Zuckerberg and Chan share their vision for AI research at the launch of the Kempner Institute | New

Harvard celebrated the launch of the Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence Thursday at an event with remarks from Meta CEO Mark E. Zuckerberg.

Announced in December 2021 by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Kempner Institute seeks to better understand the intersection between natural and artificial intelligence, two fields that are “intimately linked”, according to the institute’s website.

Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan ’07 pledged $500 million to establish the institute over the next 15 years. The fund will support new faculty members, IT infrastructure, and resources to enable students to interact between the institute’s various labs.

The institute’s namesake is Zuckerberg’s mother, Karen Kempner Zuckerberg, and grandparents, Sidney and Gertrude Kempner.

“My parents and grandparents focused on the power of the mind and intelligence to try to make the world a better place,” Zuckerberg said Thursday. “We thought it appropriate that this institute bear Kempner’s name, as we hope it will fuel discoveries about the mind and intelligence that will benefit the world for generations to come.”

University President Lawrence S. Bacow praised Zuckerberg and Chan for their knowledge of artificial intelligence and their philanthropic efforts in support of education.

“Mark and Priscilla are quite unique in that they are among the very, very few philanthropic donors in the world who actually have as much expertise in the matter – if not more – than the people they are going to support here,” Bacow said. “They gave us this incredible opportunity for which we are extremely grateful to them.”

According to Chan, the institute will drive progress by following a three-pronged approach of research, computing and education. On the research front, Kempner will study the underlying principles of artificial intelligence and neurobiology and uncover new ideas and problems. The institute will also use edge computing to generate and analyze data on a “really massive scale”, Chan said.

“It will also put this technology directly into the hands of students,” she added. “They will be the first generation in history to use machine learning tools so early in their careers.”

Both Zuckerberg and Chan stressed the importance of putting students and young minds at the forefront of the Kempner Institute. Zuckerberg described the students as “flexible thinkers” and “highly aware” of problems that need to be solved.

“Kempner was created as a big bet on students,” Zuckerberg said. “There are a lot of different ways to do this stuff in academia, but we think the students are really the ones who are going to solve the big problems here.”

The launch event also featured video remarks from several tech giants, including Bill Gates ’77, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Amazon CEO Andy Jassey ’90. Gates, Schmidt and Jassey praised Harvard for investing in the future of AI through the Kempner Institute.

“I absolutely believe that in 10 to 20 years this institute will have produced some of the greatest minds in AI,” Schmidt said.

—Editor Mayesha R. Soshi can be reached at [email protected]

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