model and corporate ruthlessness involved in the tech giant’s operations — captured in Zuckerberg’s now infamous mantra of “move fast and break things” — also proved potentially fatal. Perhaps the most prominent example of this is the platform Well trust A role in the 2016-2017 genocide of the Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar, for which Meta (which appropriately changed its name from Facebook in 2021 as it faced a renewed backlash for spreading disinformation and hate speech during the crisis) has been called into the ongoing genocide case against Myanmar is in the International Court of Justice, as well as finding itself the subject of a class action lawsuit brought by a group of Rohingya refugees. Even worse, a cache of internal documents last year by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed that Facebook’s leaders knew of the disastrous effects of their creation — and Basically he did nothing.

Put simply: We have reason to suspect Zuckerberg as a good agent for ethical AI research, and the funding system that enables him to emerge as one under the legitimate Harvard brand. Also of concern is that of the $500 million donated to launch Kempner, not a single penny appears to have been donated to AI ethics research, an area that is seriously underfunded and unlikely to find champions in the non-academic field to maximize its potential. profits. technology companies.

The overall result – multimillion-dollar funding reflecting the interests of the donor, a bit of ethical scrutiny in a research hotspot in an area notorious for ethical dilemmas, and an enthusiastic response from a student community that should know the relevant players better by now – is hardly anything to celebrate. Zuckerbergitas’ miserable investigation may be at the expense of Harvard’s highest ideals.

Guillermo S. Hava ’23 – ’24, Editor in Chief of Crimson, is the Joint Center for Government and Philosophy at Winthrop House. Eleanor V. Wikstrom ’24, Editor in Chief at Crimson, is the Center for Social Studies at Adams House.

Dissenting Opinions: At times, Crimson’s editorial staff is divided over what opinion we express in our editorial staff. In these cases, the offending board members have the opportunity to express their opposition to the employees’ opinion.

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