At Columbia Commencement: An Engineer’s Guide to the AI Galaxy


Thank you, Class of 2017. Thank you so much for inviting me to speak at this wonderful commencement ceremony. It’s an honor to be back at Columbia to address this distinguished group of graduates, parents, siblings and special guests. We’ve all gathered to share in the joy of this day.

First, I want to say to you graduates: I am so proud of all of you. You did it! Your families are proud of you. You have earned this day.

I remember sitting where you are 34 years ago, feeling that these were the best years of my life. I found the profession of my life: artificial intelligence. I found the hobby of my life — bridge; I played 30 hours a week, but to this date Columbia still wouldn’t give me a degree in it. And I had my first date while at Columbia, and she became the love of my life. And finally, on commencement day, I got to sit and listen to Isaac Asimov, the famous science fiction writer. I’m sorry that you only get me.

Anyway, I had the best years of my life. This is where you expect me, or any commencement speaker to say, “These are the best years of your lives.” But I am not going to say that.

I know that these are far from the best years of your lives. I know that your best days are yet to come. To be specific, my hope for you is that the next 10 years will be the best years in your lives.

Why 10 years? 10 years seem so far away. But really it is not. Checking in with May 2007 seems like a good way to visualize what 10 years can do in our world.

It is interesting to remember that in 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. Back then, I was still using my Blackberry, and my wife was still using her Nokia.

And in 2007, a young senator Barack Obama, decided to run for President. And back in 2007, Donald Trump was still saying, “You are fired” rather than “Make America Great Again.”

So 10 years can do a lot, but the next 10 will do much much more than the last 10. Why? Because, the next decade will be the Age of Artificial Intelligence, or AI.

As students, you’ve probably seen AI course enrollment go from 80 to 800. And that certainly is one leading indicator.

  • Commencement Speech, Engineering School of Columbia University; May 15, 2017 by Dr. Kai-Fu Lee (above), Founder & CEO, Sinovation Ventures

Read the source article at  Columbia University.