MIT Generative AI Week fosters dialogue across disciplines

In late November, faculty, staff, and students from across MIT participated in MIT Generative AI Week. The programming included a flagship full-day symposium as well as four subject-specific symposia, all aimed at fostering a dialogue about the opportunities and potential applications of generative artificial intelligence technologies across a diverse range of disciplines.

“These events are one expression of our conviction that MIT has a special responsibility to help society come to grips with the tectonic forces of generative AI — to understand its potential, contain its risks, and harness its power for good,” said MIT President Sally Kornbluth, in an email announcing the week of programming earlier this fall.

Activities during MIT Generative AI Week, many of which are available to watch on YouTube, included:


MIT Generative AI: Shaping the Future Symposium

The week kicked off with a flagship symposium, MIT Generative AI: Shaping the Future. The full-day symposium featured welcoming remarks from Kornbluth as well as two keynote speakers. The morning keynote speaker, Professor Emeritus Rodney Brooks, iRobot co-founder, former director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and Robust.AI founder and CTO, spoke about how robotics and generative AI intersect. The afternoon keynote speaker, renowned media artist and director Refik Anadol, discussed the interplay between generative AI and art, including approaches toward data sculpting and digital architecture in our physical world.

The symposium included panel and roundtable discussions on topics such as generative AI foundations; science fiction; generative AI applications; and generative AI, ethics, and society. The event concluded with a performance by saxophonist and composer Paul Winter. It was chaired by Daniela Rus, the Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and director of CSAIL, and co-chaired by Cynthia Breazeal, MIT dean for digital learning and professor of media arts and sciences, and Sertac Karaman, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and director of the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems.


“Another Body” Screening

The first day of MIT Generative AI Week concluded with a special screening of the documentary “Another Body.” The SxSW Special Jury Award-winning documentary follows a college student’s search for answers and justice after she discovers deepfake pornography of herself circulating online.

After the viewing, there was a panel discussion including the film’s editor, Rabab Haj Yahya; David Goldston, director of the MIT Washington Office; Catherine D’Ignazio, associate professor of urban science and planning and director of the Data + Feminism Lab; and MIT junior Ananda Santos Figueiredo.


Generative AI + Education Symposium

Drawing from the extended MIT community of faculty, research staff, students, and colleagues, the Generative AI + Education Symposium offered thought-provoking keynotes, panel conversations, and live demonstrations of how generative AI is transforming learning experience and teaching practice from K-12, post-secondary education, and workforce upskilling. The symposium included a fireside chat entitled, “Will Generative AI Transform Learning and Education?” as well as sessions on the learner experience, teaching practice, and big ideas from MIT.

This half-day symposium concluded with an innovation showcase where attendees were invited to engage directly with demos of the latest in MIT research and ingenuity. The event was co-chaired by Breazeal and Christopher Capozzola, senior associate dean for open learning and professor of history.


Generative AI + Health Symposium

The Generative AI + Health Symposium highlighted AI research focused on the health of people and the health of the planet. Talks illustrated progress in molecular design and sensing applications to advance human health, as well as work to improve climate-change projections, increase efficiency in mobility, and design new materials. A panel discussion of six researchers from across MIT explored anticipated impacts of AI in these areas.

This half-day symposium was co-chaired by Raffaele Ferrari, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and director of the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate; Polina Golland, the Sunlin and Priscilla Chou Professor in the Department of EECS and a principal investigator at CSAIL; Amy Keating, the Jay A. Stein Professor of Biology, professor of biological engineering, and head of the Department of Biology; and Elsa Olivetti, the Jerry McAfee (1940) Professor in Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, associate dean of engineering, and director of the MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium.


Generative AI + Creativity Symposium

At the Generative AI + Creativity Symposium, faculty experts, researchers, and students across MIT explored questions that peer into the future and imagine a world where generative AI-enhanced systems and techniques improve the human condition. Topics explored included how combined human and AI systems might make more creative and better decisions than either one alone; how lifelong creativity, fostered by a new generation of tools, methods, and experiences, can help society; envisioning, exploring, and implementing a more joyful, artful, meaningful, and equitable future; how to make AI legible and trustworthy; and how to engage an unprecedented combination of diverse stakeholders to inspire and support creative thinking, expression, and computation empowering all people.

The half-day symposium was co-chaired by Dava Newman, the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics and director of the MIT Media Lab, and John Ochsendorf, the Class of 1942 Professor, professor of architecture and of civil and environmental engineering, and founding director of the MIT Morningside Academy for Design.


Generative AI + Impact on Commerce Symposium

The Generative AI + Impact on Commerce Symposium explored the impact of AI on the practice of management. The event featured a curated set of researchers at MIT; policymakers actively working on legislation to ensure that AI is deployed in a manner that is fair and healthy for the consumer; venture capitalists investing in cutting-edge AI technology; and private equity investors who are looking to use AI tools as a competitive advantage.

This half-day symposium was co-chaired by Vivek Farias, the Patrick J. McGovern (1959) Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Simon Johnson, the Ronald A. Kurtz (1954) Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management.