Artificial Intelligence

IST launches Generative Identity Initiative with support of Omidyar Network

January 30, 2024 – With the generous support of Omidyar Network, the Institute for Security and Technology (IST) is thrilled to announce the launch of the Generative Identity Initiative, a new effort to address the complex questions around generative AI’s impact on social identities, norms, and belonging. 

Omidyar Network is a social change venture that works to reimagine critical systems and the ideas that govern them. Through investment in projects that empower everyday people, Omidyar hopes to build more inclusive and equitable societies across the world.

“We are excited to partner with the Institute for Security and Technology to explore emerging and critical questions around generative AI’s potential to shape our social environment and collective sense of belonging,” said Mike Kubzansky, Omidyar Network’s Chief Executive Officer. “While much remains unknown about the emergent technology, generative AI will undoubtedly have an impact on an already fraying social fabric. Yet, we remain fervent in the belief that this technology can be developed and adopted in responsible ways that deepen human connection and help communities thrive. With their deep expertise in technology and society, IST is uniquely poised to address this nascent and interdisciplinary challenge.”

As generative artificial intelligence (“GenAI”) makes its way into every corner of our lives, the Generative IdentityInitiative aims to explore how these technologies will influence individuals, identities, and social systems. It builds on IST’s prior work on the Digital Cognition and Democracy Initiative (DCDI), originally funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, which brought together an interdisciplinary coalition of scientists, technologists, academics, and policy experts to examine the relationship between digital technologies and our cognition. DCDI found that digitally influenced cognition, by impairing independent, critical thinking, could undermine the very core elements of democratic society. 

Through in-depth research and expert convening, DCDI identified 12 distinct techno-cognitive risks that emerge from digital technologies, grouping them into four areas of concern: gamification and addictive design; information overload; unnaturally immersive and easy experience; and lack of friction. 

Now, with the support of Omidyar Network, IST’s and Generative Identity Initiative will convene a multi-stakeholder working group to develop a research agenda to better understand how technologies are impacting cognition, interpret the influence of GenAI technologies on these dynamics, and shape potential policy responses. Building on the 12 techno-cognitive risks identified in the DCDI work, the Initiative will identify instances in which GenAI stands to impact these risks and work with partners to understand what it means for how we see our unique selves and what may happen to our diverse communities. 

“We are immensely grateful for the support of the Omidyar Network, without whom this Initiative would not be possible,” explained Philip Reiner, Chief Executive Officer at IST. “The development of generative AI is moving at such a pace that the timelines are short to anticipate both the risks and the opportunities—at IST, we seek to ask the right questions to ensure policy decisions have the greatest benefit. We know from our DCDI work that technology exerts systemic impact at the individual change level. Amid increasing GenAI adoption, we need to understand how it will impact our societal identities as it happens, ultimately ensuring that we can adapt as rapidly as possible.”