The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced a plan, backed by US$1 billion in investment, to establish an interdisciplinary college focusing on artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The plan is supported by a US$350 million donation from Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and chief executive of Blackstone, a leading global asset manager and private equity firm.
The MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing marks the single largest investment in computing and artificial intelligence (AI) by an American academic institution to date. It will be an interdisciplinary hub for research and development in computer science, AI, data science, and related fields.
With the founding of the college, MIT seeks to strengthen its position as a key international player in the responsible and ethical evolution of technologies that are poised to fundamentally transform society.
“Amid a rapidly evolving geopolitical environment that is constantly being reshaped by technology, the College will have a significant impact on our nation’s competitiveness and security,” said MIT in a press statement.
“Our hope is that this ambitious initiative serves as a clarion call to our government that massive financial investment in AI is necessary to ensure that America has a leading voice in shaping the future of these powerful and transformative technologies,” said Schwarzman in the statement.
One of the highlighted functions of the new college is to encourage students and researchers to think about the potential impact of computing and AI.
Schwarzmann said: “The College’s attention to ethics matters enormously to me, because we will never realize the full potential of these advancements unless they are guided by a shared understanding of their moral implications for society.”
“The College will equip students and researchers in any discipline to use computing and AI to advance their disciplines and vice-versa, as well as to think critically about the human impact of their work,” said MIT president Rafael Reif.
Slated to open in September 2019 with its new building to be completed in 2022, the college will create 50 new faculty positions, nearly doubling MIT’s academic capability in computing and AI, and educate students in every discipline to responsibly use and develop AI and computing technologies to help make a better world.
In an interview with the New York Times, Reif said the college will “educate the bilinguals of the future”.
With the new initiative, students and researchers from various disciplines and fields will be taught to use AI in their disciplines from first principles, instead of dividing their time between computer science and other departments, he said.
Reif said he believes computing “needs to be understood and mastered by almost everyone”.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 18
Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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