Artificial Intelligence

SMART launches research group to advance AI, automation, and the future of work | MIT News



The Singapore MIT-Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, has launched a new interdisciplinary research group aimed at tackling key social and institutional challenges around the rise of artificial intelligence and other new technologies. The group, known as Mens, Manus and Machina: How AI Empowers People, Institutions and the City in Singapore (M3S), aims to advance knowledge in these fields and foster collaborative research that generates positive impact for society in Singapore and the world.

Seeking to redefine the boundaries of AI, automation, and robotics through interdisciplinary research, knowledge sharing, and impactful collaborations, SMART M3S endeavors to design inclusive, resilient, and innovative solutions that empower individuals, institutions, and cities. By exploring the intricate relationship between human capabilities, emerging technologies, and societal structures, it is envisioned that SMART M3S will drive scientific, societal, and commercial impact in Singapore and beyond.

In line with Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative and its National AI Strategy, the project will embark on an ambitious five-year endeavor supported by a multimillion-dollar grant from the National Research Foundation of Singapore under its Campus for Research Excellence And Technological Enterprise program. 

Bringing together a diverse team of 17 professors from MIT and institutions in Singapore, SMART M3S will draw expertise from local researchers from Singapore Management University (SMU), Singapore University of Technology and Design, the National University of Singapore, and the National Robotics Program of Singapore. M3S will be guided by lead principal investigator Jinhua Zhao of MIT, co-lead principal investigator Daniela Rus of MIT, and co-lead principal investigator Archan Misra of SMU.

Ranked No. 1 in the 2023 Smart City Index, Singapore has facilitated the integration of AI, automation, and robotics by strategic use of data analytics, internet-of-things technologies, and smart infrastructure. Amid the rise of AI and machine learning, SMART M3S will contribute to Singapore’s AI ecosystem by focusing on the human-machine relationship, enhancing existing AI initiatives in the city-state.

Inspired by MIT’s motto of “mens et manus,” Latin for “mind and hand,” the name M3S reflects the research group’s ideals to promote AI and machine use for practical application — technologies that are extensions of humans and augment their lives. M3S integrates research on robotics and AI with human capital development, economic growth, and public acceptability — an intersectional approach to the ongoing transformation of how we work and live.

This interdisciplinary approach encompasses tackling key issues such as physical and digital interfaces between humans and machines, machine learning fundamentals, and understanding the implications of AI for human and social capital development. Other areas of focus include work on structuring human-machine teams within organizations and the developing dynamics between humans and machines in resource allocation and human labor (as well as machine power) management.

Research conducted could significantly advance aspects of soft robotics, brain interfaces, learning algorithms, task allocation, team formation, model compression, sustainable technology, technology acceptability in the workplace, social acceptability of robotics and AI, and more. The impact of AI on human welfare and productivity and how AI technology can advance both areas are central considerations for the work at SMART M3S, as society navigates the transition toward an AI- and machine-enhanced future.

“As a species, humans have spent eons learning how to work effectively with each other, but at the scale of human history, we are still neophytes to computation and automation,” says Zhao, an MIT professor of urban studies and planning who is also founding director of the MIT Mobility Initiative. “We focus on two questions at M3S: How will we design AI and robotics technologies and train humans to build the skills and habits necessary for success in a robotics-heavy work environment? How will we adapt our social and business institutions to create the incentives and protections necessary to drive innovation and social welfare?”

“The M3S collaboration between researchers at MIT and in Singapore, through SMART, will break new ground in our understanding of AI’s impact on the future of work,” adds Rus, the Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “By harnessing our collective expertise and innovative spirit, we aim to advance the state of the art in AI and turn this technological advancement into an engine for human potential and societal progress.”

“M3S is distinguished by its ambition to address the key challenges of human-AI synergy holistically, from both a scientific and societal perspective,” notes Misra, vice provost for research and the Lee Kong Chian Professor of Computer Science at SMU who is also co-director of the A*STAR-SMU Joint Lab in Social and Human-Centered Computing. “It will focus not just on the technical breakthroughs that will allow human workers and AI-enabled machines and software to work interactively, but also on the training and governance mechanisms that ensure that individuals and organizations adapt to and thrive in this new future of work. I’m especially excited to collaborate with MIT researchers on this important national priority for Singapore, which aligns perfectly with SMU’s strategic multidisciplinary research priority area of digital transformation.”

Through interdisciplinary research, knowledge sharing, and impactful collaborations, SMART M3S will explore the intricate interplay between human capabilities, emerging technologies, and societal structures, paving the way for designing inclusive, resilient, and innovative solutions that empower individuals, institutions, and cities in Singapore. By engaging with Singaporean collaborators, SMART M3S hopes to enhance Singapore’s ability to create forward-looking AI policies, invigorate Singapore’s economic standing within AI, and support local workforce training and mentorship on AI topics. 

“With our latest interdisciplinary research group, SMART M3S, we further our commitment to bringing scientific, social, and commercial impact to Singapore and beyond,” says Eugene A. Fitzgerald, CEO and director of SMART. “The focus on a human-centric approach to AI advancement should contribute towards Singapore being at the forefront of the future of work.”

Since its inception in Singapore in 2007, SMART has developed innovations that have transformed and are transforming a multitude of fields such as autonomous driving, agriculture, microelectronics, cell therapy, mechanics and microfluidics platforms for biology and medical diagnostics, and antimicrobial resistance.

SMART was established by MIT in coordination with the National Research Foundation of Singapore in 2007 to undertake cutting-edge research in areas of interest to both Singapore and MIT. SMART currently comprises an Innovation Center and four interdisciplinary research groups: Antimicrobial Resistance, Critical Analytics for Manufacturing Personalized-Medicine, Disruptive and Sustainable Technologies for Agricultural Precision, and M3S.