USC Brings in Top Artificial Intelligence, Social Work Scholars to Explore Solutions for Greater Good

The USC Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society (CAIS)—a joint venture of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and USC Viterbi School of Engineering—will host its first Visiting Fellows Program this summer focused on employing AI to help solve complex societal problems.

As part of the Fellows Program, visiting researchers from all over the world will come to USC this summer for up to three months to learn from a working model established by the center’s co-founders, Eric Rice of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and Milind Tambe of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. The two had successfully collaborated by employing AI to ensure that homeless youth shared important public health information among peers in the youths’ own social networks.

“Using artificial intelligence to promote the greater good is an emerging area of study with huge potential,” said Eric Rice, co-director of CAIS and associate professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. “Our goal in establishing this fellowship is to bring together the best and brightest scholars in artificial intelligence and social work to explore breakthrough solutions to age-old problems plaguing many of our cities and communities.”

Topics to be studied by fellows this summer include suicide prevention among college students; social support for North Korean refugees to help their integration into South Korean society; wildlife conservation through poaching prevention in developing nations’ national parks; HIV and substance abuse prevention for homeless youth; and predicting and reducing gang violence in Los Angeles. On some projects, fellows will collaborate with non-government organizations (NGOs) currently executing similar “real world” experiments in these subject areas around the globe.

“Our hope is that by applying AI to the types of problems that cross disciplines and transcend borders, we can greatly improve or even save lives, as well as better allocate resources where they will have the most benefit and impact,” said Milind Tambe, co-director of CAIS, professor of computer science and the Helen N. and Emmett H. Jones Professor in Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

The 12 summer fellows were selected through a rigorous screening process this past year. The group includes doctoral students, post-doctoral students and assistant professors representing nine different universities including Harvard, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, University of Southampton, Trinity University, University of Denver, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and the University of Southern California.