Fresh ideas are more important than smooth

 Fresh ideas are more important than smooth

The following is the speech of Zhang Yaqin, former president of Baidu and Chair Professor of intelligent science of Tsinghua University, at the graduation ceremony of Columbia University School of Engineering in 2020:

Dear principal Bollinger, Dean Boyce, parents, students, hello.

Its a great honor for me to attend this special ceremony in a special way during this extraordinary period. First of all, congratulations to the 2020 graduates and heartfelt congratulations on your outstanding achievements. You did it!

I am also a student parent at Columbia University. My son is now a sophomore at Columbia University of technology, and my daughter is a graduate of Columbia Business School in 2020. I want to share with all parents this unspeakable joy and pride, we have done it!

This is undoubtedly the most challenging and uncertain period in our life and memory.

We have not only seen the rapid progress of scientific and technological innovation and the great power of the fourth industrial revolution, but also the continuous breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computer, 5g communication and other technologies.

We have also witnessed the sudden destruction and catastrophic impact of the once-in-a-century epidemic on a global scale, challenging our social foundation, economic structure and way of life.

For those who have studied the second law of thermodynamics, the term entropy must be familiar. It means the chaos degree in dynamic system. Claud Shannon, the founder of information theory, extended this concept to the uncertainty and randomness of information. It can be said that the graduates in 2020 are given the highest entropy value. The unpredictability and chaos of the future are unprecedented. This is true for you and for all of us.

My communication with you reminds me of my experience as a student and as an engineer in my youth. After graduation in 1990, my first job was to develop algorithms, compress images and videos, complete remote transmission, and make a little contribution to the international standards MPEG and H.26X: MPEG and H.26X are also the important foundation of popular video applications such as Netflix, youtube, Skype and zoom. Over the past three decades, Ive been blessed with exciting innovations like HDTV, autonomous driving, artificial intelligence and cloud computing. Along the way, what we have gained is not only endless fun, but also extraordinary hardships. I want to share my three experiences with my classmates:

1) In the data explosion and changing world, become a strong adaptive learner. In a rapidly changing technology industry, most of the knowledge learned five years ago is useless. The most valuable thing you learned at Columbia University is the ability to learn new knowledge. Its the ability to separate signals from noise. Its the ability to extract entropy from many data. I have an effective habit of spending 10 minutes every morning to find out the latest discovery or the three most important things for me, and come to study that day.

3) No matter what we do, we should uphold morality and humanity. Two thousand years ago, the great Greek thinker Socrates regarded morality as the soul of pursuing truth. At about the same time, Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, took the benevolence and righteousness of human nature as the basis of social structure. It is no coincidence that the two great thinkers have similar views in different cultures. Today, this becomes even more important as we face more choices, confusion and temptation. Technology is neutral, but innovators have a mission. Technology is a tool, but technicians are for human beings. Mary Boyce, Dean of Columbia Institute of technology, put forward the vision that technology is people-oriented is the core of engineering, and also the purpose of our engineers and technicians.

Young friends, this is a decisive moment for you. Please use your talent, passion and innovation, and your empathy, courage and humanity to show, shine and respond to the call of duty!

Congratulations again, 2020 graduates!