Computer scientist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist David Siegel SM ’86, PhD ’91 is a founding advisor of the MIT Intelligence Quest and an early thought partner in its formation. He is also a member of the MIT Corporation, cofounded the Scratch Foundation with the MIT Media Lab’s Mitchel Resnick SM ’88, PhD ’92, and has served on the external advisory committee of the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines since its inception. In his remarks at the Intelligence Quest launch, Siegel described the innovative MIT spirit he first observed as a doctoral candidate at the Artificial Intelligence Lab, and which inspired his cofounding of Two Sigma Investments, where he currently serves as cochairman:
“I arrived at the AI Lab here at 545 Tech Square in 1983. I was lucky enough to work in the presence of pioneers like Marvin Minsky and Patrick Winston. […] What inspired me the most was the innovation happening in that building. It was the challenging and collaborative culture. It was the wellspring of scientific progress. I saw that a small group of unconventional thinkers, given the right environment, the right culture, could ultimately help to transform the world.
“Years later, I would use Tech Square’s culture as a model for the company I cofounded, Two Sigma. Tech Square taught me an awful lot about innovation. To innovate, you cannot have an overly constrained environment. You can’t put time limits on the problem because that implies you already know the answer. […] Finally, you can’t make progress in isolation. You need to be around talented people who will tell you what you’re doing wrong, who will push you to think differently, and people who have diverse skills. That was and still is and always will be the MIT way.
“The atmosphere at Tech Square was truly entrepreneurial. That was the vision that brought me to MIT in the first place. And this is the vision MIT is building on and expanding with its Intelligence Quest.”