University launches institute-wide initiative for human and machine intelligence research

Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT's) Intelligence Quest—MIT IQ—is designed encourage researchers to investigate the societal implications of their work and advance the science and engineering of human and machine intelligence.
By Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office February 4, 2018

Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT's) Intelligence Quest—MIT IQ—is designed encourage researchers to investigate the societal implications of their work and advance the science and engineering of human and machine intelligence. Courtesy: MIT IQMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced the launch of the MIT Intelligence Quest, an initiative to discover the foundations of human intelligence and drive the development of technological tools that can positively influence virtually every aspect of society.

The announcement was first made in a letter MIT President L. Rafael Reif sent to the Institute community.

At a time of rapid advances in intelligence research across many disciplines, the Intelligence Quest—MIT IQ—is intended to encourage researchers to investigate the societal implications of their work as they pursue hard problems lying beyond the current horizon of what is known. Some of these advances may be foundational in nature, involving new insight into human intelligence, and new methods to allow machines to learn effectively. Others may be practical tools for use in a wide array of research endeavors, such as disease diagnosis, drug discovery, materials and manufacturing design, automated systems, synthetic biology, and finance.

"Today we set out to answer two big questions," Reif said. "How does human intelligence work, in engineering terms? And how can we use that deep grasp of human intelligence to build wiser and more useful machines, to the benefit of society?"

The core and the bridge

MIT is leading this work through two linked entities within MIT IQ. One of them, "The Core," is designed to advance the science and engineering of both human and machine intelligence. A key output of this work will be machine-learning algorithms. At the same time, MIT IQ seeks to advance our understanding of human intelligence by using insights from computer science.

The second entity, "The Bridge" will be dedicated to the application of MIT discoveries in natural and artificial intelligence to all disciplines, and it will host state-of-the-art tools from industry and research labs worldwide.

The Bridge will provide a variety of assets to the MIT community, including intelligence technologies, platforms, and infrastructure; education for students, faculty, and staff about AI tools; rich and unique data sets; technical support; and specialized hardware.

Along with developing and advancing the technologies of intelligence, MIT IQ researchers will also investigate the societal and ethical implications of advanced analytical and predictive tools. There are already active projects and groups at the Institute investigating autonomous systems, media and information quality, labor markets and the work of the future, innovation and the digital economy, and the role of AI in the legal system.

In all its activities, MIT IQ is intended to take advantage of—and strengthen—the Institute’s culture of collaboration. MIT IQ will connect and amplify existing excellence across labs and centers already engaged in intelligence research. It will also establish shared, central spaces conducive to group work, and its resources will directly support research.

"Our quest is meant to power world-changing possibilities," said Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the MIT School of Engineering and Vannevar Bush Professor of electrical engineering and computer science. Chandrakasan, in collaboration with Provost Martin Schmidt and all four of MIT’s other school deans, has led the development and establishment of MIT IQ.

"We imagine preventing deaths from cancer by using deep learning for early detection and personalized treatment," Chandrakasan continued. "We imagine artificial intelligence in sync with, complementing, and assisting our own intelligence. And we imagine every scientist and engineer having access to human-intelligence-inspired algorithms that open new avenues of discovery in their fields. Researchers across our campus want to push the boundaries of what’s possible."

The fruits of research

MIT IQ will also provide a platform for long-term research, encouraging the foundational advances of the future. At the same time, MIT professors and researchers may develop technologies with near-term value, leading to new kinds of collaborations with existing companies-and also to new companies.

Some such entrepreneurial efforts could be supported by The Engine, an Institute initiative launched in October 2016 to support startup companies pursuing particularly ambitious goals.

Other innovations stemming from MIT IQ could be absorbed into the innovation ecosystem surrounding the Institute—in Kendall Square, Cambridge, and the Boston metropolitan area. MIT is located in close proximity to a world-leading nexus of biotechnology and medical-device research and development, as well as a cluster of leading-edge technology firms that study and deploy machine intelligence.

MIT also has roots in centers of innovation elsewhere in the United States and around the world, through faculty research projects, institutional and industry collaborations, and the activities and leadership of its alumni. MIT IQ will seek to connect to innovative companies and individuals who share MIT’s passion for work in intelligence.

Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Alphabet, has helped MIT form the vision for MIT IQ. "Imagine the good that can be done by putting novel machine-learning tools in the hands of those who can make great use of them," he said. "MIT IQ can become a fount of exciting new capabilities."

"I am thrilled by today’s news," Reif said. "Drawing on MIT’s deep strengths and signature values, culture, and history, MIT IQ promises to make important contributions to understanding the nature of intelligence, and to harnessing it to make a better world."