When General Richard D. Clarke, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), visited MIT in fall 2019, he had artificial intelligence on the mind. As the commander of a military organization tasked with advancing U.S. policy objectives as well as predicting and mitigating future security threats, he knew that the acceleration and proliferation of artificial intelligence technologies worldwide would change the landscape on which USSOCOM would have to act.
Clarke met with Anantha P. Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and after touring multiple labs both agreed that MIT — as a hub for AI innovation — would be an ideal institution to help USSOCOM rise to the challenge. Thus, a new collaboration between the MIT School of Engineering, MIT Professional Education, and USSOCOM was born: a six-week AI and machine learning crash course designed for special operations personnel. LIDS faculty members Sertac Karaman (AeroAstro) and Asu Ozdaglar (EECS) were part of this program.
“There has been tremendous growth in the fields of computing and artificial intelligence over the past few years,” says Chandrakasan. “It was an honor to craft this course in collaboration with U.S. Special Operations Command and MIT Professional Education, and to convene experts from across the spectrum of engineering and science disciplines, to present the full power of artificial intelligence to course participants.”
The USSOCOM course was part of the ongoing expansion of AI research and education at MIT, which has accelerated over the last five years. Computer science courses at MIT are typically oversubscribed and attract students from many different disciplines.
Originally envisioned as an on-campus program, the USSOCOM course was moved online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This change made it possible to accommodate a significantly higher number of attendees, and roughly 300 USSOCOM members participated in the course. Though it was conducted remotely, the course remained highly interactive with roughly 40 participant questions per week fielded by MIT faculty and other presenters in chat and Q&A sessions. Participants who completed the course also received a certificate of completion.
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