When you think of leaders in artificial intelligence, you probably picture baby-faced, sneaker-wearing Silicon Valley types like Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Altman.
But one of AI’s biggest funders is Blackstone CEO and Republican mega-donor Steve Schwarzman, 77, who says his favorite application is “email.”
Schwarzman, who at the time was still using a basic flip phone, fell in love with AI in 2015, when Alibaba’s co-founder told him that AI is the wave of the future and would change job functions, drug development and education.
Since then, Schwarzman has invested more than $500 million in advancing AI and donated millions of dollars to Yale University to establish a center for AI advancements and create the University’s AI Ethics Institute. from Oxford.
Steve Schwarzman has invested billions of dollars in AI technology, but he still says his favorite app is email
Steve Schwarzman was briefly in the US Army Reserve in 1970 before heading to Harvard Business School.
Amid concerns about an AI takeover, Schwarzman, who is worth $37.8 billion, is now working to promote AI and assure the public that the technology is intended to help with everyday tasks, not replace the humans.
Schwarzman was in China trying to raise money for his Schwarzman Scholars program (a fully funded, year-long master’s and leadership program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China) when he had the opportunity to meet Jack Ma, the co-founder of the giant of electronic commerce. Alibaba.
The pair spent 90 minutes discussing the issue while on a bus to Beijing, when Ma told him the effects of AI were going to “be amazing.”
“A lot of bad things could happen, like huge unemployment if people are replaced by machines,” Ma told Schwarzman. Forbes reported.
When Schwarzman returned to the United States, he met with then-MIT President L. Rafael Reif and asked him why AI had not taken off in the United States when AI development in China was already underway.
“I talked to him about the risk element and the fact that the United States was falling behind, simply because we haven’t invested enough money compared to China,” Schwarzman told the outlet.
‘It’s not just about AI. There are other technologies that have major security problems. Quantum computing, for example, has the ability to break all encryption. Imagine a world where someone can destroy your banking system, destroy your electrical grid, and take control of your nuclear codes.
“This whole computer revolution has a lot of problems.”
Reif told him that computers were not yet powerful enough to adopt AI technology, but that they were working to catch up quickly.
“I was concerned that the United States was falling behind in the most promising new technology in generations,” Schwarzman said. The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, Schwarzman was also building what is today’s leading investment firm, Blackstone, and Reif frequently visited his Park Avenue office to discuss his plans to introduce AI to MIT.
Reif said he planned to hire twice as many MIT professors and professors with backgrounds in computer science, biology and business who also used AI to help with their research.
Schwarzman was captivated by the idea and donated $350 million of the $1.2 billion needed to finance the program.
However, despite pioneering AI to make the world more equal, Schwarzman was accused by the United Nations that his company contributed to the global housing crisis in 2019.
The UN said Blackstone was exploiting tenants and “wreaking havoc” on communities by dramatically increasing rental costs and charging high fees for repairs, which has “devastating consequences” for many tenants. The Guardian reported at the time.
Blackstone denied the allegations and said the report contained “numerous false statements, significant factual errors and inaccurate conclusions.”
Steve Schwarzman worked to pioneer AI technology and ultimately donated $350 million to MIT’s $1.2 billion plan to add faculty with AI expertise.
AI is on the rise and so are concerns that it will replace humans in the workforce
Schwarzman has also been criticized for comments he made in 2010 when he compared then-President Barack Obama’s plans to raise taxes to the conditions of Nazi Germany.
During a nonprofit board meeting, Schwarzman told board members that raising taxes is a “war.”
“It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939,” he said.
Schwarzman later apologized for the comparison.
And while Schwarzman has been praised for his commitment to advancing AI through strategic investments at MIT, the New York Public Library, and the $7 billion data center alliance with Digital Reality Trust, he has been overshadowed for other less admirable actions.
Schwarzman was part of a Blackstone Group forum established in 2016 to offer his economic expertise to then-President Donald Trump.
“You’re doing profound things,” Schwarzman told Trump at a White House event in early 2017.
He added that Trump was “facing huge, embedded problems and… with the kind of effort you can put in, you can do amazing things.”
The group disbanded in 2017 after it was pressured to disassociate itself from Trump after the then-president equated white supremacists with Black Lives Matter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Then, in February 2021, just a month after Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, the Wall Street billionaire came under fire for backing Republicans who had tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election. .
According to the Responsive Policy CenterSchwarzman was the third-largest donor to Republicans who opposed the 2020 election and was the eighth-largest mega-donor in the 2020 election cycle.
In stark contrast to his political ties, Schwarzman has also donated heavily to AI funding and has played a major role in pushing for the Chips and Science Act in 2022, which sets aside funding for quantum computing and AI.
Since hiring the first data scientist at Blackstone the same year he met Ma, that number has grown to 50 people who analyze data using AI to help the company predict demand for apartments and analyze data on LinkedIn to learn what life sciences companies might need. employees and laboratory space.
“AI is going to dramatically change the way we live and work,” said Blackstone Chairman and CEO Jon Gray.
“As a company, we are dedicating enormous resources to taking advantage of this opportunity, both to protect investors’ capital and to generate greater returns.”
The company says it is not only investing in “companies that leverage AI, but also in companies that enable it.”
Schwarzman and Gray’s efforts come amid global concerns that AI is growing so rapidly that it will eventually replace people in the workplace, but Schwarzman once again advocated for AI, saying there is nothing to worry about. worry.
“Everyone involved in this (AI) technology that I know certainly wants the technology to be regulated to some degree because they don’t want bad outcomes and they want all of these good outcomes,” Schwarzman said. Private capital.
He continued: ‘He’s not supposed to replace you. It’s supposed to make you more efficient and faster.