Home General Blackstone's Schwarzman Donates $350M for MIT AI College

Blackstone’s Schwarzman Donates $350M for MIT AI College

Every leading university today is busy exploring the idea of adapting to the artificial intelligence (AI) technology wave, specifically how to prepare students to harness the capability of AI tools and thoughtfully weigh its social and ethical implications. In the past few years, joint majors, conferences and AI courses have become widespread.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is currently taking an ambitious moving, specifically though building a new college supported by a planned investment of a whopping $1 billion. During the recent announcement of the initiative, MIT revealed that it has already raised about two-thirds of the funds.

The primary gift of $350 million stemmed from Stephen A. Schwarzman, who prides himself on being the chief executive officer of private equity company Blackstone Group. The college, dubbed the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, is expected to build 50 new faculty positions as well as additional fellowships for graduate students.

The project is scheduled to commence in the fall semester of 2019. The college will first be housed in other buildings before being shifted into its new space in 2022.

The President of MIT Rafael Reif said the objective of the college is to “educate the bilinguals of the future.” He also defines bilinguals as individuals in various fields like linguistics, history, politics, biology, and chemistry with the techniques of modern computing, which can be applied to them. However, he added, “to educate bilinguals, we have to create a new structure.”

According to Mr. Reif, academic departments tend to be siloed even to date irrespective of interdisciplinary programs that go beyond departmental boundaries. About 25 of the faculty positions are expected to concentrate on progressing computer science while the other half will be appointed in a joint manner by the college and other departments in MIT.

Conventionally, departments are responsible for tenure and hiring decisions in universities. For instance, a researcher who applied artificial intelligence-based text analysis tools in an area such as history may be referred to be too much a computer scientist by the department of humanities and inadequately technical by the department of computer science.

MIT’s leaders are looking forward to the new college altering traditional academic practice and thinking. “We need to rewire how we hire and promote faculty,” explained Martin Schmidt, the provost of M.I.T.

According to Melissa Nobles, the college delivers the likelihood of a renewal for humanities studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whereby students enroll in large numbers to fields such as engineering and computer science. “We’re excited by the possibilities. That’s how the humanities are going to survive, not by running from the future but by embracing it,” she said.

Donors such as students are lured more to computer science programs compared to other fields. Nonetheless, the new college is designed for spreading the wealth. “It’s a major fund-raising mechanism that gives M.I.T. a huge resource to apply A.I. to other fields,” explained Eric Schmidt, who was the executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. He is also M.I.T.’s visiting innovation fellow.


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KC Cheung
KC Cheung has over 18 years experience in the technology industry including media, payments, and software and has a keen interest in artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, neural networks and its applications in business. Over the years he has worked with some of the leading technology companies, building and growing dynamic teams in a fast moving international environment.
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