News Release

USC dives into AI research, education with new Center for Generative AI and Society

Business Announcement

University of Southern California

AI-generated image of University of Southern California campus

image: An AI-generated image of the Bovard Administration Building on the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles, CA. view more 

Credit: (Image/Generated with the assistance of the DALL-E 2 AI system)

USC President Carol Folt is announcing a new Center for Generative AI and Society to explore the transformative impact of artificial intelligence on culture, education, media and society. 

The new $10 million center will fund research, convene experts and expand the university’s national leadership with a special focus on the ethical use and innovation 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. “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 Generative AI."

The center reinforces USC’s historic influence on computing and its reputation for nurturing generations of engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists and artists. The center’s opening comes amid the buzz over generative AI technology such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and DALL-E, one of which launched with the research and aid of USC alumni. 

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 center aims to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.

"The genie is out of the bottle, and we're not going back," said Ishwar K. Puri, senior vice president of research and innovation. "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."

In addition, the center will involve:

  • A core group of leaders and faculty from five USC schools: Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Rossier School of Education, School of Cinematic Arts, Iovine and Young Academy and the Viterbi School of Engineering.
  • Experts who will explore themes across industry sectors and professions, advance generative AI research and start new educational programs. 
  • A realm of influence that spans the arts, media, education, and beyond.
  • Two co-directors. One is Holly Willis, a professor and chair of the media arts + practice divisions at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. The other is Bill Swartout, a computer science research professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and chief technology officer for USC Viterbi’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT).

The center's realm of influence will span the fields of arts, media, education, and beyond, with the potential to influence the economy, health care, law, medicine, policy, and science, said Ishwar K. Puri, senior vice president of research and innovation.

"We have a duty to develop solutions that are ethical and that benefit society as a whole,” Puri said. “This is an exciting time for USC, and we're looking forward to working with our faculty and students to explore the possibilities of Generative AI."

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Willow Bay, Dean of USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

“AI is poised to redefine how we communicate, create content and contemplate our world and its truths. We have an imperative to unite journalists, media makers, artists and storytellers to design new investigative methods and technical tools that interrogate AI’s transformative power, helping to realize its potential as a positive force.”

Elizabeth Daley, Dean of USC School of Cinematic Arts

“Our USC is incredibly privileged to be home to some of the most creative minds in the world, to the writers, filmmakers, game designers and theorists who have shaped so much of contemporary culture through visual expression, narrative, game design and critical thought. It would be wrong not to bring that incredible expertise to one of our current moment’s most significant topics, and to do so with an emphasis on the powers of creativity, imagination, inquiry and criticality.” 

Pedro Noguera, Dean of USC Rossier School of Education

“AI, like other technological breakthroughs, has the potential to transform education. However, we must make sure that its extraordinary potential is utilized in ways that advance knowledge and creativity rather than threatening or undermining the integrity of education. I believe that if we are thoughtful in how we approach its application, this can be accomplished.”

Thanassis Rikakis, Dean of Iovine and Young Academy

“The intersection of generative AI with human creativity and learning holds great potential for USC’s Iovine and Young Academy and other institutions to enrich our existing training for students who augment the human experience through the co-design of physical, digital and social components. The center holds the promise to shape their world views on the potential of technology.” 

Yannis Yortsos, Dean of USC Viterbi School of Engineering

“Throughout the millennia, human ingenuity has advanced science and created new technologies that have dramatically improved the human condition. Today, we are experiencing another transformative moment through computational technologies such as generative AI. The implementation requires innovative, courageous and socially responsible action. This new center will be the crucible of such thought and practical leadership.”

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