Note: With this issue about to go to press, Covid-19 has just been classified a pandemic. Much of the bold, exciting work described in these pages has been put on hold. There is no telling how long it will be before campus life can return to normal. But you will not be surprised to hear that the MIT community is meeting the challenges of each day with strength, resilience, selflessness, and grace. —LRR
Computing is often compared to electricity, another technology with the power to radically alter society and culture. Before artificial light and power were available on demand, no one could have imagined how much they would transform modern life.
Today, computing is reshaping our world in equally exciting and unpredictable ways. There is tremendous enthusiasm for the intellectual opportunities created by computing and artificial intelligence (AI), not only in science and engineering, but in all disciplines. With the opening of the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, the Institute embarks on a journey to shape the future of computing. Over the past several years, our students have flocked to classes in AI, machine learning, programming, and data science. The college will enable us to ensure graduates have the tools they need to be successful in these fields—and to apply computing skills to any discipline they choose.
We also take very seriously our responsibility to prepare those who will develop and deploy new technologies to think deeply about the ethical implications and societal impacts—and to act wisely. Integrating the wisdom of the social sciences, arts, and humanities will be vital to the success of this new enterprise.
There is no blueprint for this. The college is an entirely new entity. Under the leadership of Dean Daniel P. Huttenlocher SM ’84, PhD ’88, the Henry Ellis Warren Professor of Computer Science and AI and Decision-Making, we are bringing together inspiring leaders and faculty to develop new programs, courses, and affiliations.
A new building, on the site of the current Building 44, will open as early as 2023, creating an interdisciplinary hub where faculty and students can meet and share ideas. But the college will not primarily be a physical place. Its strength will lie in its potential to connect people across campus and beyond, creating new pathways for interdisciplinary inspiration, collaboration, and discovery.
As the people of MIT help shape the future of computing, what they discover and invent promises to be electrifying.
L. Rafael Reif