Tech Visionary Kai-Fu Lee Chats With SCS Dean About Future of AI

Friday, November 12, 2021 - by Aaron Aupperlee

CMU alum Kai-Fu Lee spoke with SCS Dean Martial Hebert last month about the good and bad aspects of AI waiting in the future.

Advancements in artificial intelligence will present society with both progress and problems, but Kai-Fu Lee, a venture capitalist attempting to peer into the future of AI, believes that humanity will push through those challenges and move forward.

Lee, who described himself as optimistic but pragmatic about AI in the next decades, spoke with Martial Hebert, dean of Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, last month about the good and the bad waiting in the future.

"If we look back on history, there have been many phenomenal technical revolutions," Lee said. "Each of these brought up problems, but overall, we've been able to overcome these and make them tremendous additions to human progress. The reason, fundamentally, is because there are many more of us who are good than bad." 

Lee earned his Ph.D. from the Mellon College of Science in 1988, when computer science was still housed in MCS, and received an honorary degree from the Tepper School of Business in 2015. He is the chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures and president of Sinovation Venture's Artificial Intelligence Institute.

Lee and Hebert discussed his latest book, "AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future," which mixes a discussion of artificial intelligence over the next two decades with stories from science fiction author Chen Qiufan. In it, Lee addresses many of the challenges enhanced AI will bring, from concerns over privacy to the future of work. But throughout it all, Lee remains optimistic.

"Jobs will get displaced by AI and jobs will get amplified by AI," Lee said. "AI tools will make each individual much more powerful. Those are all things that people have to look forward to."

Lee said in the future, what AI cannot do will become more valuable, like creativity, critical and strategic thinking, communication, teamwork, empathy, compassion and understanding yourself and others. Students should spend more time honing these skills, Lee said.

"And follow your heart. Do the thing you love, and that's how you'll maximize your impact," Lee said.

You can watch the full conversation between Lee and Hebert on the CMU Alumni Association's Vimeo page.

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Aaron Aupperlee | 412-268-9068 |