Zhang, Klarman Fellow, named Schmidt Futures AI2050 Fellow

Baobao Zhang, a Klarman Postdoctoral Fellow in government in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been named to the first cohort of 15 AI2050 Early Career Fellows by Schmidt Futures.

As an AI2050 Fellow, Zhang will work with the Center for New Democratic Processes (CNDP) to test whether public assemblies, known as “deliberative democracy workshops,” can be an effective method for increasing public participation in AI governance.

The AI2050 Early Career Fellows, based at ten universities and one national laboratory, work on problems that must be solved for artificial intelligence to benefit society. The program is part of Schmidt Futures’ mission to support talent at various stages in their careers from around the globe who are solving hard problems in science and society.

In her research, Zhang, an assistant professor of political science in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, tackles the problem of how to democratically govern transformative AI systems that are likely to arrive by 2050.

“AI systems are impacting more and more people in the workplace, schools, public spaces and on the internet. At the same time, risks and harms from AI are becoming increasingly apparent,” Zhang said. “Developing AI to benefit the public should involve citizens as key stakeholders in shaping the future of the technology.”

With support from Schmidt Futures, Zhang will test whether public assemblies, where participants learn about AI systems from experts and deliberate with the guidance of experienced facilitators, can be a valuable complement to public opinion polling in guiding AI governance.

“I'm excited and humbled to work on a project that deeply engages the U.S. public in AI governance,” Zhang said. “This project will center the voices of everyday people impacted by high-risk AI systems.”

AI2050 is a program at Schmidt Futures that advances Eric and Wendy Schmidt’s $125 Million commitment over the next five years to support exceptional people working on key opportunities and solutions to hard problems that are critical to ensure society benefits from AI. AI2050 fellows work in computer science, economics, political science, philosophy, and other diverse areas.

“We must accelerate progress on the hardest problems in the field,” said James Manyika, co-chair of AI2050. “We hope the research progress of this group of exceptional, multidisciplinary scholars inspires new ideas within the global AI community, enables breakthroughs, and ensures a future in which we all benefit from this promising technology.”

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Baobao Zhang