MIT to invest $1bn in major bet on AI and the future of computing

16 Oct 2018186 Views

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Investment will more than double the size of AI-focused faculty at MIT.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has unveiled a $1bn investment drive to create a new college focused on artificial intelligence (AI).

In what will be the largest investment in computing and AI ever made by an American university, the drive will also mark the biggest structural change at the prestigious MIT since the 1950s.

‘MIT’s initiative will help America solve these challenges and continue to lead on computing and AI throughout the 21st century and beyond’
– STEPHEN A SHWARZMAN

The move is designed to re-establish America’s leadership in technologies such as AI at a time when Asian tech companies are already demonstrating considerable prowess in this arena.

Can AI lead to a better world?

MIT is understood to be two-thirds of the way towards its $1bn goal, bolstered by the creation of the new MIT Stephen A Schwarzman College of Computing. This was made possible by a $350m foundational gift from Schwarzman, the chair, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone, a leading global asset manager.

Headquartered in a signature new building on MIT’s campus, the Schwarzman College of Computing will be an interdisciplinary hub for work in computer science, AI, data science and related fields. The building will be completed in 2022 and will support 50 faculty positions, which will in turn lead to a larger influx of graduate researchers.

The college will give MIT’s five schools a shared structure for collaborative education, research and innovation in AI, and will educate students to responsibly use and develop AI and future computing technologies to help make a better world. At the heart of this will be an effort to transform education and research in public policy, and ethics related to computing and AI.

“As computing reshapes our world, MIT intends to help make sure it does so for the good of all,” said MIT president L Rafael Reif. “In keeping with the scope of this challenge, we are reshaping MIT.

“The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing will constitute both a global centre for computing research and education, and an intellectual foundry for powerful new AI tools. Just as important, 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.”

Blackstone is one of the world’s leading investment firms, with $440bn in assets under management. Schwarzman is an active philanthropist and this year gave $5m to Harvard Business School to develop case studies and explore the implications of AI on industries and business.

“There is no more important opportunity or challenge facing our nation than to responsibly harness the power of artificial intelligence so that we remain competitive globally and achieve breakthroughs that will improve our entire society,” Schwarzman said.

“We face fundamental questions about how to ensure that technological advancements benefit all, especially those most vulnerable to the radical changes AI will inevitably bring to the nature of the workforce. MIT’s initiative will help America solve these challenges and continue to lead on computing and AI throughout the 21st century and beyond.”

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com