MIT’s vision for the Quest for Intelligence

MIT Quest addresses two fundamental questions: How does human intelligence work, in engineering terms? And how can we use our understanding of human intelligence to build smarter machines for the benefit of society? As part of our mission, we are developing customized AI tools for non-AI researchers, which could accelerate progress in many fields. We see an opportunity to achieve a deeper understanding of intelligence through the kind of basic research that leads to unexpected breakthroughs. We aspire for our new knowledge and newly built tools to serve the public good, in our nation and around the world.

The time is now.

It’s hard to name a field AI hasn’t touched already. Machine learning is the new literacy. Still, many of the breakthroughs driving current machine intelligence technology are actually decades old. We’re looking for the next great leap that will unlock innovations that today’s entrepreneurs haven’t even begun to dream about. The last few decades have seen a revolution in the powers of computation, and in our understanding of the human brain. More recently, we have experienced a similar revolution in the acquisition of data at massive scales. We have access to more information than ever before, but the tools for making sense of it need to take a giant leap forward.

MIT has the people and the talent.

Housed within the new MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, MIT Quest brings together more than 200 investigators working on the science and engineering of intelligence. The Center for Brains, Minds and Machines and the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences host some of world’s most influential mind and brain researchers. MIT’s largest lab, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is a renowned center for information technology research. The MIT Media Lab leads research on human-computer-machine interaction in real-world environments and at scale. The MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society develops state-of-the-art tools to address challenges in finance, health care and energy systems, among other areas. And the Microsystems Technology Laboratories and MIT.nano are designing and testing the next generation of hardware that will allow AI to flourish for years to come. In uniting these researchers with ideas and expertise from biology, chemistry, physics, math, design, economics, and the humanities, The Quest is sparking collaborations that will impact health care, finance, the environment, policy, and beyond.

Addressing ethics

Researchers at MIT always have a responsibility to think about the ethical implications of their work, and intelligence work comes with some charged questions. MIT is committed to making a better world. There are real consequences to the decisions we make in our labs about how machines behave, both on their own and in their interactions with humans. We take that responsibility seriously, and consider that thoughtfully in our research. One important area of current MIT research involves improving human-machine interactions, especially in manufacturing and healthcare. Machines are simply better at some tasks than people (such as picking out important details, waiting, remembering, following directions), just as there are tasks that machines may never be able to accomplish. We need to capitalize on these differences — while being very careful about how they balance out in their final expression, for instance, at a patient’s bedside in the hospital, or on the factory floor.

Join MIT Quest

MIT Quest is creating a broad community of forward-looking companies and individuals seeking to unlock the nature of intelligence and harness it to make a better world. A key to our success will be identifying supporters who share our passion for tackling big, real-world problems.  We are also seeking the collaboration of philanthropists who see the promise of using advances in intelligence research to solve humanity’s greatest problems. Learn more about joining MIT Quest.