Photo Credit: Hita Bambhania-Modha
On June 17, 2017, Dean Al Pisano invited me to present the Keynote Speech at the Ring Ceremony at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering. Enclosed is a transcript of my remarks.
Congratulations class of 2017!
I am honored to share this pivotal day in your life
with you, your families, and your friends.
And I want to thank Dean Pisano for inviting me here,
as well as the distinguished faculty and my UCSD mentors
who have all helped shape who I am today.
As you graduate from the Engineering school,
there is a blank canvas in front of you.
The space of that canvas is the Earth and its vicinity,
and the time of the canvas is your individual life span.
On this blank canvas,
we engineer, not only, devices, materials, systems, structures, and processes,
but we also engineer
our own careers and lives,
so as to manifest strength, utility, and beauty.
The recipe for success, I believe, is three-fold:
- first, identify external gradients towards your inner purpose;
- second, capitalize on inherent opportunities presented by these gradients
using your most authentic self;
- and, lastly, engineer the means for exploiting these gradients
the chief villain in our lives,
namely, the 2nd Law of thermodynamics.
First, let us talk about gradients.
A gradient or an imbalance
is simply a difference across a distance.
For example, think of differences in
temperature, pressure, chemical concentration, voltage, incomes, etc.
The gradients are the sources of opportunity.
When yoda from starwars said, “Feel the force”,
He meant, “Feel the gradients.”
A water wheel
converts the energy gradient
of water flowing from high to low
into useful work.
Similarly, our intent is to harness the external gradients
that exist in the society and the universe—
social, economic, political, technological, physical gradients—
to create beneficial structures
and to manifest constructive complexity.
Unlocking and harnessing these gradients
requires us to apply
the infinite and inexhaustible tools of
creativity, awareness, and imagination
while leading us to discovering and extending
the frontiers of mathematics, science, and technology in the process.
In my case,
the gradient that led to the notion of brain-inspired computers
was the observation
that there was a billion-fold disparity between the function, the size, the energy, and the speed of the brain as compared to today’s computers.
Second, let us talk about purpose.
Discovery of external frontiers,
first and foremost,
starts with the internal discovery
of our own authentic self.
From this place of inner integrity,
we pick problems of universal importance
and establish audacious goals to solve them
while matching these goals to our specific individual gifts.
We then work backwards from the end goals
and chart a course to achieve these goals.
As facts change,
we never compromise on the destination
but continually revise the path.
In any situation,
we do not react
but rather we consciously act
because there is always room for creative response.
In every moment,
in every interaction,
in every relationship,
we bring all the positivity of our entire existence to bear —
and then we do it again
To truly win,
we put not just our skin in the game—
rather, we put our soul in the game.
While it’s important to strive to succeed at work,
it’s equally important to maintain work-life balance
and choose an inner state of happiness
despite life’s paradoxes and challenges.
And, regardless of success or failure,
we win, personally, by finishing what we start.
all of you have demonstrated
that you are winners!
let us talk about the villain.
The 2nd Law of thermodynamics essentially says that if a hot room is connected to a cold room then over time the temperature difference will disappear.
So, the 2nd Law of thermodynamics
serves to efface all gradients over time
leaving increased entropy,
Left to its own un-engineered devices,
the 2nd Law will produce only heat and waste.
It is not possible,
to fight or defy the second law
at a global, macroscopic level,
but within the confines of local space and time
it is indeed possible
to engineer means
by which gradients produce useful work.
had to purposefully do the hard work
of inventing and perfecting
to exploit the potential energy of water
that otherwise would have remained stagnant.
The 2nd Law will have its way eventually.
The waterwheel, for example, requires maintenance
to keep running
and ultimately will decay and descend into ruin.
But while it lasts,
it will enhance human life
serve as a step stone
to greater progress.
This is the eternal essence of engineering.
This is why
fighting the 2nd law is
in my mind,
symbolizes our resolve
to courageously stand up
to the 2nd Law in all its manifestations.
So, in conclusion,
that we meet the 2nd Law of thermodynamics,
let us rub our magic rings,
and let us look at the 2nd Law in the eye,
you are dealing
with a graduate
of the UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering!
Congratulations again, my friends,
and I wish you the very best of luck!