I consider it to be a great privilege and an honour to deliver this convocation address of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata.
I have fond memories of the formative years of this wonderful institute. I had the privilege of chairing the Board of Governors for three years, after my great Guru, the most revered scientist of our nation, Prof C.N.R. Rao, had chaired the first Board of Governors. That itself was a great personal honour.
I am very proud to see the great progress that IISER has made, not only in terms of building its physical infrastructure, but also in terms of its high quality intellectual pursuits with deep scholarship.
I have no doubt that IISER, Kolkata will emerge as one of the foremost institutions of our nation.
At the outset, let me congratulate the graduands of the day, their teachers and their parents.
To the parents especially, I want to say that education is the best gift you could have given to your child.
My young friends, my special congratulations to you that you decided to opt for science as a career.
The recent crisis before India has been that the best of our young minds do not turn to science, and those, who do, they do not stay in science.
I do hope that you will all continue to stay in science.
Over the past five decades, I have myself relished the unique fun, joy and excitement of science.
And I assure you that you will find it to be an equally exhilarating and fulfilling experience.
You will be stepping out of the portals of this great Institute today in a world that is full of challenges but also great opportunities.
It is often said that it was always great to be an Indian. I assure you that now it is great to be in India. Why? Because India is becoming a great land of opportunity.
Indeed, India today is not just being looked at as a third world country – it is being looked at as potentially a third most powerful country in the world.
And it is going to be your responsibility, my young friends, to build this great future of our great beloved nation.
Talking about the future, my convocation address today is all about future.
As someone has said, he only thinks of the future, because that’s where he is going to spend the rest of his life.
And what is the future going to be? The future is Science 2.0, Education 3.0 and Industry 4.0.
Let’s start in a reverse order.
What will be Industry 4.0?
Industry 1.0, the first industrial revolution, was mechanization of production using steam.
Industry 2.0, the second industrial revolution, was mass production using electricity.
Industry3.0, the third industrial revolution used ‘simple’ digitization.
‘Complex’ digitization gave birth to the terminology Industry 4.0. Here cyber-physical systems are predicted to bring in dramatic shifts.
Major upheavals in technology led job destruction as well as creation are expected in Industry 4.0.
Advanced automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and big data analytics will be the four major drivers.
In fact there is a saying that data is new oil. Information is new currency. And artificial intelligence is new electricity.
To the last point, it is said that industrial revolution freed humanity from much repetitive physical drudgery. Artificial intelligence will free humanity from repetitive mental drudgery.
You hear all the time about AI, machine learning, deep learning. Things are indeed dramatically changing. Let me give you an example.
Go, an ancient board game, has been always viewed as one of the greatest challenges for artificial intelligence (AI).
In late March 2016, AlphaGo, a machine, took on and defeated legendary Go player, Lee Sedol, who has won 18 world titles.
And my friends, this happened ten years before it was predicted to happen!
What is really remarkable is that AlphaGo played many unprecedented and creative moves.
According to experts, AlphaGo’s move 37 in Game 2 had a one in 10,000 chance being played by a human!
Machines will increasingly take away jobs that require both brain and brawn.
Machines will influence both blue collar and white colour jobs. India cannot afford to have technology led jobless growth. India will have to work on innovative strategies to deal with this massive challenge.
Let us turn to Education 3.0.
What was education 1.0? It comprised Gurukuls of India, academies of Greece, etc.
There was a limited knowledge held by the Gurus and there was restricted access to a privileged few.
Then came education 2.0.
It had to do with broadcast and an assembly line model. There was mass enrolment.
There was ‘one to many’ information dissemination. Knowledge was limited to books in the library.
Now comes education 3.0 with dramatic paradigm shifts. What are these?
First, Information memorisation and brute force recall will be made irrelevant.
From `brain as storage’ to `brain as an intelligent processor’ will become the norm. Collecting the dots will be less important than connecting the dots.
Second, humanity’s accumulated knowledge will now be freely available on the Internet. It will be indexed and queryable.
Third, rich formatted content, flipped classrooms, and research material from the best faculty on a subject will be available for free.
Fourth, on demand tutoring, P2P learning, personalised and generative course structure and sequencing to meet the individual needs will be the order of the day.
Demands of Industry 4.0 will dramatically change the list of top skills that will be needed in future. What will these be?
First, dealing with complexity. Second, critical thinking. Third, creativity. Fourth, emotional intelligence. Fifth, cognitive flexibility.
And finally there will have be the ability of co-working, co-creation and that too with both men and machine together.
And now, we come to Science 2.0.
Science 2.0 will be again driven by massive digital disruption.
It will be science that uses information-sharing and collaboration made possible by network technologies and will be inspired by Web 2.0 technology.
Science 2.0 will use collaborative tools like wikis, blogs and video journals to share findings, raw data, etc., all online. Data driven discovery will be the norm rather than an exception.
There is already an explosion of online tools and platforms available to scientists, ranging from Web 2.0 tools modified or created for the scientific world to Web sites that are doing amazing things.
There are thousands of scientific software programs freely available online and tens of millions of science, technology, and math journal articles online.
What’s missing? I would say it is the vision and infrastructure to bring together all these extraordinary tools and bring in new players with new mind-sets across this Science 2.0 landscape and demonstrate its prowess.
I am proud to say that while the world was debating on the merits of Science2.0, India took a leap forward by launching one of world’s biggest Science 2.0 endeavour. And that too almost a decade ago.
And my young friends, you will be proud to hear that this bold leadership was provided by son of the soil born in Kolkata, Dr S.K. Brahmachari.
He launched one of the most pioneering and pathbreaking experiment in Science2.0
This was Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD).
His idea was to endeavour to solve collectively, through the prowess of co-creation, the complex problems associated with discovering novel therapies for neglected tropical diseases like Tuberculosis, Malaria, etc.
In creating OSDD his purpose was to promote virtual scientific collaborations, through the web based research portal OSDD, namely SysBorg 2.0, which meant Systems Biology of the Organism.
It was designed to be an amalgamation of social networking features like that of Facebook and Orkut and those of collaborative research portals for presentation and exchange of scientific information over the web.
It facilitated open access to experimental data and open sharing of ideas and results.
The traditional practice of safe guarding results and data till publication was replaced by SysBorg’s electronic open lab notebooks, which allowed all the community members to access the data.
Can you believe it, if I tell you, that the OSDD community grew to more than 7900 members from 130 countries. What was remarkable was that around 2000 of them were young students like you!
A record of a sort! And I am glad an Indian working in India created it in India.
It is often lamented that India is not a leader in science. It is a follower. And here is an example of leadership. And that too in the emerging Science 2.0!
How do we ensure that India becomes a leader in Science2.0, Education 3.0 and Industry 4.0?
For this, you will require not only new abilities but new attitudes. Not just new minds but new mind-sets! Then only we will achieve success.
I will give you five mantras for success, which have at least helped me in my personal life. Here they are.
First, your aspirations are your possibilities, so keep your aspirations always high.
We often complain about scarcity in India. But remember, the combination of scarcity and aspiration can create disruptive and game changing innovations.
Second, there is no substitute to hard work for becoming successful.
Remember, like instant coffee, there is no instant success.
I have myself worked 24×7, week after week, month after month, year after year and will do so till I take my last breath.
The golden rule is the following.
Work hard in silence. Let success make the noise.
Third, it is wrong to wait for the opportunities to knock on your door.
If opportunity does not knock, build a door.
Fourth, when someone tells you that it can’t be done, take it that it is more a reflection of his or her limitation, not yours.
Fifth, there is no limit to human endurance, no limit to human imagination, no limit to human achievement, excepting the limit you put on your mind. So go limitless.
At the end, my young friends, I wish you all the very best in your journey on this limitless ladder of excellence and achievement, and achievement that will not just be truly fulfilling for yourself and your family, but for our society, our beloved nation.
Thank you very much again for making a part of this memorable day in your lives.