USC announces new $10 million Center for Generative AI and Society

(Illustration: Jonathan Park | Daily Trojan / Text: ChatGPT / Photo: Gina Nguyen | Daily Trojan)

President Carol Folt announced the establishment of a new Center for Generative AI and Society in a press release Thursday morning. The center will fund research on AI and its impacts — specifically, the innovatory potential and ethical use of generative AI.

“USC is uniquely positioned to understand and influence how this emerging technology is changing the ways we live, work, and play,” Folt said in the press release. “Our 22 schools are longstanding leaders in fields like the creative arts, media, health, education, engineering, and business. Working across disciplines, USC will vigorously explore the intersection of ethics and the use and evolution of gGenerative AI.”

The announcement of the new $10 million center comes just under a month after the Academic Senate Committee on Information Services announced updated instructor guidelines for generative AI use in academic settings Feb. 14. As the industry continues to evolve, with Microsoft’s OpenAI — the creator of ChatGPT  — planning to release GPT-4 later this year, “generative AI has the potential to revolutionize a variety of industries, such as cinema, gaming, journalism, education, and even the next generation of drug therapies,” the press release read.

The center will have two co-directors: Holly Willis, chair of the Media Arts + Practice division of the School of Cinematic Arts and Bill Swartout, chief technology officer of the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Institute for Creative Technologies. A “core group of leaders and faculty” from five schools — the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Rossier School of Education, SCA, Iovine and Young Academy, and Viterbi — also comprises the center’s leadership.

With its research, the center hopes to bolster the University’s potential to launch students into fields that will be revolutionized by generative AI platforms. Senior Vice President of Research and Innovation Ishwar Puri said the center will influence fields such as the arts, media, economy, health care, law and science.

“The genie is out of the bottle, and we’re not going back,” Puri said in the press release. “Our students are going to use this technology, and we need to teach them how to use it responsibly. We want to harness the power of AI for the public good.”