MIT commits $1 bn for AI college; Blackstone co-founder gifts $350 mn

MIT commits $1 bn for AI college; Blackstone co-founder gifts $350 mn
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Reuters
16 Oct, 2018

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will commit $1 billion to start a college for artificial intelligence (AI), the academic institution said in a blog post.

As part of the investment, Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive and co-founder of private equity firm Blackstone, has offered a foundational gift of $350 million. Besides this amount, the college has raised an additional $300 million in support. With this, the total capital it has raised for the institution is $650 million of the $1 billion, the blog post added.

Called the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, the new academic institution will be headquartered in a new building on MIT’s campus and will be an interdisciplinary hub for work in computer science, AI, data science and related fields, the blog post stated.

Separately, The New York Times reported that the college is expected to produce 50 new faculty openings and will offer fellowships for graduate students. The new college initially will be housed in other buildings as it begins its academic year next year before moving to its own space in 2022, the report added.

L Rafael Reif, president of MIT, was quoted as telling NYT that the aim of the college would be to educate bilinguals—students who are experts across multiple fields including biology, chemistry, history, politics and linguistics and who can apply modern computing techniques to these areas.

“The MIT Schwarzman College of Computing will constitute both a global center for computing research and education, and an intellectual foundry for powerful new AI tools. Just as important, the College will equip students and researchers in any discipline to use computing and AI to advance their disciplines and vice-versa, as well as to think critically about the human impact of their work,” Reif said on the university’s blog post.

Interestingly, Schwarzman’s donation comes after the CEO had talks with Alibaba founder Jack Ma about AI. Since then, the CEO was fascinated by the technology and wanted to harness it for his country, the NYT report stated.

Schwarzman is an active philanthropist and has supported initiatives in education, culture and the arts, among other things, according to the blog post.

Besides MIT, Schwarzman has donated to the Harvard Business School, Yale University and also Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.