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New MIT Project to Probe Mysteries of Human Intelligence

By Richard Adhikari
Feb 8, 2018 3:36 PM PT
mit-human-intelligence

MIT last week launched the MIT Intelligence Quest, an initiative to find out how human intelligence works, in engineering terms, and how a deeper grasp of human intelligence can be applied to building wiser and more useful machines.

Life scientists, computer scientists, social scientists and engineers will collaborate in the effort.

"Human intelligence is turning out to be very complex, involving emergent properties that arise from complex computational networks," noted Michael Jude, research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

"It is not simply an engineering design problem," he told TechNewsWorld.

Bringing in some of the soft sciences, such as psychology and sociology, as well as areas like medicine "would seem to be a good thing," Jude observed.

Deep Insights, Practical Tools

Some of the advances may be foundational in nature, involving new insights into human intelligence and new methods to let machines learn effectively, MIT president L. Rafael Reif said in a letter to the university community.

Others may be practical tools for use in a variety of research fields, such as disease diagnosis, drug discovery, automated system materials and manufacturing design, synthetic biology, and finance.

MIT IQ researchers also will investigate the societal and ethical implications of advanced analytical and predictive tools, Reif said.

MIT already has active groups and projects investigating autonomous systems, media and information quality, labor markets and work of the future, innovation and the digital economy, and the role of artificial intelligence in the legal system.

"The challenge of better understanding human intelligence is enormous, and ... requires a multidisciplinary approach," said Doug Henschen, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"MIT certainly has the stature, breadth and depth to take this on, drawing on credible and well-known experts," he told TechNewsWorld.

How MIT IQ Will Function

Two linked entities within MIT IQ will lead its work.

The Core will advance the science and engineering of both human and machine intelligence; a key output will be machine learning algorithms.

The Bridge will focus on the application of MIT discoveries in natural and artificial intelligence to all disciplines. It will host state-of-the-art tools from industry and research labs worldwide.

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

MIT IQ will connect and amplify existing excellence across labs and centers already engaged in intelligence research, establish shared spaces for group work, and directly support research.

MIT will establish additional entities within MIT IQ in partnership with corporate and philanthropic organizations to fund the project.

IBM may play a key role in MIT IQ.

The company is "proud to be a cornerstone of this expanded initiative," said John E. Kelly III, IBM's SVP for cognitive solutions and research.

MIT IQ "is a natural evolution of what MIT and MIT Labs have been doing in the fields of AI, deep learning and work," said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of Research at Nucleus Research.

"Similar announcements from other higher education and research centers" can be expected, she told TechNewsWorld.

Societal and Ethical Issues, Oh My!

Prominent scientists and tech leaders, including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates, have expressed concerns about the ethical and societal implications of AI research.

Musk and some partners launched Open.AI in 2015, an effort to guide ethical AI development to benefit society.

Microsoft, Google, IBM and Amazon are among the high-tech firms that launched Partnership on AI in 2016, with the same goals.

"What if we had done the same thing with automobiles?" Frost's Jude asked. "Would we actually have built any? Sometimes, "you just have to make tracks and fire out the solutions to problems along the way."


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.


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