Science, Technology, and Social MediaWhite House Watch

Biden Admin Shells Out Millions For Robot Existentialism Study, TikTok Folk Theories

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced $41.3 million in grants Tuesday for projects such as studying TikTok folk theories and robot existentialism, according to a press release.

This funding marks the third and final round of peer-reviewed grants for “vital” projects in the 2023 fiscal year, the NEH statement said. The agency endowed 280 grants in total, which stack on top of the $65 million already dedicated annually by the NEH to similar projects and groups.

“These 280 new grant awards underscore the wide range of exemplary, fascinating, and impactful humanities work that scholars, practitioners, and institutions are conducting in all corners of the country,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe, according to the press release.

Projects ranged from analyzing the carbon footprint of libraries to recording COVID-19 oral histories, according to an NEH list. A one-week workshop for school teachers about the Grand Coulee Dam in Arizona, for example, received nearly $200,000 in funds.

Other programs and studies received even more funding in the lates grant announcement. The Abuelas Project received $150,000 to “identify, collect, and share stories about historic places or sites within Latinx communities nationwide,” according to the NEH grant list. Latinos In Heritage Conservation originally announced the project in 2021, but an online database has yet to be created, according to the LIHC website.

Two workshops on Indian Boarding Schools will receive $872,061 for online seminars. Titled “Reclaiming the Narrative: Learning the Truth about Indian Boarding Schools in Arizona,” the workshops will allow 60 K-12 teachers to examine the history of Indian boarding schools for one week, according to the grant list. Arizona started the webinar series in 2022, creating videos for teachers of grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12, according to an announcement made by the Arizona Office of Indian Education.

The NEH granted $89,906 to an Arizona study created just to examine TikTok folk theories. Researchers at Arizona State University plan to look at whether or not TikTok uses algorithms to make users xenophobic, racist and culturally biased, according to the NEH grant list.

Ariela Tubert and Justin Tiehen, two professors studying robot existentialism at the University of Puget Sound in Washington, received $147,840 to write a new book. The researchers intend to complete a manuscript on “existential philosophy and artificial intelligence,” the NEH grant list details. “According to our view, building machines that are fully intelligent in the way that humans are inevitably carries the risk that those machines would reject our human values and develop values of their own, which could then be dangerous for us. So, perhaps our project will save the world, or at least help us better protect ourselves from certain forms of AI risk,” Tiehen told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The NEH will provide a total of $657,759 in grants to California, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico to digitally record the oral history “cultural resiliency and experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the grant list. NEH justifies this project by describing it as a support to “Community-based efforts to preserve cultural heritage in the wake of climate change and COVID-19,” according to the NEH press release.

St. Joseph’s College in Maine received $120,926 to run a seminar on race, place and gender in New England gothic literature. “A three-week residential institute for 25 higher education faculty members to study New England Gothic literature with a focus on race, place, and gender,” according to the NEH grant list.

NEH gives grants that fit into at least one of 17 categories listed on the website, according to the press release. The Biden administration appropriated $152 million to the agency in the 2023 fiscal year just to support projects like the ones listed above, according to the NEH website. The agency received $207 million in total.

As of August 2023, the United States’ national debt level has reached $32.66 trillion, according to the Treasury Department’s fiscal data website.

The NEH did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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