Kai-Fu Lee Addresses NTU Graduates on How to Thrive in the Age of AI
Dr. Kai-Fu Lee (李開復), founder and CEO of Sinovation Ventures and President of Sinovation Ventures Artificial Intelligence (AI) Institute, was invited to deliver a featured address at the 2017 NTU Commencement Ceremony on June 4, 2017. In the address, he noted the key role AI will play in the future, and called on the graduates to make good use of AI in making innovations and creating a better world.
In the beginning, Dr. Lee congratulated the Class of 2017 for being top graduates from a top university in Taiwan. NTU as Dr. Lee’s alma mater evoked his memories of finding his two true loves for life: his wife and AI, although he intended to talk about the latter in the address.
Dr. Lee predicted that AI will replace 50% of the existing jobs. He likened the possible immense influence of AI to the profound impact of the Internet on human society. AI will be a two-edged sword that brings prosperity to some while anxiety and dismay to others. According to him, AI will redefine the pyramid-like structure of workforce, where “innovators” will stand on the top level, and experts of all fields will occupy the second level. These roles will not be eliminated in the coming age of AI.
In addition, the age of AI will be high time for more artists and cultural workers to emerge and flourish. The profound changes occurring along with the development of AI will create new research topics for studies such as psychology, philosophy, sociology, history, and anthropology. Dr. Lee further noted that concerns for culture and humanity will add more value to science majors because AI cannot replace human connections.
According to Dr. Lee, 80–90% of job opportunities in the workforce pyramid will be provided by service industries, where interpersonal networking, engagement, and emotional connections are at core. While AI can bring revolutionary changes to human society, it cannot satisfy people’s need for direct interpersonal connections. In other words, service industries have great potentials in the age of AI.
Dr. Lee cited one of British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s famous three laws, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The speaker called on the graduates of all majors to view AI as powerful magic. He said, the point is to make good use of AI as a powerful tool in one’s own field while setting learning goals and striving to become talents that cannot be replaced by AI.
Next, with AI, one is responsible for making wise career choices and reconnecting Taiwan to the world. Dr. Lee urged the graduates to use the powerful magic of AI to broaden their horizon, seek international connections, and take social responsibilities.
Finally, Dr. Lee talked about how the experience of fighting cancer had changed his life priorities, philosophy, and values as well as inspired him to re-examine AI from a brand new perspective. He stressed that while AI will outperform human beings in more and more fields, what makes us different from AI is our ability to love and be loved. With this ability, people should learn to live a meaningful life with both mind and heart.
In the end, Dr. Lee urged the Class of 2017 to target a desired position in the future workforce pyramid, reflect on how to pioneer the next era with AI, and pursue their dreams while listening to their inner voice.