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MIT-CHIEF 2017 Conference Recap

The conference was held November 17-19th, and attracted research scientists, industry influencers, venture investors, and entrepreneurs from the Greater Boston Area.

Hosted at the MIT campus in Cambridge, the 7th annual MIT-CHIEF Conference addressed key issues in technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship in China and the US. The conference was held November 17-19th, and attracted research scientists, industry influencers, venture investors, and entrepreneurs from the Greater Boston Area.

Opening Panel - AI at MIT CHIEF 2017.jpeg

Weiying Ma at MIT CHIEF 2017.jpeg

Artificial intelligence was the key topic of this year’s discussions. The AI Panel moderated by Will Knight, senior editor of AI at MIT Technology Review, was first up on the agenda.

Director of IBM Research Cambridge and Acting Director of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab Lisa Amini spoke to the newly-announced US$240 million investment in Watson. MIES Professor David Sontag addressed the potential for AI applications in healthcare while criticizing the lack of collaboration between different AI companies that are working on the same problems. Toutiao VP Weiying Ma followed with his thoughts on AI-driven innovations at Toutiao.com.

The Autonomous Driving Panel was a highlight of the event, especially the fascinating debate between CTO & Co-Founder of TuSimple Xiaodi Hou and Bryan Reimer, Associate Director of the New England University Transportation Center at MIT.

Reimer proposed that conflicts between irrational human behaviors and societal norms might be a challenge in bringing autonomous vehicles to the market. Xiaodi Hou responded that “the better you disguise yourself as human drivers, the fewer troubles that you’ll have,” relating TuSimple’s attempts to make autonomous trucks faithfully follow formalized societal norms such as speed limits. The company discovered during road tests that autonomous vehicles travelling the posted highway speed limit of 65 mph (105 kph) were being overtaken by speeding drivers with such frequency that changing lanes became unsafe. TuSimple finally had to train their model to behave more like a normal California driver.

On the topic of societal norms and ethics, panelists agreed that for questions such as the “would you kill one person to save five?” trolley dilemma, machines can’t know the answer because humans don’t either. “An autonomous vehicle doesn’t have a purpose,” said Jiahua Zhao, Associate Professor of City and Transportation Planning at MIT, “the people it serves give it a purpose.”

Autonomous Driving Panel at MIT CHIEF 2017.jpeg

The conference’s MIT-CHIEF Business Plan Contest is dedicated to contributing to a global entrepreneurial ecosystem based in the Greater Boston area. Eight out of 200 registered teams proceeded to the finals from seven tracks: Life Science/Healthcare, Artificial Intelligence, Advanced Materials/Energy, Smart Hardware/Robotics/loT, Web/Mobile, Social Impact, and Fin-tech. The winning teams were Cogentics, UrSure, Lind Health, and Pipeguard.

MIT CHIEF 2017 closed with a keynote speech from Harvard Medical School Genetics Professor George Church, who joined the Alibaba DAMO Academy last month. Prof. Church provided his perspectives on the future of gene editing.

MIT-CHIEF is a not-for-profit MIT student organization committed to promoting intellectual exchanges and collaborations between China and the United States.


Journalist: Chenhui Zhang | Editor: Michael Sarazen

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