University to create college of computing to address current and future challenges

MIT announced a $1 billion commitment to address the global opportunities and challenges presented by the prevalence of computing and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) with the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, which will be completed by 2022.
By MIT News Office October 29, 2018

MIT is investing $1 billion to address the rapid evolution of computing and AI. At the heart of this effort: a $350 million gift to found the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing. Courtesy: Christopher Harting, MITMIT announced a $1 billion commitment to address the global opportunities and challenges presented by the prevalence of computing and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). The initiative marks the single largest investment in computing and AI by an American academic institution, and will help position the United States to lead the world in preparing for the rapid evolution of computing and AI.

At the heart of this endeavor will be the new MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, made possible by a $350 million foundational gift from Mr. Schwarzman, the chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Blackstone, a global asset manager. Headquartered in a signature new building on MIT’s campus, the new MIT Schwarzman College of Computing will be an interdisciplinary hub for work in computer science, AI, data science, and related fields. The college will:

  • Reorient MIT to bring the power of computing and AI to all fields of study at MIT, allowing the future of computing and AI to be shaped by insights from all other disciplines;
  • Create 50 new faculty positions that will be located both within the college and jointly with other departments across MIT—nearly doubling MIT’s academic capability in computing and AI;
  • Give MIT’s five schools a shared structure for collaborative education, research, and innovation in computing and AI;
  • Educate students in every discipline to responsibly use and develop AI and computing technologies to help make a better world; and
  • Transform education and research in public policy and ethical considerations relevant to computing and AI.

With the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing’s founding, 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 significant impact on our nation’s competitiveness and security.

"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 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. With uncommon insight and generosity, Mr. Schwarzman is enabling a bold agenda that will lead to a better world. I am deeply grateful for his commitment to our shared vision."

Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Blackstone. Courtesy: Blackstone"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," Mr. 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.

"As one of the world leaders in technological innovation, MIT has the right expertise and the right values to serve as the ‘true north’ of AI in pursuit of the answers we urgently need," Mr. Schwarzman added. "With the ability to bring together the best minds in AI research, development, and ethics, higher education is uniquely situated to be the incubator for solving these challenges in ways the private and public sectors cannot. 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."

The college is slated to open in Sept. 2019, with construction of a new building for the college scheduled to be completed in 2022. Fifty new faculty positions will be created: 25 to be appointed to advance computing in the college, and 25 to be appointed jointly in the college and departments across MIT.

The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing will aspire to excellence in MIT’s three main areas of work: education, research, and innovation. The college will teach students the foundations of computing broadly and provide integrated curricula designed to satisfy the high level of interest in majors that cross computer science with other disciplines, and in learning how machine learning and data science can be applied to a variety of fields. It will seek to enable advances along the full spectrum of research—from fundamental, curiosity-driven inquiry to research on market-ready applications, in a wide range of MIT departments, labs, centers, and initiatives.

Sparking thought around policy and ethics

The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing will seek to be not only a center of advances in computing, but also a place for teaching and research on relevant policy and ethics to better ensure that the groundbreaking technologies of the future are responsibly implemented in support of the greater good. To advance these priorities, the college will:

  • Develop new curricula that will connect computer science and AI with other disciplines;
  • Host forums to engage national leaders from business, government, academia, and journalism to examine the anticipated outcomes of advances in AI and machine learning, and to shape policies around the ethics of AI;
  • Encourage scientists, engineers, and social scientists to collaborate on analysis of emerging technology, and on research that will serve industry, policymakers, and the broader research community; and
  • Offer selective undergraduate research opportunities, graduate fellowships in ethics and AI, a seed-grant program for faculty, and a fellowship program to attract distinguished individuals from other universities, government, industry, and journalism.

"Computing is no longer the domain of the experts alone. It’s everywhere, and it needs to be understood and mastered by almost everyone. In that context, for a host of reasons, society is uneasy about technology—and at MIT, that’s a signal we must take very seriously," Reif said. "Technological advancements must go hand in hand with the development of ethical guidelines that anticipate the risks of such enormously powerful innovations. This is why we must make sure that the leaders we graduate offer the world not only technological wizardry but also human wisdom—the cultural, ethical, and historical consciousness to use technology for the common good."

In its pursuit of ethical questions, the college will bring together researchers in a wide range of MIT departments, labs, centers, and initiatives, such as the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab; the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society; the Operations Research Center; the Quest for Intelligence, and beyond.

"There is no doubt that artificial intelligence and automation will impact every facet of society. As we look to the future, we must utilize these important technologies to shape our world for the better and harness their power as a force for social good," said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. "I believe that MIT’s groundbreaking initiative, particularly its commitment to address policy and ethics alongside technological advancements, will play a crucial role in ensuring that AI is developed responsibly and used to make our world more just."

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

www.mit.edu 

– Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com. See more Control Engineering education and training stories.