MIT Is Making a Record Investment in AI With Its New $1 Billion College

Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman pledged $350 million to the project

The college is slated to open next fall and get its own space in 2022. Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Kulp

One of the leading institutions in artificial intelligence research is spending big on a new hub for its study.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology said Monday it will establish a $1 billion interdisciplinary college focused on AI and machine learning thanks to a $350 million donation from Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder and CEO of the private equity firm Blackstone. The plan marks the single largest investment in AI of any U.S. academic institution to date, the school claims.

“AI in particular is reshaping geopolitics, our economy, our daily lives and the very definition of work,” MIT president L. Rafael Reif said in a letter announcing the new internal college. “It is rapidly enabling new research in every discipline and new solutions to daunting problems. At the same time, it is creating ethical strains and human consequences our society is not yet equipped to control or withstand.”

The Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing will notably span not just technical research in the field, but also delve into the ethical, geopolitical and social implications AI will have as it reshapes labor markets, business practices and state security. MIT plans for it to create 50 new faculty positions across the university’s various science and liberal arts disciplines, nearly doubling the current number of staff focused on the technology.

Widely recognized as a pioneer in early AI research, MIT has made several investments in expanding its study of the technology in the past year. The company announced a new AI lab in partnership with IBM last fall and a program aimed at bridging neuroscience and AI research called Quest for Intelligence earlier this year.

Schwarzman told The New York Times that he was motivated to make the gift in part by numbers showing that China, fueled by a more robust engineering workforce and heavy governmental investment in building out the technology, is rapidly gaining on the United States in the implementation of AI.

“We really need to try to understand this technology, not just get hit by it,” Schwarzman told the Times.

The college is slated to open next fall in various existing campus buildings before moving into its own yet-to-be-constructed space in 2022.

@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.