January 07, 2008 —
George Bekey, a retired member of the Viterbi School faculty who is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, delivered the commencement address at the mid-year graduation ceremonies held in December for engineering and business students at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo.
In contrast to the conventional commencement congratulations and encouragement to change the world for the better, Bekey told the graduating students that the knowledge they had gained in school by itself would not bring them happiness, satisfaction or meaning to their lives. He said there was a disconnect between university education which provides knowledge and the search for wisdom and meaning. He noted that Google and other search engines can find information but not wisdom.
“A man who has much knowledge, but no wisdom, is no better than a camel carrying a load of books,” he said quoting an old Arab proverb.
Bekey pointed out problems in relationships, where people substitute “Friends” in Facebook or MySpace for true friendships which add meaning to our lives. He also offered some hints on how the graduates could work to make their lives more complete.
Bekey, a world renowned robotics expert, is a USC University Professor Emeritus. He has appointments in the Viterbi School’s Department of Computer Science, the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering.