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MIT, IBM researchers to study how AI can better humankind

The new AI Lab, a partnership between MIT and IBM, will take a deep dive into artificial intelligence.
ai lab
IBM will invest $240 million into the AI Lab at MIT. Photo: Reuters

Artificial intelligence is becoming unavoidable, and whether we like it or not, AI will be a part of our future. But how much do we really know about the technology, and how will we be prepared to tackle the challenges it poses?

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and IBM are putting their “minds and hands” together to delve into just those questions and to dive into AI. MIT and the computer company recently announced a joint effort to research AI by together establishing the new MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab.

IBM will make a 10-year, $240 million investment in order to create the lab. And despite the concerns around AI, the lab will take a more positive approach.

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“AI holds a remarkable potential to advance knowledge for the betterment of humankind,” said Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of MIT’s School of Engineering, who was involved with the agreement between MIT and IBM for this lab. “We want scientists, professors and students to build machine-learning and AI systems that excel at both narrow tasks and the human skills of discovery and explanation.”

One specific goal of the lab, Chandrakasan said, that would be for humankind's “betterment” is to use AI along with imaging in radiology to “automatically detect breast cancer,” he said.

Health is a huge sector for AI advancement, but it’s not the only area where the technology will flourish. Researchers will specifically look into the link between AI and cybersecurity, among others industries.

Though there are a few broad topics the lab aims to focus on – algorithms that can build on machine learning, the physics of AI like new hardware materials and devices, and learning how AI can be applied to industries such as healthcare and cybersecurity – MIT and IBM will also seek proposals from other scientists about what exactly to research.

For some, AI may seem like something that will lead to losses – of jobs, of any kind of human labor, of human interaction.

But for researchers, AI is about the possibility of more.

That’s the aim of one more big question Chandrakasan said the lab will seek to answer that really gets to the “good” of AI.

“The lab will explore this vital issue: How can AI deliver economic and societal benefits to a broader range of people, nations and enterprises?” he said.  “Researchers will investigate how AI can help individuals achieve more in their lives.”

 
 
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