MIT Launches the Quest for Intelligence

  • Feature Story

MIT Launches the Quest for Intelligence

Photo credit: Kris Brewer | CBMM

Institute-wide initiative will advance human and machine intelligence research

Imagine if the next breakthrough in artificial intelligence came from a deeper understanding of the root of intelligence itself: the human brain. Since the launch of the MIT Quest for Intelligence this spring, BCS faculty have been brainstorming moonshot projects that approach this grand vision. With big questions focused on recognition, perception, learning, language, emotion and creativity, each moonshot project will seek to address scientific and engineering goals to achieve true progress in understandning intelligence. And this is just the beginning.

The Quest is comprised of two linged entities: “the Core and the Bridge.” Working within “The Core,” BCS faculty aim to advance the science and engineering of both human and machine intelligence. A key output of this work will be machine-learning algorithms. The second entity, “The Bridge,” will be dedicated to the application of MIT discoveries in natural and artificial intelligence in all disciplines, and will host state-of-the-art tools from industry and research labs worldwide

“Discovering how the human brain works in the language of engineers will not only lead to transformative A.I.,” said BCS Department Head Jim DiCarlo in an opinion article published in WIRED. “It will also illuminate new approaches to helping those who are blind, deaf, autistic, schizophrenic, or who have learning disabilities or age-related memory loss. Armed with an engineering description of the brain, scientists will see new ways to repair, educate, and augment our own minds.”

MIT has been on the frontier of intelligence research since the 1950s, when pioneers Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy helped establish the field of artificial intelligence. MIT now has over 200 principal investigators whose research bears directly on intelligence. Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) collaborate on a range of projects. MIT is also home to the National Science Foundation–funded center for Brains, Minds and Machines (CBMM) — the foundation of the Quest Core.

Other researchers participating in The Quest include members of the Media Lab, the Operations Research Center, the Sloan School of Management, the School of Architecture and Planning, and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Four years ago, MIT launched the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) with a mission promoting data science, particularly in the context of social systems. It is anticipated that faculty and students from IDSS will play a critical role in this initiative as well. The Quest will continue to provide resources to facilitate the interdisciplinary collaboration of MIT researchers as they work together to advance our understanding of human and machine intelligence.

This article was adapted from a story written by Peter Dzikes for MIT News.