Josh Tenenbaum named Innovator of the Year by R&D Magazine

Josh Tenenbaum of MIT

Professor honored for work on the nature and origins of intelligence in the human mind and applying that knowledge to build human-like intelligence in machines.


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Sara Cody
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R&D Magazine has named Josh Tenenbaum the 2018 Innovator of the Year. Tenenbaum, a professor of computational cognitive science in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, was recognized for his work studying the nature and origins of intelligence in the human mind and brain and applying that knowledge to build more human-like intelligence in machines. The award, part of the annual R&D 100 Awards, honor pioneers in science and technology.

“We selected Josh as our 2018 Innovator of the Year not only because of his accomplishments in the fields of cognitive science and artificial intelligence, but because of his willingness to partner with experts across the board — from computer scientists and engineers to neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists — in the name of innovation,” said Bea Riemschneider, editorial director of R&D Magazine in a press release announcing the award.

Tenenbaum’s research currently focuses on two areas: describing the structure, content, and development of people’s commonsense theories, especially intuitive physics and intuitive psychology, and understanding how people are able to learn and generalize new concepts, models, theories and tasks from very few examples — often called "one-shot learning.” Through a combination of mathematical modeling, computer simulation and behavioral experiments, his team works to uncover the logic behind our everyday inductive leaps: constructing perceptual representations, separating “style” and “content” in perception, learning concepts and words, judging similarity or representativeness, inferring causal connections, noticing coincidences, and predicting the future.

“In a long tradition of recognizing great scientists and engineers, R&D Magazine stands for excellence both in basic science and engineering and for making a bridge between those fields,” said Tenenbaum. “It’s especially exciting to receive this award because here at MIT we are trying to do exactly that — build a bridge between science and engineering to address great questions of intelligence around how human intelligence arises in the mind and brain and how we can use those insights to build smarter, more human-like forms of intelligence in machines so we are truly smarter and better-off.”

Tenenbaum is a member of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Center for Brains, Minds and Machines (CBMM). He also leads the Computational Cognitive Science lab at MIT and is a scientific director for the MIT Quest for Intelligence Core.


Topics: Awards, honors and fellowships, Faculty, Brain and cognitive sciences, Center for Brains Minds and Machines, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Quest for Intelligence, School of Engineering

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