Course 9.S912: "What is Intelligence?" Fall 2012

Aug 23, 2012

Class Times: Friday 11:00-2:00 pm
Units: 3-0-9
Location: 46-5193 (will move to 46-3310 if a larger room is required)
Instructors: Shimon Ullman and Tomaso Poggio

Kindly note correction of the course number.

Please be advised that the first class on Friday, Sept. 7th, will end early (at approximately 1pm) to accommodate students attending the BCS Dept. cruise. Pizza will be served at the end of the class.

Office Hours: TBA
Email Contact:

Course description

The problem of intelligence – its nature, how it is produced by the brain and how it could be replicated in machines – is a deep and fundamental problem that cuts across multiple scientific disciplines. Philosophers have studied intelligence for centuries, but it is only in the last several decades that developments in a broad range of science and engineering fields have opened up a thriving "intelligence research" enterprise, making questions such as these approachable: How does the mind processes sensory information to produce intelligent behavior, and how can we design intelligent computer algorithms that behave similarly? What is the structure and form of human knowledge – how is it stored, represented and organized? How do human minds arise through processes of evolution, development and learning, and what are their roots in genetics? How does collective intelligence arise in social and economic systems? How are cognitive domains including language, perception, social cognition, planning and motor control combined and integrated? Are there common principles of learning, prediction, decision or planning that span across different domains?

This course will explore these issues with an approach that involves the integration of the fields of cognitive science, which studies the mind, neuroscience, which studies the brain, and computer science and artificial intelligence, which develop intelligent hardware and software. Each week, different faculty members will lecture on a research topic that relates to the problem of intelligence. Lectures will be complemented with readings, discussion, and individual or group projects.

The course is open to all graduate students; undergraduates can take the course with instructor permission.

Lecture Schedule:


Class 01 Fri 07 Sep   Edward H. Adelson
Class 02 Fri 14 Sep   Leslie Kaelbling
  Fri 21 Sep No Class  
Class 03 Fri 28 Sep   Vladimir Vapnik - Lorenzo Rosasco - Tomaso Poggio
Class 04 Fri 05 Oct   Lorenzo Rosasco - Tomaso Poggio
Class 05 Fri 12 Oct   Ruth Rosenholtz
Class 06 Fri 19 Oct   Pawan Sinha
Class 07 Fri 26 Oct   James DiCarlo
Class 08 Fri 02 Nov   Edward Boyden
Class 09 Fri 9 Nov   Robert Desimone
Class 10 Fri 16 Nov   Drazen Prelec
  Fri 23 Nov No Class  
Class 11 Fri 30 Nov   Shimon Ullman
Class 12 Fri 7 Dec   Shimon Ullman - Tomaso Poggio


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