Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By Welina Farah, MIT Open Learning

The capacity to do what was once only “in the movies” has transformed conversations. Instead of asking “Is this possible?” we are now asking, “When will this be possible?” The perception of ability, the bandwidth of feasibility… New technologies are emerging faster than one can say “Beam me up, Scotty.”

Calestous Juma, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, explores resistance towards new technology in his latest book, “Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies.” Juma says that much of the reluctance toward these new technologies comes from supporters of the previous product or way of doing things: “The biggest lesson from the past is if a new technology has superior properties, overwhelmingly superior to its predecessors, chances are that technology will get adopted no matter what.”

Fortunately, hot topics like artificial intelligence, robotics, and blockchain are woven throughout MIT and shared with you in many OCW courses. Below are a few that highlight the technical foundations and real world applications for a few of these fantastical new advancements.

6.034 Artificial Intelligence – This course introduces students to the basic knowledge representation, problem solving, and learning methods of artificial intelligence. With complete lecture videos and other resources, you’ll learn how Upon completion of 6.034, students should be able to develop intelligent systems by assembling solutions to concrete computational problems; understand the role of knowledge representation, problem solving, and learning in intelligent-system engineering; and appreciate the role of problem solving, vision, and language in understanding human intelligence from a computational perspective.

16.412J Cognitive Robotics – This is a class about applying autonomy to real-world systems. The overarching theme uniting the many different topics in this course will center around programming a cognitive robotic. This class takes the approach of introducing new reasoning techniques and ideas incrementally. We start with the current paradigm of programming you’re likely familiar with, and evolve it over the semester—continually adding in new features and reasoning capabilities—ending with a robust, intelligent system. These techniques and topics will include algorithms for allowing a robot to: Monitor itself for potential problems (both observable and hidden), scheduling tasks in time, coming up with novel plans to achieve desired goals over time, dealing with the continuous world, collaborating with other (autonomous) agents, dealing with risk, and more.

MAS.S62 Cryptocurrency Engineering and DesignBitcoin and other cryptographic currencies have gained attention over the years as the systems continue to evolve. This course looks at the design of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and how they function in practice, focusing on cryptography, game theory, and network architecture.

15.395 Entrepreneurship Without BordersThis course examines the opportunities and problems for entrepreneurs globally, including Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Linkages between the business environment, the institutional framework, and new venture creation are covered with a special focus on blockchain technology. In addition to discussing a range of global entrepreneurial situations, student groups pick one particular cluster on which to focus and to understand what further development would entail. Classroom interactions are based primarily on case studies.