October 31, 2023
October 6, 2023
Phil Regalia, Dan Huttenlocher
Tomaso Poggio, CBMM
Phil Regalia, NSF
Dan Huttenlocher, MIT Schwarzman College of Computing
TOMASO POGGIO: I'm Tomaso Poggio, co-director of CBMM with Jim DiCarlo. And we are here because CBMM started almost exactly 10 years ago, September of 2013. And it started to receive funding from NSF. NSF has been great for us. So it's important and fair that we have an NSF representative, Philip Regalia, that is going to say a few words about now, at the end of this, I hope, a first part of the CBMM adventure, Philip.
PHIL REGALIA: Thank you, Tommy, for the introduction. And thank you for the invitation to come participate in this event. As you may know science and technology centers are the largest center scale investments that the National Science Foundation makes. The competition to even obtain one is immense. And as such, we're very pleased to see the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines reach a 10-year benchmark, a 10-year phase.
I should point out that not all of these centers at the end of their NSF funding continue. Some of them simply fold up shop, say "we've done our duty." And as such, we're very proud to see that we have contributed to what appears to be a very ambitious follow-on project and, excuse me, The Quest for Intelligence. If NSF has had any small part in funding the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines to make this part of a reality, we consider that money very well spent.
Now, of course, the true credit goes to the researchers, their students, and their postdocs who did the heavy lifting, the Center leadership that provides the vision, the guidance to move forward. And we're very excited about the follow-on project. And with that, I want to say congratulations to the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines.
And I wanted to give one final shout out to somebody who could not be here today. And that is John Cousins who was a tireless advocate for this Center from the get go, from the early phases of some minor course corrections, to the critical five-year mark for the renewal. Not every center survives.
John saw that process through seamlessly. Unfortunately, he could not be here today. But on his behalf and on behalf of the National Science Foundation, congratulations on the 10-year mark. We're looking forward to following what happens with The Quest. And I thank you again for the invitation to come participate.
TOMASO POGGIO: And apropros Quest, we have now the honor of Dan Huttenlocher, Dean of the College of Computing, which is taking form just nearby would be ready probably soon just across the wall. Dan, if you--
DAN HUTTENLOCHER: It's really wonderful to be here with all of you today for this celebration this weekend, celebrating the 10th anniversary of CBMM. The roots of CBMM run pretty deep. And I've had a chance over my career to interact with some of them. So here at MIT in the 1980s, the Artificial Intelligence Lab brought together researchers in cognitive science, computer science, and neuroscience.
Some of them are here in the room. And, in fact, wherever Shimon is, I'll call him out because he was actually my thesis supervisor back in the day. But a number of people-- and really these people were working across the fields as well as within them. They weren't just co-located in the same AI lab. They were working across fields and, of course, also within their own fields. They weren't just working across fields.
And I think in-- in really trying to understand the very nature of intelligence and in the intervening three going on four decades, all three of those fields have grown a lot. And I think the percentage of work in those fields individually that really brings the three fields together has declined over that time period.
The absolute mass might actually not be smaller because the fields have grown so much. But it feels a little less central to them. And I think to me the launching of CBMM a decade ago was really a bold move to bring that intersection, that overlap, that collaboration between cognitive science and neuroscience and computer science back into the forefront of a number of people's way of thinking across those three fields and really to understand, as in the language of CBMM and of The Quest, how the brain produces intelligent behavior and what that means for trying to replicate it in intelligent machines and that those are really things that could really benefit from being studied in an intertwined way.
So beyond the tremendous research output of the CBMM investigators, which is literally approaching 1,000 papers-- it's quite something-- CBMM, I think, has really been serving as a beacon for people who are striving to go beyond the current AI technologies on the CS side and beyond current understanding of human intelligence. And I couldn't go without saying something about the Brains, Minds, and Machines summer course, which I think is just-- it's not only providing an intensive education, bringing these fields together for doctoral students and postdocs, but it's been a really great way to develop and to nurture connections across the fields among investigators and really foster research collaborations in the community.
So CBMM is also transforming MIT and the Quest for intelligence, which was originally announced in 2018, became part of the college when that got created a few years later. CBMM is now really integrated in with The Quest. The Schwarzman College of Computing itself, its goal of infusing computing with disciplines across MIT, I view as being very motivated by this objective of bringing these fields together here in CBMM in The Quest.
The computation and cognition undergraduate major, Course 6-9, between Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is also something that I think can really trace to being inspired by CBMM. So it's an amazing set of impact here already. I think there's going to be a lot more impact in the future as The Quest continues to grow and evolve. And it's really it's an honor being here with you all. Thank you.