It’s not easy standing out in New Zealand’s feathered crowd. From flightless kiwis to the world’s only alpine parrot, the birdlife on this tiny South Pacific nation has an incredible diversity. Yet, with striking white, black and gold plumage and a wingspan extending nearly 6 feet, Australasian gannets fit the bill as some of the country’s most remarkable seabirds.
New Zealand accounts for the bulk of the world’s breeding gannet population, and nearly 10 percent of all Australasian gannets return to a single location in southeastern Hawke’s Bay on the North Island. On a remote spit near Cape Kidnappers, the birds gather annually from their trans-oceanic voyages to court, lay their eggs and raise their young atop exposed precipices overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Despite the trials of living on an open plateau susceptible to some of the planet’s harshest UV rays and gale-force southerly winds from Antarctica, some 6,500 breeding pairs call this location home.
The window for photographing gannets with their chicks lasts for up to four months each year, but uncooperative weather conditions coupled with the difficulty of accessing the site meant that planning and patience were critical to achieving this image. I waited eight weeks to get the ideal set of conditions for capturing the colony against an approaching southerly storm at sunset—a backdrop that helped emphasize the beauty and wildness of their natural environment. On an extremely windy January evening (high summer in the Southern Hemisphere), all of the elements came together, and I set out for the Cape.
Photographing wildlife in low light is a balancing act between avoiding excessive camera noise and shadows and preventing motion blur, and while I brought my tripod with me that evening, I ended up setting it aside so I could react more spontaneously to the scene before me. Halfway through the shoot, I was drawn to the way this perspective of the colony provided a striking foreground to the magenta-colored sky. As I was keen to preserve the incredible sunset hues while at the same time maintaining detail in the birds, I pushed my ISO up and used a graduated neutral-density filter. My slow shutter speed isn’t typical for wildlife photography, but it allowed me to capture enough light in the foreground so that I didn’t have to use flash, which would have greatly disturbed the birds and their chicks.
As a nature photography instructor and conservationist, I have an interest in sharing our planet’s beauty with others stemming from an artistic as well as a conscientious standpoint. I’ve had the privilege of photographing and working with incredible landscapes and wildlife, and I’ve seen time and again how strong our connection to these places and creatures can become once we’ve experienced them for ourselves. While most people may not have the opportunity to see Australasian gannets at the bottom of the planet first-hand, sharing images of moments like this showcases the power of photography in building those connections.
Nikon D600, AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR. Exposure: 1/13 sec., ƒ/13, ISO 800.
Photo of the Day is chosen from various OP galleries, including Assignments, Galleries and the OP Contests. Assignments have weekly winners that are featured on the OP website homepage, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To get your photos in the running, all you have to do is submit them.
Along with announcing the development of a new standard zoom for Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras, Tamron today has also introduced a new telephoto zoom for full-frame DSLRs, the Tamron 70-210mm F/4 Di VC USD (Model A034). Tamron states that this new zoom, which features a fast constant maximum aperture of ƒ/4 throughout its zoom range, will also offer the “highest-in-class maximum magnification ratio of 1:3.1 and the shortest-in-class MOD (minimum object distance for close-focusing) of 37.4 inches” (“in-class” referring to other 70-200mm ƒ/4 interchangeable lenses for full-frame DSLR cameras).
As a Di-series lens, the 70-210mm F/4 Di VC USD can be used with both full-frame and APS-sensor cameras, providing an equivalent focal length range of approximately 105-315mm with the latter. For even greater telephoto reach, it’s compatible with Tamron’s 1.4x (Model TC-X14) and 2.0x (Model TC-X20) teleconverters. The lens also incorporates a Vibration Compensation system that’s capable of up to 4 stops of correction, and Full-time Manual Focus override which allows you to fine-tune focus manually without switching the lens to manual focus mode.
The Tamron 70-210mm F/4 Di VC USD will be available in April for a list price of $799. For additional info, see the press release below.
New F/4 telephoto zoom lens featuring superb optical performance
and a lightweight and compact body for easy portability
70-210mm F/4 Di VC USD (Model A034)
February 22,2018, Commack, New York— Tamron announces the launch of the 70-210mm F/4 Di VC USD (Model A034), a compact telephoto zoom lens for full-frame DSLR cameras. Model A034 provides superb optical performance throughout the entire zoom range and features a maximum magnification ratio of 1:3.1, the highest in its class.* The design includes an internal zoom mechanism that provides solid mechanical construction and stable, reliable operation. Model A034 also employs a Dual MPU (Micro-Processing Unit) design, which enables high-speed and high-accuracy AF performance as well as powerful VC (Vibration Compensation) image stabilization for flexible and versatile use in various situations. For dependable outdoor use, the new telephoto zoom is equipped with Fluorine Coating and Moisture-Resistant Construction. The lens will be available in Canon and Nikon mounts in April at $799.00.
*Among 70-200mm F/4 class interchangeable lenses for full-frame DSLR cameras (as of January 2018: Tamron)
High-performance telephoto zoom lens with a constant maximum aperture of F/4
Leveraging Tamron’s years of knowhow developing telephoto zoom lenses, Model A034 achieves superb optical performance with high contrast and resolution. The optical construction (20 elements in 14 groups) uses three LD (Low Dispersion) lens elements to effectively compensate for axial and transverse chromatic aberrations, thereby ensuring crisp and crystal-clear image quality across the entire frame. Furthermore, Model A034 features a constant maximum aperture of F/4 throughout the entire zoom range, thus providing superior control over depth-of-field and excellent bokeh. Compared to large aperture telephoto zoom lenses, the new A034 is lighter with a weight of just 30.3 oz. and is more compact with a total length of only 6.8 in. for excellent portability. The lighter weight and smaller size make this new lens easier to carry and instantly spring into action.
Class-leading magnification ratio and MOD (Minimum Object Distance)
Model A034 boasts the highest-in-class maximum magnification ratio of 1:3.1 and the shortest-in-class* MOD of 37.4 in. The shorter working distance enables photographers to capture close-up images of small objects like flowers while using a telephoto zoom.
*Among 70-200mm F/4 class interchangeable lenses for full-frame DSLR cameras (as of January 2018: Tamron)
Highly reliable internal zoom mechanism
Thanks to an internal zoom mechanism, the physical length of the A034 does not change during zooming, thereby minimizing changes in the center of gravity and providing more stable use and operation. In addition, it’s not necessary for the photographer to move backwards even when shooting space is limited, for instance, when photographing through a wire mesh fence at a zoo. So-called “zoom creep” is impossible because the overall length never extends. Furthermore, the design provides a very robust and sturdy feeling, and the non-rotating front element makes the use of polarizing filters much easier.
High-speed Dual MPU (Micro-Processing Unit) control system delivers responsive autofocus performance plus outstanding VC (Vibration Compensation) image stabilization
The Dual MPU system includes two high-performance MPUs (micro-processor units) dedicated to VC processing and lens system control. Both MPUs have a DSP (Digital Signal Processing) block that provides high-speed digital signal processing, improving the computing power of the entire system. This new control system achieves high-speed and precise AF performance as well as assured VC effects.
Excellent autofocus performance
Model A034’s AF drive system uses a USD (Ultrasonic Silent Drive) ring-type ultrasonic motor for outstanding responsiveness and to ensure fast, precise focusing. Plus, the new zoom is equipped with a Full-time Manual Focus override mechanism that enables a photographer shooting with AF to instantly make fine manual focusing adjustments without switching the AF-MF mode switch.
Outstanding vibration compensation effects
The new A034 is equipped with Tamron’s proprietary VC system and achieves the CIPA image stabilization performance level of 4 stops.* Even in low light or with slow shutter speeds, photographers can enjoy shake-free handheld shooting with ease and comfort.
*CIPA Standard Compliant. For Canon: EOS-5D MKIII is used; for Nikon: D810 is used.
The surface of the front element is coated with a protective fluorine compound that has excellent water-and oil-repellant qualities. The front surface is easier to wipe clean and is less vulnerable to the damaging effects of dirt, dust, moisture or oily fingerprints, allowing for much easier maintenance. The coating also provides an enhanced level of durability, and will sustain its effectiveness for years.
Seals are located at the lens mount area and other critical locations to prevent infiltration of moisture and/or rain drops to provide Moisture-Resistant Construction. This feature affords an additional layer of protection when shooting outdoors under adverse weather conditions.
Compatible with Tamron teleconverter
The new lens is also compatible with the TELECONVERTER 1.4x (Model TC-X14) and TELECONVERTER 2.0x (Model TC-X20), which increase the focal length of the lens to 1.4 times and 2 times the original, respectively. Both teleconverters are carefully designed and constructed to provide outstanding high image quality.
Note: For more detailed information about teleconverters, please refer to the Tamron website.
Changes in zoom range when used with 70-210 mm F/4 Di VC USD (Model A034)
Mounted on 35mm full-frame DSLR camera
Mounted on APS-C format DSLR camera
With 1.4x teleconverter*2
With 2.0x teleconverter*2
Changes in magnification ratio when used with 70-210mm F/4 Di VC USD (Model A034)
Maximum Magnification Ratio
With 1.4x teleconverter
With 2.0x teleconverter
Available focusing mode when used with 70-210mm F/4 Di VC USD (Model A034)
When using viewfinder
When using live view mode
With 1.4x teleconverter
With 2.0x teleconverter
* Autofocus functions normally on any camera that offers F/8 autofocusing (see your camera’s instruction manual for your camera’s ability).
** Subjects with low contrast and/or luminosity values can sometimes result in out-of-focus images.
Compatible with TAMRON TAP-in ConsoleTM, an optional accessory
The new A034 is compatible with the optional TAMRON TAP-in Console, an optional accessory product that provides a USB connection to a personal computer, enabling users to easily update a lens’s firmware as well as customize features including fine adjustments to the AF and VC.
Optional tripod mount compatible with Arca-Swiss style quick release plates
For rapid attachment to a tripod, an Arca-Swiss style tripod mount is available as an optional accessory. Featuring a hinge-type ring section, connection is easy even when the lens is mounted on a camera. To maximize the advantages of the small and lightweight F/4 zoom lens, the tripod mount is made of lightweight, sturdy magnesium alloy.
Electromagnetic diaphragm system now used also for Nikon-mount lenses
An electromagnetic diaphragm system, which has been a standard feature for Canon-mount lenses, is now employed in Nikon-mount lenses.* More precise diaphragm and aperture control is possible because the diaphragm blades are driven and controlled by a built-in motor through electronic pulse signals.
*Available only with cameras compatible with the electromagnetic diaphragm
Expanding its lens lineup for mirrorless cameras, Tamron today announced the development of the 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD (Model A036) for Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras. When released, it will be the third lens in the Di III series for mirrorless, joining the 14-150mm F/3.5-5.8 Di III (Model C001) for Micro Four Thirds system cameras, and the 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 Di III VC (Model B011) available in Canon and Sony mounts.
At the wide end of its range, the 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD will be able to focus as close as 7.5 inches, extending to 15.3 inches at the telephoto end. The lens will feature a fast constant maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8 and a new “RXD” stepping motor AF which Tamron states will be “extremely quiet” and therefore well-suited for video work. It will also be compatible with Sony’s Direct Manual Focus capability, allowing seamless switching between auto and manual focus.
List price and availability date are to be announced. For additional info, see the press release below.
Tamron announces the development of a high-speed standard zoom lens
for Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras
28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD (Model A036)
February 22, 2018, Commack, New York – Tamron announces the development of a new high-speed standard zoom lens for Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras, the 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD (Model A036). This signals Tamron’s plans to further expand and improve its lens lineup for full-frame mirrorless cameras, in addition to its lenses for DSLR and other mirrorless camera formats.
Model A036 delivers superb optical performance, including both outstanding image quality and beautiful background blur effects (bokeh). Photographers may enjoy dynamic wide-angle expressions like never before thanks to a minimum object distance of 7.5 in at the wideangle zoom setting. Usefulness and versatility are enhanced by its compact size and light weight, measuring only 4.6 in and weighing 19.4 oz. Model A036 incorporates an all-new high-speed and precise AF driving system. The RXD (Rapid eXtra-silent stepping Drive) stepping motor unit operates with remarkable quietness, making it perfect for video use. The lens also features Moisture-Resistant Construction that is helpful in outdoor photography, plus hydrophobic Fluorine Coating that is highly resistant to fingerprints and debris. In addition, A036 is compatible with the “Direct Manual Focus (DMF)” system feature of Sony cameras, enabling this new zoom to take full advantage of the advanced functions that ensure comfortable user experiences.
Superb optical performance, including both outstanding image quality and beautiful background blur effects (bokeh), provided by fast F/2.8 aperture.
Comfortably light weight (19.4 oz.) and compact (4.6 in).
Close-focusing; Minimum Object Distance: 7.5 in at wide-angle setting and 15.3 in at the telephoto position.
All-new “RXD” stepping motor AF unit is extremely quiet and therefore perfect for video capture.
Exciting next-generation design keeping the brand consistency that is ergonomically superb.
Moisture-Resistant Construction and Fluorine Coating for weather protection.
Compatible with the “Direct Manual Focus (DMF)” feature that enables Sony cameras to instantly switch between autofocus and manual focus.
* Specifications, appearance, functionality, etc. are subject to change without prior notice.
Russian startup Hologroup recently released MR Guide for HoloLens developers. The software gives anyone the ability to make a holographic tour for Microsoft’s mixed-reality headset, with no programming necessary. Currently the HoloLens hardware is available to the public only in a costly developer’s edition, but it’s already seeing useful software. MR Guide gives early adopters the tools to create experiences directly in the HoloLens’ native interface, without the need for any additional software. According to Holograph CEO Alex Yakubov: With the help of MR Guide, creating a holographic tour is no more difficult than making a PowerPoint presentation. Now, museums, showrooms,…
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“In general, AI will not replace jobs, but it will transform them. Ultimately, every job is going to be made more efficient by AI,” says Facebook’s Yann LeCun. Reports of the demise of human labor may be hyperbolic, if you believe the likes of LeCun, Google’s Peter Norvig, and Microsoft’s Eric Horvitz. The trio, each heads of research for the tech giants who employ them, participated in an “ask me anything” (AMA) session on Reddit earlier this week to discuss artificial intelligence. All three are members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and as such weren’t…
Some Twitter users woke up to an unpleasant surprise this morning: Upon attempting to access their Twitter accounts, they were told they were temporarily locked out of their accounts. Shortly after this, the hashtag #TwitterLockout began trending, as users began to complain of being censored or persecuted by the site. That wasn’t all of it. Upon logging in, they discovered they had lost a number of followers. Some users have speculated that the loss of follower numbers is part of a “bot purge.” Trumpers try to understand; the followers you are losing tonight are not real people. They were bots…
The US government’s official journal, the Federal Register, today revealed the FCC’s net neutrality repeal paperwork in an “unpublished” version ahead of the unveiling of the official version set for 22 February. The document is titled “Restoring Internet Freedom.” This name, we can only guess, is meant to continue former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai’s trend of lying to the American people. It’s available at the Federal Register’s website. We’ve also republished it here: In the document you’ll find such gems as “We find the Title II classification likely has resulted, and will result, in considerable social cost, in terms of foregone investment…
Can a better understanding of human intelligence make for smarter machines?
We explored that topic this week with Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, following the announcement of the MIT Intelligence Quest, an effort to “discover the foundations of human intelligence” to develop better technology, especially artificial intelligence.
Reif has been MIT’s president since 2012. An electrical engineer by training, he has been outspoken in his defense of funding for basic scientific research. He was in Seattle this week to talk with alumni about MIT’s plans for the future of education, research, and innovation. We spoke about all of those topics, plus diversity in the tech industry and Boston’s bid for Amazon HQ2, on this episode of the GeekWire Podcast.
Listen to our full conversation in the player below, and continue reading for edited excerpts. Subscribe to the GeekWire Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.
Bishop: You’ve said the MIT Intelligence Quest will seek to better understand how human intelligence works, in engineering terms, and then take that understanding and figure out how to build wiser and more useful machines to benefit society. Why is this so important to MIT and to you?
Reif: It’s very clear that we have advanced those fields so much, that everything is moving in that direction. AI will be everywhere and will power everything. So, in talking to my colleagues at MIT, I learned not only that quite a few of them are working on understanding human intelligence — it’s the only model we have for intelligence that we can study from — and then many of my colleagues are using machine learning tools to advance their disciplines. But none of them are machine learning experts, they are electrical engineers or material scientists or climate action people. But they’re all using it because they need it to figure out all the massive information in the data they are dealing with.
So, clearly we needed to do a couple of things: Really power the advance of human intelligence, so that we know what kind of new algorithms we can use in the future. Right now, all the machine learning algorithms we have and those tools are terrific, are very powerful, but are really based on fundamental ideas that we came up with — we collectively — decades ago. We just have to double down on that. We have to replenish the well of ideas on AI and actually replenish the well of talent on AI. So, one point was to advance human intelligence so that we learn how to come up with intelligent machines. That’s one part of the initiative I launched.
And then the other part is: Can we create an interface, a group of people who can figure out how to use those advanced tools and customize them to be used in biology, in medicine, in engineering and so forth. That’s the essence of it. I think the goal is, by doing it that way at MIT, we’re basically doing what society is going to be doing eventually sooner or later — and I think much more sooner than later — and we’re basically creating or educating the people that will power that kind of evolution.
Bishop: There’s a lot of talk about machine learning and artificial intelligence across the tech industry, those are the big buzz words. People are using Alexa and Siri on a daily basis. But how close are we to real breakthroughs in generalized AI? Because that really is the holy grail of this field.
Rafael: Absolutely. As with every kind of breakthrough, that’s hard to predict. A spark of a new idea can happen at any moment. If I were to look at the evolution of these fields, maybe we are a couple of decades away from really coming up with a breakthrough idea, but how to put it together and implement it? So, it’s not here anytime real soon. But there is a fundamental question that is also important: Do we want to build AI tools that replace us, or do we want to build AI tools that understand us and work for us? So, conceptually there is a great deal of work to be done even defining what kind of algorithm we want to put together. The way we view it is: We want to create tools that can predict our behavior, can predict human behavior so that we can play together or work together with a robot, or another machine that does and says and practices exactly what we need them to do. That’s a kind of thinking of AI. So there are different branches of what AI means and how to use it. Of course, generalized AI’s the ultimate goal, but again, to what purpose? That part is a very important question.
Bishop: In a lot of ways, this leverages an interdisciplinary approach, like you can have at MIT, with life sciences and computer science, engineering, all coming together. If the MIT Intelligence Quest succeeds, what will that look like? What will be the outcomes? What are you driving for here ultimately?
Rafael: Well, let me just say, to answer your question … it will succeed. But let me make a point: It’s a new way of thinking. So, take science right now, whether it’s biology or physics or chemistry. The way we think today, we do one experiment at a time in which we work on a particular cell and understand that cell tremendously, or a molecule and understand it tremendously, or an atom. Machine learning tools allow us to do many experiments because we don’t have to worry about a very precise control of how a particular cell behaves and then do the next experiment because we learned something new. We can do a massive number of experiments with a massive number of variables, because we have the tools that can give us the information extracted. But how to design an experiment like that? That is basically a revolutionary way of thinking, of changing the way we think. What I’m trying to accomplish is just basically a paradigm shift in the pace of advancement of science by empowering them using this kind of new tool.
Bishop: Let’s talk a little bit about the political landscape. You’ve been very outspoken on the immigration changes and the threats to scientific funding at the national level. How much of this is bluster from the Trump administration and how much of this is a real issue? Because sometimes it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not, these days.
Rafael: Well, I don’t know what’s real or not, outside the confines of MIT, but I can tell you what’s real for us and what’s really serious. I think, in a global sphere, everybody understands sports. Everybody understands — what’s the local team, for basketball, the SuperSonics?
Bishop: No, that’s a sore subject, not anymore.
Rafael: OK. But my point is, everyone understands a competition between two great teams.
Rafael: And you have two basketball teams that are great and you put the best five players on the court. Well, we have a major competition worldwide right now. It’s between Team US and Team China, and we just have to prepare our best players for that competition. China is not the enemy, China is a competitor — and in many ways, hopefully they’re be also our collaborator. But, we want to compete and we want to beat them. So, we have to think about putting our best 5 players [on the court]. So what do we do? Well, we need to prepare them. We need to educate them. We need to advance science with them. We need to fund them properly, and we need to have our players compete with the best.
So we need to prepare our domestic players as best we can, and if we have players from other countries who want to play in our team, we want to bring them here and compete with our best teams so we can put the best players on the court. That’s what China is doing. And that’s why I think the issue of immigration is important, the issue of science funding is important. It’s not so much that MIT is needing that. Yes of course we need it, but not for MIT, we need it for the country.
Bishop: Based on what you’ve seen in budgets so far for the National Science Foundation, etc., how real is this threat right now?
Rafael: Well, the threat is real. The threat that we are not going to be able to put our best players on the court — the threat is very high. All the talk about immigration is affecting the ability to attract the best talent. And the best talent is having second thoughts on whether to come to the US. When it comes to science funding — quite frankly, the good news, in my view, is that Congress by and large understands that. At least, they understand the [National Institutes of Health] is important, perhaps NSF as well. I would like them to understand a little broader than that but at least they understand that much.
I think to some extent it looks like people in the White House — some of them have that understanding, some of them do not, so there are internal debates. So, this is an issue that I think is going to affect us in the future if we don’t realize that is the issue. I had a conversation with some high-level members of Congress, and I asked them point blank, “Does Congress see the impact of science funding on the economy?” And the answer was, “No, because there isn’t any.” So, if people in Congress at the level of leadership think that way, then we just have to do our hard work to convince them it’s just the other way around.
Bishop: Gender diversity and ethnic diversity in the engineering field are very important, and I know in particular MIT’s School of Engineering has been making a big push along with other universities out there. What’s the key to getting more women and minorities involved in engineering and technology? This is a huge holy grail problem.
Rafael: It’s a huge issue but frankly, all you need to do is seek them and recruit them. MIT has a reputation of being a place for males. Well, almost half of our undergraduates are women. So, if MIT can attract 46 or 48 percent of undergraduates to be women, everybody can. So it’s just a matter of going out there, looking for them and recruiting them.
Bishop: It’s got to be more complicated than that. How have you done that?
Rafael: Well, the bottom line is to try some things and see how they work. I remember when MIT started —when the numbers started to increase, the perception was, “Look, the MIT males are very focused and the MIT females are broader. So, by bringing in women, we’re gonna just lose the focus and perhaps we’re gonna lose the edge that we have educating our students.” Well, guess what? As women started coming in, what do you think, Todd, who has the higher GPA at MIT, the women or the men?
Bishop: Oh gosh. The women.
Rafael: This is your podcast.
Bishop: The women.
Rafael: The women! Right answer. My point is, when you are not used to it and you just go and accept words of wisdom that come from decades ago, of ignorance, and then you actually try new things, you realize, “Goodness, it’s actually working better.”
Bishop: What about racial diversity? Where are you on that and how can you make strides there?
Rafael: Well, that’s another challenge. We’re doing reasonably well there, as well. If I remember correctly, and maybe I’m off by a little bit, about a quarter of our undergraduates or so are under-represented minorities. In fact, MIT is a place in which a few years ago, the majority became a minority. So, about 25 percent are Hispanics or African Americans, and about 26-27 percent are from Asia, India, or China. So less than 50 percent are what you consider the majority. That line was crossed years ago.
Bishop: Okay. You’re here in Seattle meeting with MIT alums and others to talk about your vision, but this is an interesting spot in part because you’ve got the University of Washington, you’ve got the Allen Institutes of Brain Science and Artificial Intelligence here, founded by the Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen. To what extent are you collaborating with folks here in the Seattle region on any of these initiatives that you have, whether it’s diversity or science funding or artificial intelligence?
Rafael: Not enough. Not enough. Of course, we’re aware of the Allen Institute and our scientists do work and collaborate and participate in advisory activities, and so forth, and of course, I’m aware of the university here, and the computer science program here is terrific.
Bishop: And it’s a competitor to MIT.
Rafael: It’s a competitor, yeah. Competition makes sense. They want students, we want students. They want the best faculty, we want the best faculty. That’s a fair game. But when we come to looking at something like intelligence and how human intelligence works, that’s a big project and collaboration there is for the best. I applaud efforts like the Allen Institute, I applaud those kinds of activities, but in my view, those activities would work much, much better — and I’m sure the Allen Institute does locally — collaborating with universities.
I think one important point to make, and I’ve been saying this for about 20 years, to everybody who wants to establish their own thing. I haven’t made any progress changing anybody’s mind, but I say the same thing anyway. A university is the only entity that changes its personal 25 percent every year. A quarter of our people graduate and a quarter of our people come in new every year. People that are teaching them are forever young, the institution is forever young. There is no other institution in America — companies, whatever — in which the average age doesn’t go up. It always goes up. Universities’ average age stays the same. And that makes for a very refreshing environment in which new ideas are always there and old ideas are always challenged. So, that’s why universities are great to collaborate with not just with each other but with established institutions like the Allen Institute.
I think what’s happening in the country right now, in many universities also, is that the big tech companies are investing so much money there — and they should — and then the sense is, “Well why should we also play a role there, it’s already done?” And that’s a huge mistake. These tech companies are investing heavily, focusing on products. And they have to do that, and in doing so, they advance the whole field. But the key ideas that will create new kinds of applications and new kinds of ways of thinking, and how to apply it more broadly — not just to a product but to a whole society — I want that concept to be implemented in our campus to show that is going to happen anyway.
Bishop: There’s another interesting institution here in Seattle: Amazon. And of course, they are considering a variety of cities around the country for their second headquarters, including Boston. What role did MIT play in Boston’s Amazon HQ2 bid?
Rafael: Well, I wrote a letter to support that, and we contacted the people on the proposal saying that we are strongly in favor of that. So, Amazon will do what’s best for Amazon. In my humble opinion, it’s great for Amazon to come to Boston. But they will make their own decision.
Bishop: What makes Boston the right fit?
Rafael: Talent. It’s like Seattle. Let’s go back to this basketball game. It’s about players, it’s about talent. And goodness gracious, Boston has a lot of talent graduating every single year, tens of thousands. Some of the best universities in America are there. So, if you want talent to compete, there is plenty there every year.
Bishop: When a lot of people look at robotics and AI and the combination of the two, they worry about jobs. As you look at the initiative you’re working on, how do you address that issue?
Rafael: Well, that’s another great role for universities. We clearly want to advance the science and the technology, in this case. But we also want to advance the understanding of the impact of science and technology on society. In the case of automation, the impact is real, it has happened and will continue to happen. There is lots of talk about the future of work and I slightly disagree with that way of thinking. The future of work makes it sound like, “Will there be any work in the future? We’re gonna be replaced by machines and they think the way we do,” and so forth. I look at it somewhat differently. I look at it more like: “The work of the future,” meaning there will be work, it just will look very different from today. And we need to prepare for that transition. We’re going be announcing a companion study to IQ, which is gonna focus on exactly this topic, the work of the future. It’s important for us to understand the different scenarios for the future and how to prepare our society and the new members of society to handle that transition.
Bishop: Rafael Reif is the president of MIT, he’s here in Seattle this week and he spoke with us at the GeekWire offices in the Fremont neighborhood. Thank you very much for being here.
Rafael: Thank you for having me. I enjoyed it, thank you.