Thank you very much for giving me an opportunity to talk to you. I am a professor in the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC. I work in the area of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, also known as AI.
Many students ask me for career advice. I believe that all of us should find a line of work that adds value to society and makes a positive impact. I believe that Robotics and AI technologies will have a positive impact on society and that is why I am working in these areas.
The US Declaration of Independence introduces the pursuits of happiness as one of the keystones of our society. So let us focus on bringing happiness to people as a guiding principle when we are thinking about career options.
Being happy requires us to have fun. Let me begin with an old joke about having fun. It is well understood that having fun requires three basic ingredients: (1) time, (2) money, and (3) good health. When you are young, you have time, and hopefully, you are in excellent health. But you have no money, so you cannot have fun. When you are done studying and have a job, you are making money and hopefully still in good health. But you are really busy with your job and so you don’t have any time. So you are unable to have any fun. Finally, when you have retired, you have money and time. Unfortunately, your health is not good, so you are unable to have fun. You see --- modern lifestyle conspires to make sure that we don’t have fun in our lives.
I believe that people take the "pursuit" part of “pursuit of happiness” more seriously than the "happiness" part. Young people are told to study so that they can get good jobs. Unfortunately, for a large number of people studying using the traditional methods does not bring happiness. Once people get a job, they focus on making money. For many people, work does not bring happiness. So they leave happiness for the retirement. Happiness is not a ball. You cannot chase it all your life and finally catch it in retirement.
I believe that idea of having to wait until retirement to have fun is flawed. We should focus on having fun during all phases of our lives.
For most people, the lack of happiness comes from doing activities that they don't want to do and not being able to do things that they want to do, often due to poor health. Robotics and AI technologies can help in solving both of these problems.
Let us begin with education. I believe that we need to change the focus from studying to learning. Learning has to be a fun activity and not a chore. No one likes to memorize pointless facts. I believe that robotics and AI can truly revolutionize learning. I am sure that some of you have participated in FIRST robotics and had fun. AI-based personalized tutors, AI-based games, robot competitions, art created by 3D printers, and virtual tours of historic places can lead to learning while students are having fun. I believe we should create technologies that make learning truly a fun activity. I hope some of you will create new technologies that will revolutionize schools and universities and bring joy to countless future students. Hopefully, you will also have fun in doing this and become rich.
Now let us focus our attention to work. All jobs currently have some components that people do not enjoy. There is no need for humans to do dangerous and tedious tasks as a part of their job. I believe that Robotics and AI can eliminate the need for humans to do things that they do not want to do. This will make work truly fun and let us focus on adding value to society. I hope that some of you will invent robotic assistants that can attend boring meetings on my behalf. I hope some of you will invent AI that can write perfect jokes to start meetings that we cannot skip.
Many of us spend a long time commuting to work every day. As you know, driving in LA is farthest thing from having fun. I cannot wait for driverless cars to arrive and enable commuters to be productive during their daily commutes. Advances in robotics and AI are the basis for advances in driverless cars.
We all spend time at our homes doing chores that we do not want to do. I hope that some of you will invent robots that can cook, clean, and extract items from packages delivered by Amazon. This will increase the time available to us for having fun.
Aging poses many health challenges for people. Advances in AI and robotics and can help elderly people in living at their homes with dignity. It can remind them to take their medicine, monitor their vitals, cook their favorite meal, and help them in getting around their homes.
I hope that these examples have convinced you that robotics and AI can be important tools in achieving happiness. I hope that some of you will choose these fields as careers.
We are heading towards a future where we will need to learn and add value every day. I hope we can soon figure out how to turn learning and work into activities that give us joy. Thank you very much for your attention. Enjoy the rest of your day don’t forget to have fun!