Prof. David A Mindell

Frances and David Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems

Primary DLC

Program in Science, Technology, and Society

MIT Room: E51-185F

Areas of Interest and Expertise

History of Electrical and Computer Technology
History of Feedback Control
History of Automation in the Military
Technology Policy (Historical and Current)
Deep Ocean Robotic Archaeology
Complex Systems Research Lab (CSRL)

Research Summary

Current Research includes:

(1) Putting the finishing touches on a book, Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Six Lunar Landings to be published by MIT Press in Spring, 2008. This is the third in an (unplanned) trilogy spanning the past 15 years of research.

(2) Building a group at MIT in "Space Policy and Society," composed of engineers, historians, social scientists, former astronauts, and policy analysts. We are beginning to develop a colloquium series and a conference for Spring 2008 that will help set an agenda for research.

(3) Ten years ago Mindell's and his MIT students founded a research group called DeepArch, which laid the intellectual foundations for doing archeology in very deep water. Continuing a long-standing interest in technology, archeology, and the deep sea, Dr. Brendan Foley of the Woods Hole Oceanographic institution and Mindell are collaborating on a long-term series of exploratoins of the seafloor of the Aegean in Greece.

(4) Continuing to develop a high-precision navigation sonar built at MIT, which is being developed and marketed by Marine Sonic Technology (Gloucester, Virginia). Using spread-spectrum signal processing, this sonar makes the highest precision range and navigation measurements possible under the ocean, which is useful for a wide variety of precision survey and measurement applications.

(5) Serving as part of the editorial board for Harvard University Press's New Literary History of America, edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors.

(6) Tinkering around with electronics for a new navigation system....

Recent Work

  • Video

    2.25.21 AI Autonomy Roundtable

    February 25, 2021Conference Video Duration: 112:29

    Sophie Vandebroek
    Board Director, Trustee, Scholar
    2020 MIT School of Engineering Inaugural Visiting Scholar
    Former COO of IBM Research
    Aude Oliva
    MIT Director, the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab
    Director, MIT Quest Corporate
    Bilge Yildiz
    Professor, Nuclear Science and Engineering
    Professor, Materials Science and Engineering
    Tod Newman
    Lead, Center for Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning, Raytheon Technologies
    Lauren Barozie
    FCAS, Senior Director, Analytics Transformation, GRS AA Hub at Liberty Mutual Insurance
    Malcolm McRae
    Head of AI and Advanced Analytics, Vale
    Lama Nachman
    Intel Fellow, Director of Human & AI Systems Research Lab, Intel

    David Mindell
    Dibner Professor, History of Engineering and Manufacturing
    Professor, Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems
    Founder & CEO, Humatics
    Nicholas Roy
    Bisplinghoff Professor, Aeronautics & Astronautics
    Director of Quest Systems Engineering, MIT Quest for Intelligence
    John Tylko
    Chief Innovation Officer, Aurora Flight Sciences, A Boeing Company
    Dimitris Bountolos
    Chief Information & Innovation Officer, Ferrovial
    Sherif Marakby
    Executive Vice President of Research and Development

    Tomás Palacios
    Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

    2020 Autonomy Day 4 - David Mindell

    April 16, 2020Conference Video Duration: 35:1

    Total transition to full autonomy in manufacturing is unlikely. While “lights out”, fully-automated factories requiring no input have long been a utopian/dystopian vision for the future, even the most automated electronics or production plants still require a large number of workers to set up, maintain, repair, and spearhead the innovation of equipment. Production systems must constantly adapt to rapidly changing conditions. With current technology and even developments in AI, human presence is often superior at providing that flexibility - which will likely remain the case for years to come.

    In this talk, David Mindell, MIT Professor and CEO/Founder of Humatics, will discuss how automation has evolved the manufacturing industry, the critical technologies playing a role in this transformation – including the Humatics microlocation platform, which is driving productivity and safety by providing full visibility into intralogistics vehicle operations – and why full autonomy in manufacturing is a distant, unlikely future.

    David Mindell - 2019 RD Conference

    November 20, 2019Conference Video Duration: 26:53

    The MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future

    The remarkable progression of innovations that imbue machines with human and superhuman capabilities is generating significant uncertainty and deep anxiety about the future of work. Whether and how our current period of technological disruption differs from prior industrial epochs is a source of vigorous debate. But there is no question that we face an urgent sense of collective concern about how to harness these technological innovations for social benefit. To meet this challenge, the Institute launched the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future in spring 2018.

    2019 MIT Research and Development Conference

    David Mindell - 2018-startup-ecosystem

    May 22, 2018Conference Video Duration: 15:33

    People, Robots, and the Work of the Future

    As autonomous systems move out of the research laboratory into operational environments, they require ever deeper connections to their surroundings. Traditional notions of full autonomy have led to “clockwork” approaches where robots must be isolated from their human surroundings. Instead, we need precise, robust relationships with people and infrastructure. This situated autonomy appears in driverless cars' dependence on human-built infrastructure, the need for new systems of unmanned traffic management in the air, and the increasing importance of collaborative robotics in factories. How can we best design such systems to inhabit and enhance the human world? In this talk, David Mindell sketches a number of these emerging scenarios, traces new technologies to address the problems they raise, and envisions new approaches to human and robotic interaction that helps people and robots work together safely and collaboratively.

    2018 MIT Startup Ecosystem Conference