Investing in Innovation: Philanthropy Powers AI Education at Penn Engineering

From left: Vijay Kumar, Nemirosvky Family Dean of Penn Engineering, and Board members Rajendra Singh, Harlan Stone (C'80, P'13) and Fred Warren (ME’60, WG’61)
From left: Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering, and Board members Rajendra Singh (PAR’10, PAR’11), Harlan Stone (C’80, PAR’13) and Fred Warren (ME’60, WG’61, PAR’87, PAR’19)

In 1943, Warren McCullough, a psychiatrist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Walter Pitts, a runaway prodigy, co-authored a paper in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics on the relationship between biological neurons and formal logic.

As Brian Christian recounts in “The Alignment Problem,” the idea that the logic at the heart of computers could model neurons was decades ahead of its time. Thanks to the exponentially higher amount of computing power available today, what McCullough and Pitts proposed — using logic to model the activity of neurons — has become the foundation of artificial intelligence today, powering everything from image recognition systems to ChatGPT.

The story of AI at Penn Engineering has likewise been decades in the making. Just as generations of scientists in diverse fields contributed to the ideas now driving AI forward, a range of philanthropically minded Penn Engineers and friends of Penn Engineering have underwritten the programs, physical structures and research initiatives that make the School a leader in training the next generation of engineers in AI.

Read the full story on the Penn AI website