University anticipates $5 million grant for AI research – Binghamton University Pipe Dream

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The funding, contingent on the passing of Gov. Hochul’s Empire AI Consortium, is from Bloomberg L.P. co-founder Tom Secunda ’76, MA ’79.

If New York’s State Legislature approves an executive project, Binghamton University will be awarded $5 million to facilitate artificial intelligence (AI) research and development.

The donation from Bloomberg L.P. cofounder Tom Secunda ‘76, MA ‘79 is contingent on the passage of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed Empire AI Consortium and will allow the University to play a significant role in the initiative. Upon approval from the State Legislature, the initiative will strive to make New York state the nation’s leader in AI innovation through a series of projects.

“[Secunda] visited campus recently with [Hochul] and met with faculty studying how to use AI to solve important societal issues ranging from health care to information security,” said University President Harvey Stenger. “His gift will advance [BU’s] research efforts and Empire AI will provide essential links to other institutions across the state.”

The consortium’s founding institutions, which include Columbia University, Cornell University and the Simons Foundation, will be further supported by public and private investment. Additional funding will come from Secunda, who has been named as a private investor since Hochul first announced the project on Jan. 8.

While those involved in the initiative, like SUNY Chancellor John King, Jr., are confident that groundbreaking innovations in fields like education, ethics, health care and climate science are fast approaching, the exact direction Empire AI will take on campuses like BU and throughout New York state remains undefined.

“How do we shape the future of AI and ensure that it makes the world a better place and bends toward the public good,” Stenger wrote in a Press & Sun-Bulletin guest column.

He emphasized that University faculty are striving to answer this question through their work on projects like robotic seeing-eye dogs.

Both Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and New York State Sen. Lea Webb have been outspoken about their endorsement of Empire AI and that the University’s participation in the project will benefit the local economy.

“I would define ‘responsible’ in this context as using the power of AI exclusively for the public good such as advances in medicine and the protection of critical infrastructure such as energy, food, water, telecommunications and banking,” ​​Lupardo wrote in an email.

Other schools, including Cornell and the University at Buffalo, highlight a desire to harness AI’s potential to improve society in a variety of different areas.

The University at Buffalo, whose vice president co-chairs the SUNY AI task force and was entrusted with creating a five-year plan for AI in education, believes public universities’ involvement in the project will prevent the technology from being exploited for personal use and ensure the research conducted under Empire AI remains responsible.

Secunda’s involvement in Empire AI may extend beyond providing $125 million in private funding alongside The Simons Foundation. According to venture capitalist Fred Wilson, the consortium was originally Secunda’s idea, one they discussed last summer during a conversation about their common philanthropic interests and endeavors.

“[Secunda] is a convincing person,” Wilson wrote in his blog. “He convinced me that this was a good idea last summer and he went on to convince [Hochul], the top universities in New York state and his fellow philanthropist Jim Simons.”

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