MIT is building a billion-dollar college dedicated to AI

A new college for MIT.
A new college for MIT.
Image: AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is adding a new college of artificial intelligence, but it’s not just meant for those with a coding background.

The new college will focus on interdisciplinary AI education, training those studying biology, chemistry, history, and linguistics in the ability to use artificial intelligence in their own field, MIT president Leo Rafael Reif told The New York Times today (Oct. 15). AI ethics will also be a part of the curriculum. When fund-raising is complete, the college fund will total $1 billion for new faculty and its own space on campus. So far two-thirds of the investment have been secured, half from private-equity firm Blackstone’s CEO Stephen Schwarzman.

Reif calls those who are proficient in using artificial intelligence techniques for another specialty “bilinguals,” and says the structure of the college will be built around practices that bridge the gaps between computer science and the rest of the university.

Those researching AI’s impact on society have consistently suggested the expansion of interdisciplinary education, on the grounds that computer scientists can sometimes overlook the nuances of other fields. This can cause unintended consequences, like unwittingly making medical systems biased against certain populations.

Schwarzman started to take an interest in AI started during a conversation with Alibaba founder Jack Ma, and was convinced by Reif to donate such a large sum based on the ethical questions that still plague the industry, on subjects like self-driving cars and medical diagnosis, according to the Times.

“We really need to try to understand this technology, not just get hit by it,” Schwarzman said in the Times.