The HLF Portraits: John E. Hopcroft

Video in TIB AV-Portal: The HLF Portraits: John E. Hopcroft

Formal Metadata

The HLF Portraits: John E. Hopcroft
Title of Series
No Open Access License:
German copyright law applies. This film may be used for your own use but it may not be distributed via the internet or passed on to external parties.
Release Date

Content Metadata

Subject Area
Direction (geometry) Multiplication sign Gradient Maxima and minima Inclined plane Student's t-test 2 (number) Fraction (mathematics) Mathematics Goodness of fit Elementary arithmetic Many-sorted logic Thermodynamisches System Natural number Universe (mathematics) Order (biology) Musical ensemble Family Algebra Social class Stability theory
Point (geometry) Computer programming Group action Building State of matter Direction (geometry) Decision theory Multiplication sign Student's t-test Mass Event horizon Theory Hypothesis 2 (number) Expected value Goodness of fit Many-sorted logic Natural number Körper <Algebra> Series (mathematics) Set theory Social class Area Dependent and independent variables Process (computing) Projective plane Neighbourhood (graph theory) Computability Curve Physicalism Nominal number Cartesian coordinate system Faculty (division) Logic Universe (mathematics) Right angle Fundamental theorem of algebra Maß <Mathematik>
Point (geometry) Computer programming Group action Multiplication sign Direction (geometry) Student's t-test Distance Food energy Theory Element (mathematics) Wave packet Product (business) Expected value Mathematics Goodness of fit Thermodynamisches System Many-sorted logic Strategy game Different (Kate Ryan album) Energy level Körper <Algebra> Computability theory Position operator Stability theory Area Standard deviation Process (computing) Closed set Neighbourhood (graph theory) Computability Maxima and minima Staff (military) Lattice (order) Cartesian coordinate system Numerical analysis Faculty (division) Dean number Formal power series Category of being Voting Universe (mathematics) Right angle Asymptotic analysis Metric system Resultant Fundamental theorem of algebra Spacetime
Computer programming Functional (mathematics) Group action Multiplication sign Student's t-test Theory Dimensional analysis Element (mathematics) 2 (number) Explosion Mathematics Term (mathematics) Energy level Social class Condition number Process (computing) Computability Algebraic structure Lattice (order) Cartesian coordinate system Numerical analysis Faculty (division) Universe (mathematics) Right angle Pressure Metric system Fundamental theorem of algebra
Complex (psychology) Distribution (mathematics) Standard deviation Divisor Image resolution Computability Right angle Family Position operator Power (physics) Product (business)
Mortality rate
professor let's start at the beginning my first question is what was your family like was this the kind of family of somebody who was going to make a career in engineering okay I was born in Seattle Washington in 1939 just before the Second World War and the world was was different in those days neither of my parents actually finished high school and my father was a illegal immigrant and worked for half of minimum wage and we were a very poor family but I didn't know it I thought in my mind I thought we were middle class or upper middle class but one thing that was important is my mother and father loved each other and I never once heard either one make a negative comment about the other and I think in their life what they wanted is for me to have a better life than they did and so early in my career they talked about education and I sort of had a to-do list wondering what one does well first of all are you an only child no I had an older brother and sister which was fortunate uh-huh because they they were three years older and they knew a lot more than I did and they along with good family interest in education even though they I'm your president up in educated very highly were you're brought where your brother and sister already trailing showing a way to go right because all three of us went to college and in those days I think a very small fraction of the population went to college it wasn't essential but one of the things I should mention I think I was very fortunate with my parents because there's a lot of research today that say when a child is born the neurons are present in the brain but the wiring is very fluid and the first two years of a child's life is basically going to determine how successful they are if there's a stable environment and good nutrition what the brain does in the first two years is it learns how to learn and during life up until you're about twenty-one it learns different things you develop different skills but I think my parents really provided me with a very stable environment and because of that when I started elementary school I noticed that I could learn faster that I was that was brighter than other kids and I thought it was genetics but I don't I don't think that's true I think it's the environment maybe I'm asking an old-fashioned question but with the books in the home oh yes and my my father well he would go to the library and check out books and read to me the earliest I can remember he would read books to me and they spent a lot of time I mean their life was seen that their children had better lives than they did I'm hearing a world of affection and concerns but not necessarily pushing you I mean now it sounds like it was just a comfortable way to grow but you were not they were not determined that this happened or that you do this oh yeah there were there was no street I had no strategic plan in my life I had a lot of fortunate things happen to me initially I went to kindergarten in a public school but my mother was the Catholic and so in the first grade they moved me to a Catholic school the Catholic school didn't have a kindergarten that's why we didn't go there first and in my mind I thought oh I wonder if I'm going to get a poorer education because there are professionals in the public schools and in the Catholic schools there are these nuns but what I didn't realize is that people who steady education understand what makes a good teacher is not how bright they are or how well educated but it's whether they care about the success of their students and these teachers by the way when they graduated from high school went to this religious order because they wanted to teach and they had did not have college education and in fact when I started college two of my elementary school teachers we're in the same class I was because the religious order was trying to get their nuns to have college education I'd also argue correctly or not that their passion for what they were teaching was as as important as their concern for you oh yes did they have that oh they had a passion and they wanted every student to learn and I think I got just an outstanding elementary school education even though the teachers were not professional in any sense of the word again I always wonder about direction and natural inclination were they directing the young in any particular direction that's no but they they were focused on every child learning and I can remember in one grade the the teacher told me she said look I've got to work with some of the people who are having trouble why don't you just there was a row of books by the windows they said why don't you just read books and you'll be okay so I spent one year actually without lectures and so forth educating yourself yeah all the way right what books were you intrigued by and I would take the Encyclopedia and I would just sum through it and look at pictures and things like that it wasn't that I was really learning I was just to join myself let's let's take you to high school maybe yeah passing middle school although that I have had a significant teacher when we went it was an eighth grade elementary school and then I went to high school and there were two Catholic high schools but one was run by the Jesuits and so my parents insisted on that one it's a little bit more reserved learning yeah and it was very fortunate that the my algebra teacher when I was a freshman was also the football coach and you might ask how could somebody who is a football coach be a good algebra teacher but he really cared about students being successful and I think that helped him both as a football coach and as an algebra teacher and in fact somehow I didn't want to disappoint him so I really studied and and in fact he passed away back and what I've done is I've established a scholarship in his name because he had a profound impact on me when I saw how well I could do in algebra I thought maybe I could do that well if I studied other courses and I was a good student before but afterwards I was one of the top and so it's it was individuals in my life who cared about the success of others and that's that's why I went into teaching when I saw the success that other people could have I want it to be a teacher and so I went through high school then I went to Seattle University well first of all there was the question you were gonna go to university oh no no question and and in fact I had asked you know my parents what do you do after high school and they said University and I said what do you do after that and they said graduate school they didn't know what graduate school yes but one other thing I should mention my father initially worked at half of minimum-wage just for uh as a janitor but then he became a citizen and then all of a sudden he quit that firm and went to work for the Power & Light Company at minimum wage and he saw all of these draftsman in white shirts with their sleeves rolled up just drawing and having a cup of coffee and he thought their life was much better than his and he thought they were electrical engineers and so he said John you'd be an electrical engineer well because I wouldn't have known what to major on in college I liked math and science so I would have taken something in engineering or science but I decided be electrical engineer so because of the white coats yeah okay
you're in Seattle University I'm sensing that you did not spend a lot of time looking at many universities oh it never never occurred to me to look at another university and well one of the things is I took an exam for a scholarship to Seattle U and I was one of the I did very well on the exam and they interviewed five people for the scholarship and when they interviewed us a lot of the questions were about how much do your parents earn and I sort of knew I'm going to get that scholarship because the other people I knew lived in a better neighborhoods that I did and so forth and sure enough I got a four-year scholarship to Seattle U in those days tuition by the way was 500 a year but what that's scholarship it wasn't the money that was important but it was a message that was sent to me and I didn't want to disappoint Seattle U because I had this scholarship right and and it's little things like that that affect a person's life and I had good teachers and small classes there were only 20 people majoring in electrical engineering so you you entered already knowing in write electric lines right no temptation in any other field no no distraction by know the idea of literature or anything he was right as I said I had no strategic plan and I sort of just did what I was told all right and I did did very well I was the top student and I think I was the first engineering student to graduate summa laude and did you have to do with thesis or nominating work at the end of your undergraduate no no no but one thing that did happen to me I was going to then go to the University of Washington to get a PhD and I went over and talked a faculty member and he said look will never admit you because you went to an unaccredited undergraduate institution and actually that was very fortunate that he said that because I went back to talk to my department chair and he said why are you applying to the University of Washington why don't you apply to Stanford so this is one kind of decision MIT yeah yeah I I would have just applied to the University of Washington or else but I applied to Stanford and they were delighted to take me I had an NSF fellowship and so far I'm hearing the context is in a way lovingly pushing you forward um getting to Stanford what were the expectations of what a graduate graduate work in electrical engineering be well what kind of direction once again I just went and I assumed you just look and see what courses you have to take and what we should specialize in a way as a school not it's that for not particularly not particularly so I had an advisor and I asked you know what courses do you take and you know I just took them and it didn't wasn't too much there was an exam you were sort of admitted and then you had taken exam the first year to see if he would go on could go on for a PhD and I got past that exam but but my adviser was in more in the physical some portion of electrical engineering laboratory work and I took a laboratory course and I realized that was not for me so I did make a decision to switch advisors that I realized that I was more mathematical theoretical and switched I made that one switch but I I just would not have succeeded as an environmentalist now that I've got you in graduate school in electrical engineering I know there's going to be a a head or a doctor'll direction so how does that come to be with what what sends you in that direction well you know I wondered I thought you had to do something fundamental but it turns out I went to the library and I saw all the PhD theses in electrical engineering so I started to read a couple of them and I realized they weren't fundamental research it was basically you did a project and write something up right so then I realized of all of this do a project and safest approved well was it well I worked on threshold logic Bernie Woodrow was there and at that time he was working on threshold logic and it sounded interesting they talked about learning theory unfortunately the computing power wasn't available to do something significant these were the dark ages and in fact maybe I should back up when I was an undergraduate I went to a lecture where somebody from the University of Washington was talking about programming the IBM 650 this was a machine with the rotating drum and I think it had 2,000 words of memory and then also a physics professor Seattle you asked me if he could hire me to fix some program for him and so I started that's when I learned how to program and program basically in machine language but Fortran was invented at that time and so I rewrote the program in Fortran and I realized you in a couple hours you could do what was taking me a month in a machine language but you didn't fall in love yeah not not yet but at least I had the programming skills and so when I was at Stanford and decided to work on threshold logic I could program a computer and Bernie Woodrow had one and it wasn't used much so when it wasn't used I could use it program and basically my thesis was developed some code for programming threshold logic units so in a way you're under way in your career you just don't know where that's going to go right I'm guessing do well with your thesis well it was it was accepted well it was accepted but at this point in determining whether or not because an electrical engineer can actually make real money in the real world all opposed to a professor are you now wondering no no no in those days that probably wasn't true but I was planning on going back to Seattle U and teaching okay because I saw the impact that people had on me and I wanted to have that impact on other people right and by the way I was not focused on research at all I mean Seattle you wouldn't have had an inn and I would have just gone back but another accident occurred I was walking past Burnie Woodrow's office and he was on the telephone talking to Ed McCluskey at Princeton and Ed McCluskey wants to know if there's anybody that they might hire in electrical engineering at Princeton and Bernie said come on in and he handed me the phone and said this is head McCluskey dokdo and on that phone call a conversation added vited me back for an interview at Princeton and I thought well why not go and see what Princeton is like so I went and interviewed at Princeton and shortly after I was offered a job and so I thought maybe what I should do is go it was a three-year appointment as an assistant professor and I should mention by the way I had zero publications that wouldn't even get you into graduate school now but based on the work that I had done it was willing to gamble and hire me and I didn't realize you had to research to get promoted it was it was only when I was as faculty member there that I realized that and one thing again it's just luck my early career was built on my PhD students I had PhD students at Princeton that were smarter than I was several of them now are members of our National Academy and and so on and we
were roughly the same age and we worked together because they wanted to get their thesis and I wanted to get tenure and we worked jointly but certainly you at least as the head of this group are pushing it not not really I was only two three years older right and well let me put it another way you're educating yourself to be one step ahead of them I would argue right I did do one thing because McCluskey knew that information and computer science was going to be important there were no computer science departments and he said John teach a course in computer science for me and I had to ask him what does one teach in computer science because there were no courses there were no books and he gave me four papers and he said if you cover these papers it will be a good course and so I taught this course and the notes that I developed I made an arrangement with one of the graduate students that we would convert it into a book and this book became one of the most hundred reference books in science and engineering and basically as computer science departments started there's going to be a course this book was used all over the world and helped build my reputation do you present the creation in a way of right but unknowingly unknowingly I know I my entire career was and the other thing I didn't realize is that when what skee had me teach this course it made me one of the world's first computer scientists and when our government was looking for a senior computer scientist even though I was not very old I was on the shortlist and that's why the first Bush president asked me if I would be on the National Science Board which is the organization that funds science and annually one at this I'm not sure I'd have to go back to see how old I was but people you know asked me wow how did you get an appointment a presidential appointment you know and what I say is you know imagine if I had been in high-energy particle physics I'd still be waiting today for the senior faculty to had a major retire right but there were no senior faculty ahead of me I would argue there are two things that happen in the life that build the kind of career you've had what is luck Oh blah question yeah but the second is response to the life right you know I mean if the opportunity is there you still have to seize it right but but you know this question of luck so many lucky things happen to me I wondered how that could possibly be the probability and I wonder if these kinds of events don't occur if it hadn't been these it would have been some other set right and some people respond to them and some don't and I I think there there was something in my makeup that led me to respond because very early in my career I was always curious I was your curiosity that yeah yeah because you know if I was if there was a woods and there was a path I was curious where did it go and most of the streets where I lived in Seattle wind up they were rectangular but where it starts to drop off to the lake they were curved and I wondered if I took that street would it curve around would it come out right there's just many things like that and light switches there was a hallway at my school that had a switch at either end and you could turn it on or off at either end and I wondered how is that wire that'd be yeah so it just my life was with curiosity well where does your curiosity now take you you're you've taught the course right computers you come up with the first textbook right well what at one of the things is I realized I had to do research and Princeton had a good program that in your first three years you could take a semester off and so I took a semester and spent it at Bell Labs and that's where I started to do some fundamental research but there was a problem at Princeton and McCluskey was trying to build computer science because he knew it was important he knew that's where the future was but it was hard to hire when there was a faculty slot open he could not find really high quality people he had to take Gamble's but there is an area of information science which was a well-established discipline and the faculty member there could produce ten high quality applicants because every electrical engineering department in the u.s. taught information technology and there were graduate students who couldn't get jobs and it was always a fight between the faculty member and information technology and McCluskey because the other faculty members were clearly better but did we need more faculty in an area which was already developed and was probably dying or should we gamble in an area that was the future did he win that no no no he and I both left after three years he went to Stanford and I went to Cornell and I was running the colloquium series at Princeton and before the people who ran it had local speakers they didn't have money and all they had was the money too by lunch or something for the local speaker but I looked at the amount and there was enough money to have two speakers if you brought them from the East Coast so I brought Noam Chomsky and and I brought yours Hart Manus and but I had to have had to have Hart mass to our house for dinner because we didn't have I used up all the food money for that but art Manus was talking to me because he was building a department a computer science department at Cornell and we were talking about how much they paid and at Princeton basically they paid you in reputation of dollars and I happened to ask him I said how much would you offer me and it was only it was 50% more than I was earning and so I said you know I should go up for an interview and I did they made me an offer and and I realized that although Cornell wouldn't have quite as good students didn't have quite the same reputation as Princeton the fact that I would be in a department where people recognized what I was doing it was probably better for me at this point roughly what time what year is this I was three years out of beyond my PhD so no the longer it would been 6767 Cornell has in fact at this point established a computer no no no so it's in electrical engineering Brian come in Cornell no no Cornell they had computers so yes yes no I know but but yeah so you actually go into a department of computer science computer science at this point roughly are there many in the country no this was the first one first of all and they had just started the year before and so I could help them build the department and and my career Princeton then and they knew I was gonna leave they offered me a promotion to associate professor to try to keep me to stay but I had made the decision to go and so if Cornell is one of the excitement's the establishment of a new field that you will write the nature of your colleagues where your colleagues exciting yell hate some of the issues that you were interested right and and it was not going to be a political situation it would be people who would support and could evaluate quality can you give me a sense of the state of computer science or theory at this point in the late 60s when you go to Cornell well when I went to Cornell I think there were only three or four departments in the US and but
everybody was creating departments oh and the department at Cornell was funded I forget that foundation to Train PhD students who would then be faculty in other universities so the department had no undergraduate program it was simply a ph.d program right right which was attractive would you have called yourself a theorist at this point yeah I knew I was I was more in theory yeah and what were the theoretical issues that intrigued you well there were things finite automata context-free languages and computability context-free languages were interesting partly because of Noam Chomsky but partly because programming languages the syntax of them could be represented by a context-free grammar and so I spent my initial time at Cornell in this area of what we would call theoretical computer science but in in 1970 I went on spatting went to Stanford and I knew then that the area I was developing was not the future that we had to have a much broader view of computer science and so I switched to algorithms and while I was at Stanford I developed a number well first of all the the thing which got me the the Turing award is that people measured how good a program was by the amount of time it ran on a computer and the difficulty with that was when someone else when someone published a paper someone else would come along and have a better algorithm or claim a better algorithm and would publish their paper but you didn't really know if it was better because first of all the computer had become faster and he had to compensate for that but the second author may have tuned his algorithm for the examples of the first author and if you had tried these two algorithms on totally new problems not clear so I developed a mathematical technique called asymptotic complexity what is the asymptotic running time as the size of the problem increases and worst-case analysis and people kind of rejected this early - yeah but but I gave a paper on it and people almost laughed me off the stage but when I went back and I talked to Don Knuth he immediately understood and the bright people understood it was in a year if people were switching to this metric this is a sidebar defined in the life of research a lot of naysaying happen right along the way right if so you need an element of your personality we haven't yet talked about which is stubbornness oh yeah I mean I'm pretty stubborn and if I'm going to do something I'm gonna work on it until I get it done because you so much direction in the best sense early on but you're not just listening to others right and whether they say this is a good idea or not all right right now you're launched right as a thinker right and even if they tell you it's nonsense you know I'm gonna do it anyway you're gonna do it yeah this is clearly path-breaking yeah this investigation with algorithms and so forth are you not tempted at this point to stay at Stanford and no no because I think I was a good place to raise a family and by this time we had three children and the nice thing about Ithaca well we bought a house and we bought it on level ground so that the kids could ride their bicycles in the neighborhood within walking distance of an elementary school and with a big front yard so they could play baseball things like this and we had a very nice environment and Cornell was not shabby for intellectual environment yeah so it's not that you were choosing this over that it's just that between right Stanford and Cornell Cornell was comfortable right launching this investigation into fundamentals right in computer theory are you beginning to build a group of graduate students now that are oh I only take on at most two even at the point right this earlier point right for the following reason one of them I work with and I may work with them ten hours a week the other one is maybe just starting and I don't have to spend too much time but if I had a two of them who are really deeply involved with me how how could I handle it right I mean my notion of working with a PhD student is you really form a partnership right and you're gonna do some Holly more young yes now if you're in an experimental area then it would be a fundamentally different thing because you would need people to set up equipment or it's and so forth but if you're really working theoretical you're a team of two and so that's I I work that's how I work again at every point I'm going to ask you what is the stage of computer thinking at this point so you've begun this inquiry you're mocked a little bit but eventually the world gets it and how is the field expanding in your interest well I created a course in algorithms at Cornell and I said I think it took a couple years oh and then wrote a book on algorithms and and then that book caused a lot of other universities to create similar courses and this book also became one of the hundred most frequently hit reference books and my engineering and science and it created the area of algorithms around the world I didn't realize in either case that this is what would happen I just so when I was an undergraduate I read a book by skilling and I thought he that made his reputation and so I thought I would write a book but I didn't realize the impact the book was going to have right but right so now is algorithm becoming the framework in which most computer discussion is happening right yes this this was for a number of years we're we're before and this is only because we don't have so much time that I'm racing we're before the formal framing of theory within the context of artificial intelligence right look this phrase doesn't even emerge it right no artificial intelligence was kind of frowned on still at this stage because there was a lot of hype but very little results and this was also at this time people were trying to make computers useful and so computer science was focused on that but sometime maybe 1980 or something computers were useful and now computer science is starting to focus on what are they used for and what used to be computer science I think is changing in a fund away we are now going to start working with other departments we were very insular for quite a while but now an area which used to be called scientific computing is going to become an important area it's sort of applied math and people are looking in finance and biology and medicine in economics in any area and seeing how what the computer problems are and what is the underlying theory that needs to be developed and this parallel will of well I know it is circumstantially but fundamentally with the increasing capacity of that the technology Brian can demonstrate right now that the there is the computing capacity AI all of a sudden bikini has become very important and it's doing things now which better than humans right I'm not gonna let you get there yeah yeah we're we're crawling toward a
right area did you then get involved and I won't say the next stage it's all a process but what's become known as deep learning at this stage or later on whoa well actually I went into administration for a while I our department ran out of people who could be chairs so I became department chair okay I didn't think I would like it but it turned out I loved it because I could make things happen that people didn't do before and so I thought doing this at the department level maybe the Dean level so I applied for the deanship when it became open and became dean of engineering no torment of the soul about leaving the research no no because I realized I could do a lot of things to help other faculty and make Cornell a stronger institution and I enjoyed actually administration well I'm I'm not surprised by that I can see your concern about human beings that and how to further education but how are you keeping up with the developments in the field while you I might do I wasn't well you really weren't no and so once I finished my time as dean of engineering right I I did not have the skills that I can go higher up I mean one of the skills you need I mean if you want to become a university president yeah is you've got to say all the right things and I'm not somebody if you asked me a question I'm gonna try to answer right I'm not gonna say look that's that's an excellent question which which does bring up one other little thing is I'd had this presidential appointment to be on the National Science Board but the second Bush asked me if I would be an Under Secretary of Commerce and I thought that would be an interesting job I was one of three candidates and so I went to the White House to be interviewed and I spent today there and I wasn't asked a single technical question and I realized the portfolio which looked great it had international commerce that have all kind space all kinds of things that wasn't the job the only questions I was asked were things like what is your position on abortion and well I got past that because I told them look I'm far more conservative than anybody in this room on this issue right and basically it's inappropriate for any government official to try to force his ideological position on the general public I said that to them and it was interesting so I looked around the room the women in there all of a sudden smiled they knew I had passed because that is the conservative position I went on and told them I said I don't want the government telling me how many hours I can sleep or how many calories I can eat or what I should do and so they realized I had passed but it would probably wasn't the answer the other two gave right but another question they asked is anything going to come up in confirmation hearing yeah and I said look I had a presidential appointment and I was confirmed by unanimous vote of the Senate one of the staff said John technically you had a presidential appointment but nobody cares who the President appoints to the National Science Board this job they do care and the minute the president made if you're appointed the minimum the president makes an announcement you're gonna be shot by all kinds of people right so going home I realized this was not the job for me first of all it was a purely political job and secondly if you ask me a question I'm not gonna say that that's an excellent question and go off and give a can talking some other topic I'm gonna try to answer it than that that's not the skill for this job so I told them I was drew my application this was an opportunity you were not going to take yeah but I think I would have gotten it because two cabinet members called me the next day and asked me why I had dropped so I think I probably would have gotten it but it would have been a disaster what do you do with your life now you turn down this opportunity well I decided I'm gonna go back and teach and do research okay and again at Cornell at Cornell so I had a year off I had a year where I could do and right I start to look where computer science was going okay cuz you're rusty right and so I decided I'd work in social networks okay and that and from social networks that's what drew me into AI and and so all of this have happened while you are otherwise how cute right how excited were you about the possibilities that were now present that hadn't been earlier well I'm not sure I was that excited because you know I'm now I don't know my age actually when I was but I figured I was finishing my career and I educate a few more students and never yet major contribution right but then some real opportunities came up various countries started asking me if I would help them improve education and so I worked in Vietnam Colombia Brazil Saudi Arabia Tunisia India China I was not having much success I was helping a few students and a few faculty but not really helping the countries until I got to China and China was different and the difference is the premier of China knows that he's got to improve education and basically one of the things he said in one of the first meetings I had with him he says our highest priority is stability of the country and to do that we've got to raise the standard of living faster than people's expectations go up and to do that we've got to increase the gross national product and to do that we've got to improve university education we're talking in general we're not talking about education within the sciences or education about computers in general in general okay but I initially started the Ministry of Education hired me to help them improve a thousand second and third-tier universities and they would pick a city where there would be 50 universities within close distance and they'd bring in faculty and I would work with these faculty to try to upgrade their skills but I quickly learned it wasn't working because the metrics by which these faculty were evaluated was how much research money they brought in and how many papers they published and so I told the Ministry of Education this isn't worth it we're wasting our money let's let's stop but I think one thing that helped me is since I have tutoring award they thought they were gonna have to negotiate a large consulting fee and what they want to negotiate it I said look I don't consult for money and I said don't hire people who want to consulting fee because they'll be around while you're paying them then they'll be gone but there are a lot of people like me who are older and would like to have a significant impact and if this job will have a significant impact I'll do it for nothing just cover my expenses and after they came back up from the floor well they were pleased they were pleased to hear it but I suspect they passed that message up because when I resigned I was approached by the president of one of the top universities and he said look the better strategy would be if I would become a counselor to him and help him improve Shanghai Jiaotong University and then they could train PhD students who could be faculty members at other universities and this would be a better strategy and so I agreed to that job and as I started working with him I chaired their faculty recruiting committee and I was bringing people in but after two years they were leaving and so I interviewed them and said why and they said the environment here is so bad were not interested and environment that were for doing research and and good teaching and developing their personal reputation because presidents of universities in China our
five-year are government employees they have a five-year term and they'll get another job and they want to move up like maybe become Minister of Education or something so what they do is they try to raise increase the research funding and the number of papers published and they say look and say looked at the university I raised the research funding 15% and so on but doing this they put so much pressure on junior faculty that the faculty don't there's no reward structure for teaching and and for doing in fact to raise the money the only way they can do it is working for a senior faculty member and you're not going to do world-class research if you're working for a senior faculty in the climate the you were discovering an intellectual climate at least some playwrights there's always the famous question because these days people look at China and they look at the United States as frameworks not only of education but of writing research is this question of the originality of researcher the encouragement of it what are the key questions in oh it's an important question because China has 20% of the population the US 5% and if you believe talent is uniformly distributed like I do China has 20% of the talent right the trouble is this the opportunity is not there and by the way the premier is well aware of this and he wants to change the metrics of universities but when he tells people to do it the lower level people change what he tells them to do and nothing happens but I think he discovered me and saw that I was trying to do what he wanted done and so he started inviting my wife and I over to advise him and have dinner with him in the People's Great Hall in fact four times and I got the highest award that China will give to a foreigner I became a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Science and one meeting the premier just wanted to see me for 15 seconds so he could televised nationally our shaking hands he was sending a message to lower-level government officials now the fundamental conditions for research I mean is inert and overwhelming amount that needs to be done to change an intellectual climate no I I think it's relatively simple I think if university presidents are told that their next job is going to depend on how much they improve the quality of undergraduate education it'll happen overnight the university presidents are very knowledgeable very talented people and they're very capable and but they're focused on their next job right and if all of a sudden their opportunity changes I think things will happen graduate education oh so people ask me about this wide am i focusing on undergraduate if they improve the undergraduate program there'll be all of a sudden the students going into the ph.d program will be much better and this will improve the ph.d program and also the junior faculty who are now working for senior faculty won't be working for senior faculty they'll be working for themselves they'll be doing what excites them and the ph.d program I think will evolve by that by the way I chaired a an International Committee on how to improve education in China right and basically when you get the report to the premier it can be at most one page which gets you to really focus and we decided what was the one thing in education and this is what we felt it's undergraduate it'll also help the the high school education because in the high school they're not educating students they're focused on getting them to get a good score on the exam to get into college right and if because they want to get into one of the top colleges but if the thousand five hundred universities are all improved then high school students may feel it's not so critical that they get into shangguan or Peking or Shanghai Jiao Tong they can go to a local school and get some education is and I know this is not a contradictory comment but just a related one something is happening back to artificial intelligence where the Chinese economy and interest is exploding with interest and capacity and rice bonds so something is going right right when China wants to do something they can do it and they are going to fix AI what what is fixing well there are local communities san gen Joe and Nanjing each of those the the local community has put 250 million into building AI centers now I think a lot of money is gonna be wasted but when you have that kind of resource they're gonna build AI and their companies over there Baidu 10 cent byte dance these these have built AI labs and they are they are doing our own class work maybe it's not the research that's going to advance AI but it's a research that's going to make their companies profitable well I attended a recent lecture earlier the premise was that in the era of big data right that China has unique advantages at least entrepreneurial advantages right would you agree there are many economists who say there are only two countries that are going to profit from the Information Age and one of them is China the other is the United States and to succeed you have to have data and China has it in the United States has it I mean when you do a search the search engine saves all of your searches right and because I fly to China on Delta when I bring up some website all of a sudden there's an ad for Delta ethica Beijing you know people know a lot about me and their companies are comparable I actually they probably have more information that's what I was saying that actually more information and more tolerance for maybe even risky right I mean we chat it has a tremendous amount of information night so again to return to theory I understand that that you're in this if you will world changing role in terms of Education but in terms of right now we're a is is significant research happening in China not of the really fundamental the United States clearly has a lead there but most of the research in AI has to do with applications and there I think they're gonna outperform us where is our research now right what are the interesting notes of research in AI in the United States well I would say 90% of it is in applications like making self-driving vehicles face recognition I mean face recognition is now good and replacing well administrative assistants may disappear they may become computers that that's where the action is because that's where the money is well does the theory senior despair that enough inquiry is not going or curiosity attached to the theoretical element there very few theoreticians in AI and one of the things a i right now is pattern recognition in high dimensional space if you show a deep learning network something that looks like a bicycle but does not have the function of a bicycle it'll still say it's a bicycle well you'll say no that's not a bicycle I can't get on it and pedal over to the subway stop it will work right yeah and so we don't know how to extract the function there's a lot of things we don't know but but we can do many things without knowing that but what we worry and this will be through the end of our conversation well we worry don't we worry maybe over
worried that we will figure out a way to make computers humanely intelligent oh that that's probably going to come except I don't know what human intelligence is anymore I used to define it as the ability to solve complex problems but I realize now you can solve complex problems without intelligence with just computing power and so we need a new definition of intelligence but let me just add one one more thing is China if it raises its standard of living it will have to increase its gross national product by a factor of four or five and it's going to its its gross national product will be four times that of the US and it's going to become the world's power I mean all of the countries are close to it or gonna be trading with it and the US ought to be building a positive relationship with China just like we have with Europe I mean we're going to become one world we don't want to be China over there in the US here we want the US and China to really integrate you know that's the message you send in Washington as well but people have to realize we are going to become one world right you could get to any city anywhere in the world probably within 24 hours from here and if you just want to talk to somebody there you could do it within a few minutes you could figure out how to do it and you know we were a country of immigration and and our birthrate is not sufficient to maintain the population so immigration is important and it also has to do with age distribution it's important so it's important that we have not only a science education for people but also a broader education so they'll understand how to make the the world a better place for everybody and for our children and grandchildren that's the less thank you