The dome on MIT's campus.Wikimedia Commons/Thermos

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced on Monday a $1 billion commitment to study breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and their ethical impacts through the new MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing.

The Schwarzman College of Computing will be a hub for work in computer science, AI, data science, and related fields, officials said, as well as exploring how these technologies can be used to improve the world.

The college will be located in a new building on MIT’s Cambridge campus. Stephen A. Schwarzman, CEO and co-founder of investment firm Blackstone, gifted $350 million towards the venture.

The $1 billion total price tag marks the “single largest investment in computing and AI by an American academic institution,” according to MIT. Officials say this investment will help the United States become and remain a world leader in preparing for the “rapid evolution” of computing and AI.

 

“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,” Schwarzman said in a statement.

“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,” he added. “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.”

MIT Schwarzman College of Computing and the future of AI

The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing is set to open Sept. 2019. The construction of the new campus building for the college is scheduled to be completed in 2022.

This new college is the “most significant structural change to MIT since the early 1950s,” according to the institute. It will create 50 new faculty positions and focus on teaching students in every educational discipline to use and develop AI with the grand goal of “making a better world.”

Officials say the college will also serve as the connecting point for the five MIT schools so they can collaborate on AI education, research and innovation.

mit schwarzman college of computing | MIT ai | MIT artificial intelligence

Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Blackstone Group LP, pictured during a panel session on the opening day of the World Economic Forum. Photo: Getty Images

By focusing on the ethics of AI and advancing technologies, MIT hopes this effort will ease public concerns about what the future will bring.

“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,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a statement.  “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.”

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