Google Chief Funds New Machine-Learning Effort at Princeton’s IAS

Machine learning — sometimes called the leading edge of artificial intelligence — is the rapidly developing computer technology behind self-driving cars, complex web searches, medical and science applications, and face and speech recognition. Machine-learning programs synthesize knowledge in a way that’s analogous to how children learn. The programs take examples, generalize, and then develop rules and understanding about the world without being taught directly. With time, the programs become better at particular tasks.

“Machine-learning techniques are finding new applications almost daily and are already transforming society in numerous ways,” said Avi Wigderson, Herbert H. Maass Professor, who heads the Institute’s computer science group at the School of Mathematics. “But because of the self-teaching aspect they have, their immense size, and the way they evolve, the final algorithms are not well understood by their own designers.”

The gift, from Silicon Valley philanthropists Eric and Wendy Schmidt, will fund a three-year program focusing on the mathematical underpinnings of machine learning. Eric Schmidt is the executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google. Wendy Schmidt is president of the Schmidt Family Foundation.