MIT Investing $1 Billion in AI College

MIT AI collegeStudents can enroll next fall.

By Rick Richardson

Ever since the beginning of the artificial intelligence (AI) boom in the early 2010s, there’s been a corresponding drought in talented AI developers and researchers.

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The way to fix this is to educate more of them, and last month, MIT announced a $1 billion initiative to do exactly that: It will establish a new college of computing to train the next generation of machine learning mavens.

Importantly, the college isn’t just about training AI skills. Instead, it will focus on what MIT President L. Rafael Reif calls “the bilinguals of the future.” By that, he means students in fields such as biology, chemistry, physics, politics, history and linguistics who also know how to apply machine learning to these disciplines.

Two-thirds of the planned $1 billion commitment has been raised so far, with $350 million coming from Stephen A. Schwarzman, CEO of the private equity firm Blackstone. The new college will be named after Schwarzman, and it will include 50 new faculty positions, half of which will focus solely on computer science, while the rest are jointly appointed by the college and other MIT departments. The college is scheduled to open in September 2019, and its new building is planned to be completed in 2022.

MIT is also angling the college as an ethically minded enterprise; one of its stated aims is to research “ethical considerations relevant to computing and AI.” It’s a frequent criticism of contemporary AI efforts that researchers sometimes ignore the history and lessons of the fields they are trying to “disrupt.” More collaboration should help.

“As computing reshapes our world, MIT intends to help make sure it does so for the good of all,” said Reif. “The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing will constitute both a global center 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.”

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