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Heising-Simons Foundation Awards Over $3.1M to Technology and Society Organizations Ahead of Summit

The Heising-Simons Foundation has awarded $3.19 million this year, to address the ongoing impact of technology on society in advance of Wednesday’s Technology and Society Summit at the Foundation. The Foundation has awarded $7.88 million to address issues in this space since Sushma Raman joined as the Foundation’s president and CEO in 2023.

The Foundation’s 2024 investments will help create the inaugural Center for Civil Rights and Technology, develop the professional field of algorithmic auditing, and allow partners to advance the U.S. AI Executive Order by providing expert advice to the U.S. Congress on upcoming legislation.

Other active and past grantees in the portfolio include Surveillance Resistance Lab, WITNESS, and Just Futures Law.

The recently formed Surveillance Resistance Lab is building upon founder Mizue Aizeki’s long career tackling criminal migration control systems. It invests in training communities on analyzing government procurement of surveillance technologies, building networks to tackle the digital surveillance infrastructure and the everywhere border, and creating new decriminalizing narratives. Additionally, WITNESS is working to return power to the people by training civilians to use video and technology to strengthen activism and protect human rights. Sam Gregory, executive director of WITNESS, is an increasingly sought-after resource on deceptive Generative AI, election deepfakes, and building trust in the digital age. He was interviewed on Good Morning America in response to TikTok’s AI content credentials in May 2024.

Finally, in 2023, Just Futures Law, in partnership with Mijente, convened leaders, advocates, and organizers in a first-of-its-kind national gathering to learn about current efforts to challenge the databroker companies that fuel surveillance and deportations. This year, the Foundation awarded a grant to the Mijente Support Committee for a similar summer convening, the Take Back Tech gathering, in partnership with MediaJustice.

About the Technology and Society Summit

The Foundation, under the leadership of President and CEO Sushma Raman, will be holding the Technology and Society Summit on June 26, 2024 to convene invited thought leaders and experts in the field of AI and technology’s impacts on society. The summit will include talks and panels on the future of technology on society by the following AI experts:

  • Alondra Nelson (Harold F. Linder Professor, Institute for Advanced Study). Dr. Nelson, while working as acting director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, led the creation of the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights in Fall 2022
  • Nabiha Syed (Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation and former CEO, The Markup). In 2023, Dr. Syed headlined SXSW to discuss data privacy after the fall of Roe v. Wade and was awarded the NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award.
  • Safiya Noble (David O. Sears Presidential Endowed Chair of Social Sciences and Professor, UCLA). Dr. Noble was featured as a woman of impact in InStyle magazine in February 2024 and was interviewed on NPR’s Code Switch about racial discrimination in AI in November 2023.
  • Joy Buolamwini (Founder, Algorithmic Justice League). In May 2024, Dr. Buolamwini discussed fighting bias in algorithms on the Dare to Lead podcast with Brené Brown. She will be a keynote speaker at the 2024 SXSW conference’s inaugural artificial intelligence track.
  • Ami Fields-Meyer (Former Senior Policy Advisor to the Vice President of the United States). In 2023, Dr. Fields-Meyer led the development of measures in President Biden’s historic AI executive order to protect vulnerable people from tech harms and secured over $200 million in commitments from 10 major philanthropies to advance public-interest technology. In May 2024, he spoke at a Harvard University conference on the political economy of AI.
Meeting the Moment

The Foundation’s investments are meeting a moment of national and state momentum for AI governance and guardrails. This summit comes in the context of President Biden’s October 2023 Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, Vice President Harris’ collaboration between the White House and ten leading foundations (including Heising-Simons Foundation) to advance AI in the Public Interest, and the Senate AI Working Group’s May 2024 Roadmap for AI Policy in the United States Senate.

In California, this summit comes as politicians introduced five bills in February 2024 to protect election integrity from AI. However, in March 2024, 60 percent of San Francisco voters and Mayor London Breed backed a ballot proposition that gives police freedom to install security cameras and deploy drones without city oversight and loosens restrictions on adopting new surveillance technology. Additionally, a Washington Post investigation from May 2024 found instances where San Francisco police had skirted the facial-recognition ban by asking law enforcement in neighboring municipalities to search for them.

Select 2024 Technology and Society Grantees

The goal of the Foundation’s CEO Fund is to address the impact of technology on society—harnessing its promise and mitigating its risks. It aims to build a more just and inclusive society—one where those most affected by harms and inequities not only benefit from such advancements but where their perspectives and needs are centered in the design and deployment of emerging technologies.

Learn more about the CEO Fund’s Technology and Society work.

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