With support from the Robust Intelligence program in the Division of Intelligent and Information Systems (IIS) and the NSF 2026 Fund Program in the Office of Integrated Activities, investigators at Boston College and Brandeis University are addressing the challenge of creating Artificial General Intelligence by synthesizing symbolic or logical reasoning, learning through interaction with the environment, as well as state-of-the-art neural networks. Inspired by the structure of natural (e.g., human) intelligence, the resulting mental architecture deploys each of these strategies for the problems they excel at (the "Best of All Worlds?, or BAW, approach). Successful completion of this project will facilitate a range of research projects in AI and psychology/neuroscience. Long-term, the development of AGI is expected to have significant benefits to society, by enabling computers to develop abstract concepts grounded in experience with the world, and to generate novel ideas and inventions. This project will also help broaden student training and participation of women and underrepresented minorities.
This project aims to prototype a new architecture and test it against an open-ended task that is difficult for artificial intelligence but mastered by human toddlers everywhere: uncovering the affordances of blocks, containers, and other small objects. The primary aims are to build a virtual world that a simulated infant can explore, manipulate, and learn from; build a working prototype of a simulated infant incorporating key aspects of the BAW mental architecture; and evaluate the performance of the agent on several difficult, open-ended tasks. This architecture facilitates incorporation of key concepts from the study of natural intelligence that are infrequently used in artificial intelligence: mental models, exploratory play, and chunking.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.