Universities in their capacity as citadels of learning have been tussling with the practicality of adapting their curriculums to reflect the improvement in technology, managing the wave of Artificial intelligence ethically and socially, being one of the major nuts to crack.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has taken the lead in addressing this concern by deciding to create a new college backed by a planned investment of $1 billion. $350 million of the funds have already been raised, M.I.T said in a statement on Monday.
The initiative is being sponsored by the Chief Executive of the Blackstone Group, Stephen A. Schwarzman and the college which will bear his name, will create 50 new faculty positions and many more fellowships for graduate students.
It is scheduled to begin in the fall semester of 2019, housed in other buildings before moving into its own new space in 2022.
The goal of the college, said L. Rafael Reif, the president of M.I.T., is to ‘educate the bilinguals of the future.’ He defines bilinguals as people in fields like biology, chemistry, politics, history, and linguistics who are also skilled in the techniques of modern computing that can be applied to them.
But, he said, ‘to educate bilinguals, we have to create a new structure.’
Mr. Reif further commented the new school will help to integrate different disciplines, sharing its 50 faculty positions into two, half to focus on advancing computer sciences and the other half to jointly address other departments across MIT.
Traditionally, departments hold sway in hiring and tenure decisions at universities. So, for example, a researcher who applied A.I.-based text analysis tools in a field like history might be regarded as too much a computer scientist by the humanities department and not sufficiently technical by the computer science department.
M.I.T.’s leaders hope the new college will alter traditional academic thinking and practice.
‘We need to rewire how we hire and promote faculty,’ said Martin Schmidt, the provost of M.I.T.
The M.I.T college is an attempt to integrate computer sciences into the curriculum given the realities of today’s world instead of as a corollary discipline. It will grant degrees, though the actual names are yet to be determined.
That appealed to Melissa Nobles, dean of M.I.T.’s School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, who said she saw the new college as helping non-computer scientists bring A.I. tools to their fields — ‘to what they really care about.’
The college, Ms. Nobles said, offers the possibility of a renewal for humanities studies at M.I.T., where students flock to computer science and engineering.
‘We’re excited by the possibilities.’ she said. ‘That’s how the humanities are going to survive, not by running from the future but by embracing it.’
Donors, like students, are attracted more to computer science programs than to many other disciplines. But the new college at M.I.T. is designed to spread the wealth.
“’t’s a major fund-raising mechanism that gives M.I.T. a huge resource to apply A.I. to other fields,’ said Eric Schmidt, who was the executive chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and is a visiting innovation fellow at M.I.T.
The principal Donor, Mr. Schwarzman first met Mr. Reif, the M.I.T. president, at an event where Jack Ma, the Alibaba Founder gave a lengthy lecture about the opportunities and challenges of AI.
‘I became convinced that this technology was so powerful it was really going to remake a lot of the world as we know it,’ he said.
M.I.T was also contemplating a new course for the university in this time Mr. Schwarzman was exploring his interest in A.I. A series of conversations over the years finally led to a pledge to structure what is now being called the M.I.T College of Computing.
Mr. Schwarzman said he hoped that the M.I.T. move might trigger others to invest in America’s A.I. future, not just commercially. He points to the major push the Chinese government is making and notes the fruits of United States government-funded research in the past — technologies that helped America take the global lead in industries from the personal computer to the internet.
“I think we’ve been lagging, for whatever reason,” Mr. Schwarzman said