The Minderoo Foundation in Broadway Nedlands, Western Australia, has announced initial grants totaling AU$20 million ($14 million) to launch a global network of academic centers aimed at advancing education and research on the societal implications of technology.
Part of the foundation’s Frontier Technology initiative, the Tech Impact Network will establish five new centers at universities in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States: the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy at the University of Cambridge; the Minderoo Tech & Policy Lab at the University of Western Australia, with associated projects at the University of Sydney, the Australian National University, and the Australian Academy of Science; the Minderoo Initiative on Technology and Power at the University of California, Los Angeles; the Minderoo Initiative on Technology and Society at New York University; and the Minderoo-Oxford Challenge Fund in AI Governance at the University of Oxford.
Over the next five years, the Tech Impact Network will incubate academic research and reform efforts with a focus on three themes — tackling lawlessness, empowering workers, and reimagining technology. For example, the Minderoo Initiative on Technology and Power at UCLA’s Center for Critical Internet Inquiry — an interdisciplinary research center dedicated to re-imagining technology, championing racial justice, and strengthening democracy — will explore the intersection of technology, power, and paradigm- and culture-shifting work.
“This moment is critical in terms of the need to coalesce and consolidate the incredible work of academics and their partners in journalism and civil society and to shine a bright light on the risks we collectively run if the powers of big technology continue unabated,” said UCLA assistant professor Sarah T. Roberts, a co-director of the initiative. “At a time when there is a social reckoning toward justice and equity for all people and a deep concern for the health of democracy, we believe this work is more relevant than ever. We must ask hard questions of status quo models while we simultaneously imagine a better tech future for us all.”
“With this initiative, we took a good look at work being done globally on the social and ethical implications of digital technologies and artificial intelligence and noticed that there was a massive problem of industry capture,” said Minderoo Foundation research chair Fiona David. “We felt what was missing was support, amplification, and connectivity between key experts and activists, who have been unflinching in their ongoing analysis of developments in an industry with unmitigated power and are an engine room of ideas for reform.”