The mission of CBMM — to make progress on the Science and Engineering of Intelligence — has increasingly focused on the science component. Industry is still focusing exclusively on the Engineering of Intelligence, neglecting the basic Science of Intelligence. By Science we mean the study of nature itself—thus physics, biology, chemistry, and neuroscience. By Engineering, on the other hand, we mean the study and development of human artefacts—thus computer science, including machine learning, not to mention robotics, and even mathematics.
Our vision is that CBMM should be the seed for a new, more permanent Institute on Intelligence at MIT (and Harvard) that will bridge between the engineering and the science of intelligence. To build that bridge, we must focus now on the relatively neglected science end. At MIT such an Institute will reignite the excitement of the Golden Age that saw the birth of information science (Shannon), cybernetics (Wiener), neural nets (McCullogh, Pitts, Lettvin), Cognitive Sciences (Chomsky) and Artificial Intelligence (Minsky, Marr). The mission of an Institute on the Science and Engineering of Intelligence — studying the problems of human intelligence and replicating in machines — will be unique and impossible to match by the present powerhouses in AI — the like of Google, Microsoft, Baidu, Facebook, and IBM. NSF support for CBMM and its vision of a permanent institute is a way for the NSF to have an enduring impact.
This vision has driven us over the last five years. It has also captured the imagination of the MIT administration which announced on March 1, 2018 an Institute-wide initiative called the MIT Quest for Intelligence. The MIT Quest consists of a Core and a Bridge. The Core is a larger version of CBMM; CBMM can be seen as the very core of the Quest Core.
This is certainly a significant success for CBMM, because the new initiative was inspired by CBMM. It also is a success for the NSF, because this STC has made a significant and lasting impact on a major Institution such as MIT. At the same time, such a success raises several new issues, mainly about how to raise funds for a future Intelligence Institute — a more permanent version of the CBMM — by leveraging the Quest inititative without competing with it.