Technology today is integral to almost all aspects of our lives. And most of the time it’s a force for good. And yet the potential adverse consequences are spreading faster and cutting deeper than ever before. Threats to our security, threats to our privacy, fake news, and social media that becomes antisocial.
Sometimes the very technology that is meant to connect us divides us. Technology is capable of doing great things, but it doesn’t want to do great things. It doesn’t want anything. That part takes all of us. It takes our values and our commitment to our families and our neighbors and our communities, our love of beauty and belief that all of our faiths are interconnected — our decency, our kindness.
I’m not worried about artificial intelligence giving computers the ability to think like humans. I’m more concerned about people thinking like computers, without values or compassion, without concern for consequences. That is what we need you to help us guard against.
Because if science is a search in the darkness, then the humanities are a candle that shows us where we’ve been and the danger that lies ahead.
As Steve once said, “Technology alone is not enough. It is technology married with the liberal arts married with the humanities that make our hearts sing.”
When you keep people at the center of what you do, it can have an enormous impact. It means an iPhone that allows a blind person to run a marathon. It means an Apple Watch that catches a heart condition before it becomes a heart attack. It means an iPad that helps a child with autism connect with his or her world.
In short, it means technology infused with your values, making progress possible for everyone. Whatever you do in your life and whatever we do at Apple, we must infuse it with the humanity that each of us is born with. That responsibility is immense. But so is the opportunity.
I’m optimistic because I believe in your generation, your passion, your journey to serve humanity. We are all counting on you. There is so much out there conspiring to make you cynical.
The internet has enabled so much and empowered so many. But it can also be a place where basic rules of decency are suspended and pettiness and negativity thrive. Don’t let that noise knock you off course. Don’t get caught up in the trivial aspects of life. Don’t listen to trolls. And for God’s sake don’t become one.
Measure your impact on humanity not in likes but in the lives you touch, not in popularity but in the people you serve. I felt that my life got bigger when I stopped caring what other people thought about me. You will find yours will too. Stay focused on what really matters.
There will be times when your resolve to serve humanity will be tested. Be prepared. People will try to convince you that you should keep your empathy out of your career. Don’t accept this false premise.
At a shareholders’ meeting a few years back, someone questioned Apple’s investment and focus on the environment. He asked me to pledge that Apple would only invest in green initiatives that could be justified with a return on investment. I tried to be diplomatic.
I pointed out that Apple does many things, like accessibility features for those with disabilities, that don’t rely on an ROI. We do these things because they’re the right thing to do. And protecting the environment is a critical example. He wouldn’t let it go. And I got my blood up.
So I told him, if you can’t accept our position, you shouldn’t own Apple stock.
When you’re convinced that your cause is right, have the courage to take a stand. If you see a problem or an injustice, recognize that no one will fix it but you.
As you go forward today, use your minds and hands and your hearts to build something bigger than yourselves. Always remember, there is no idea bigger than this. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “All life is interrelated. We are all bound together into a single garment of destiny.”
If you keep that idea at the forefront of all that you do, if you choose to live your lives at that intersection between technology and the people it serves, if you strive to create the best, give the best, do the best for everyone, not just for some, then today all of humanity has good cause for hope.
Thank you very much. And congratulations Class of 2017.