About the Center
Mission and Focus
The mission of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence at Discovery Institute is to explore the benefits as well as the challenges raised by artificial intelligence (AI) in light of the enduring truth of human exceptionalism.
People know at a fundamental level that they are not machines. But faulty thinking can cause people to assent to views that in their heart of hearts they know to be untrue. The Bradley Center seeks to help individuals — and our society at large — to realize that we are not machines while at the same time helping to put machines (especially computers and AI) in proper perspective. In place of an idolatry that would make machines our masters, we are working for a society that will regard machines as our servants and helps us to understand the best ways for machines to enhance life and the human experience.
The Bradley Center aims to investigate, critically examine, and apply the conceptual foundations, theoretical findings, technological breakthroughs, practical applications, and philosophical implications connected to the distinction between natural and artificial intelligence, and notably between human versus machine intelligence.
Our areas of focus include:
- Research to delineate the fundamental differences between natural and artificial intelligence.
- Analysis of the limits of AI.
- Development of effective educational modalities for helping humans to learn and interact effectively with machines.
- Applied research on how humans can enhance their knowledge and skills so that they can lead meaningful and productive working lives, with special emphasis on how augmenting human capabilities via AI impacts society.
- Exploration of entrepreneurial opportunities that arise from the nonalgorithmic aspects of human creativity. Computers are incapable of nonalgorithmic operations.
- Digital wellness, outlining the healthy ways for humans to interact positively with machines and the unhealthy ways to be avoided.
- Support for appropriate technologies and entrepreneurship to promote human flourishing in developing countries.
The Bradley Center encourages cross-disciplinary interactions. Core disciplines underpinning our activities include computer science, business, neuroscience, education, and philosophy.
To better understand the relevance of our work, we encourage you to read our briefing paper, “What’s at Stake in the Debate over AI.”
The Bradley Center is directed by Dr. Robert J. Marks, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University, and formerly a Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington.
Dr. Marks is an expert in the area of computational intelligence and neural networks. He is a Fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the Optical Society of America. He was Charter President of the IEEE Neural Networks Council and served as Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks. He has authored, co-authored, or edited more than 400 publications, including over 160 journal articles and books published by Oxford University Press and MIT Press. He is coauthor of the book Neural Smithing describing the training of artificial neural networks. He is also the co-editor of two influential books on computational intelligence: Computational Intelligence: Imitating Life (IEEE Press) , and Computational Intelligence: A Dynamic Systems Perspective (IEEE Press). Explore his full cv.
Our programs are organized into four broad areas: Communication; Research; Education; and Application.
We seek to provide an informed voice for common-sense in popular discussions over AI, challenging both the techno-utopians who think smart machines will be our savior, and the techno-dystopians who think machines will inevitably replace us. Through our Mind Matters multimedia site and other initiatives, we provide a platform for experts from various fields to communicate to the public through social media, podcasts, videos, and events.
We plan to commission, fund, and disseminate books, monographs, white papers, and technical papers that advance the Center’s main themes and goals. We place special emphasis on underwriting projects and research that have the potential to provide new insights and breakthroughs. We may also sponsor interdisciplinary research conferences, as well as innovative courses and workshops to promote collaboration among scholars concerned with the distinction between natural and machine intelligence, and especially its implications for the future of meaningful human work.
We desire to explore and develop educational modalities and content to help people stay ahead of automation (machine intelligence), and more generally to help ensure that technology enhances rather than diminishes human flourishing. We are interested in promoting education in broadest sense and using a range of tools and approaches. We have a special interest in “learning to learn skills,” i.e., the types of skills and capacities that give people the intellectual flexibility to effectively handle the challenges that new disruptive technologies bring.
We hope to advance human flourishing by applying new and existing technologies in receptive but often neglected economic, social, and political contexts. For example, we sponsor initiatives and competitions to promote entrepreneurship in the majority world via the implementation of appropriate technologies. We also desire to foster legal, economic, and political structures that encourage the introduction of innovative technologies that in turn will help to generate wealth for those currently in poverty.
The Center’s Namesake
The Bradley Center is named in honor of Walter Bradley, a distinguished engineer and materials scientist whose academic career has spanned professorships at Baylor University, Texas A&M, and Colorado School of Mines. At Texas A&M, he served as Director of the Polymer Technology Center and head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. At Baylor University, he served as a Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Author of more than 150 refereed journal articles and conference papers, Dr. Bradley helped sparked a revolution in scientific thinking with the 1984 book he co-authored, The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories. For more about the life and legacy of Walter Bradley, read “Walter Bradley: Why He Is a Hero.”