OpenAI Wants Diversity in Its Scholars Program for Fall 2020

If you’re interested in artificial intelligence (A.I.) and deep learning, OpenAI has a new “class” of scholarships opening up for Fall 2020. The organization is specifically asking engineers and scientists from underrepresented groups to apply. 

“Diversity is key to AI having a positive effect on the world—it’s necessary to ensure the advanced AI systems of the future are built to benefit everyone,” reads OpenAI’s note about the program. “While we hope that some of the scholars will join OpenAI (as happened with the previous classes!), the goal of the program is to improve diversity in the field at large.”

OpenAI is accepting applications now, with a close date of Sept. 8; all accepted applicants will be notified on Sept. 21, and the program is scheduled to begin (virtually) on Oct. 12. Scholars in the program will receive $10,000 per month for six months, along with access to enough compute to run their deep learning/A.I. project. As you might expect with a program like this, all scholars will receive a mentor, who will offer advice via 1:1 video calls. 

“Our goal is for this program to be as inclusive as possible,” the note added. “If you feel you belong to a group not listed here that is underrepresented in science and engineering, please still apply and mention it in your application.” All scholars must have work authorization and be physically located in the U.S. 

With regard to prerequisites, applicants must have “robust” programming experience in Python, along with a strong math background and experience working on independent projects (“for example, you have run/managed an extensive independent project, started a company, worked toward a PhD”); familiarity with PyTorch is considered a plus. OpenAI suggests that anyone applying should have completed either practical deep learning for coders, v3Deep learning specialization, or a similar deep-learning instructional program; you’re clearly meant to hit the proverbial ground running with this scholarship. 

OpenAI began its existence as a nonprofit designed to prevent A.I. from being used in unethical and terrible ways. As part of that mission, it has released several tools, including text predictors. However, the organization has now evolved into what you might call a quasi-nonprofit, with a for-profit arm (dubbed a “capped profit”) meant to build commercial projects that will subsidize its mission. That’s proven controversial internally, with protests from employees who signed up purely out of altruism.

Those internal politics aside, it’s clear that OpenAI can teach anyone quite a bit about the intricacies of A.I. and deep learning. If you’re a scientist or engineer from an underrepresented group, the organization clearly wants you to apply. 

5 Responses to “OpenAI Wants Diversity in Its Scholars Program for Fall 2020”

    • Michael E Shaw

      It’s amazing how white people want us Black ad other minority to “stand on our own two feet” and to compete on a level playing field, when in fact, the playing field is not level. Born into relative poverty, I squirmed my way out through hard work and som help from programs that introduced me to concepts and provided me with access to resources that I did not have available to me in my community. It is through those programs that I erned a degree in Electrical Engineering and a degree in Physics. Others have not been exposed to things outside their immediate spectrum of influence. How can you expect this to happen without some assistance from outside the immediate sphere of influence. You say you want us to compete on a level playing field, but shake in your shoes when someone goes out of their way to make the field level. That is the definition of white privilege. It must be awesome to be white!