The University of Southern California (USC) has announced an initiative worth $1 billion for computing research and education across disciplines, with a focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and data science, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, gaming and block chain.
“I want every student who comes through our programmes, whether they are in science, business, the humanities or the arts, to have a solid grounding in technology and the ethics of the work that they do. We aim to integrate digital literacy across disciplines to create responsible leaders for the workforce of the future,” Carol L. Folt, president, USC, said.
Seeded with a $260 million gift from the Lord Foundation of California, USC Frontiers of Computing encompasses a multipronged effort which includes:
A new school: The USC School of Advanced Computing headquartered in a seven-story, 116,000 square-foot facility, the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Hall. The building, now under construction, will formally open in fall 2024.
Recruitment: Hiring 30 new faculty in the first three years who are leaders in computer science and computing-based research, with 60 additional hires by 2030. The new faculty members will hold appointments in multiple schools at USC in recognition that computational methods, particularly AI, are transforming the way people live and work.
Economic impact: USC Frontiers of Computing will bolster the university’s influence on technology across various industries and expand its footprint in Silicon Beach on L.A.’s West side, which already is home to two of USC’s tech incubators, the Information Sciences Institute and Institute for Creative Technologies. (USC currently has a $9 billion economic footprint in the L.A. area, according to a study in 2017, and its impact is expanding to the East Coast. It recently opened the USC Capital Campus in Washington, D.C.)
Education: The initiative will broadly integrate computing across multiple disciplines and academic programs. USC aims to prepare students for a more tech-intensive world of work, spark new technological advances and shape responsible policy through new programs and course offerings, as well as through experiential education.
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Ethics: USC aims to instill a culture of responsibility and conscience among students, faculty and its broader community across academic programmes and research that will influence application, development, policy and research, says Ishwar K. Puri, senior vice president for research and innovation. The new Center for Generative A.I. and Society is prominent within the initiative’s ethics endeavor. The recently opened center draws together experts from across the university to navigate difficult discussions about ethics and responsibility and generative A.I.
“This endeavor is an opportunity to apply new computing tools to accelerate and expand the impact of scientific discovery. It is not only the ability to solve problems that sets this apart, but the speed with which it can be done,” Ishwar K. Puri added.