LONDON (Reuters) – The head of private equity firm Blackstone has pledged $150 million to Oxford University, the biggest single donation in its history, to fund a centre for humanities that would also house an institute to study the ethics of artificial intelligence.
Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, chief executive and co-founder of Blackstone which has about $500 billion in assets, said the donation would fund the Schwarzman Centre that would support programmes ranging from history to music.
The centre will also house a new Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence (AI).
“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,” Schwarzman said in a statement.
The university said the centre would consider the impact of AI, which could “challenge the very nature of what it means to be human and transform most aspects of our lives”.
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said in the statement: “If AI is to benefit humanity we must understand its moral and ethical implications. Oxford with its rich history in humanities and philosophy is ideally placed to do this.”
About a quarter of Oxford University students study humanities, including modern languages, theology, philosophy and English.
New facilities funded by the donation would include a 500-seat concert hall and a 250-seat auditorium.
Schwarzman has also donated to U.S. universities, including $350 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and $150 million to Yale. He founded a $575 million international scholarship programme in 2013 at China’s Tsinghua University.
(Reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Edmund Blair)