In 1956, ten of the world’s leading electrical engineers convened on the burgeoning topic of “Artificial Intelligence” – which was far from being recognized as a field. A decade later, the progress of early AI efforts had some researchers envisioning a relatively easy glide to human-level intelligence in machines.
As the story goes – things didn’t work out that way. In a recent article by MIT News, MIT Professor Tomaso Poggio (Brain Sciences and Human Behavior) stated: “These recent achievements have, ironically, underscored the limitations of computer science and artificial intelligence. We do not yet understand how the brain gives rise to intelligence, nor do we know how to build machines that are as broadly intelligent as we are.”
One of the National Science Foundations three new research centers will be the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines (CBMM) – located on MIT premises – and headed by Poggio himself. The research emphasis at the CBMM will be highly interdisciplinary, and will include 5 affiliated research staff from Harvard and 5 from Cornell, in addition to 10 from MIT.
With funding of $25,000,000.00 over the next five years, the center hopes to breathe life into AI’s past ambitions by integrating expertise in the inexorably linked systems of cognition, vision, language and motor skills. Modeling intelligence is a serious emphasis for the CBMM, and that’s started with the shift towards an integrated approach – even involving an understanding of the development of human and animal faculties.
Patrick Winston, the Ford Foundation Professor of Engineering at MIT and research coordinator for CBMM, says: “You need to stimulate the neural mechanisms in order for them to assemble themselves into a functioning system… We think that that’s true generally, of our entire spectrum of capabilities. You need to have language, you need to see things, you need to have language and vision work together from the beginning to ensure that the parts develop properly to form a working whole.”