In the historic Piazza Maggiore of Bologna, a place that has seen generations of students and academics pass through the centuries, the Bologna Business School held its Graduation Master Class 2023 on September 8th. Making the event unforgettable was an exceptional Commencement Speech delivered by Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn and a pioneer in innovation and technology.
Hoffman’s speech not only offered congratulations to the over 800 graduates gathered in the square but also provided them with an intense and challenging vision of the future, urging each attendee to consider their role in the era of Artificial Intelligence. Drawing from Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Man,” he emphasized that understanding human nature is crucial for success in any field and that every technological advancement should help progress in this knowledge.
Starting with the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI), he engaged the audience by telling them that it’s not just about entering the AI generation but being a part of it: “We are not only entering the AI Generation. You are the AI generation. You are Generation AI.” he exclaimed, highlighting how this technological revolution is unlike any other. “We have this technology in our hands, not the other way around,” Hoffman explained, “With it, we have the opportunity to amplify and define the future of humanity. For AI should not be an abbreviation for artificial intelligence, but for amplification intelligence—for its power to augment and elevate us.”
Hoffman then compared the impact of AI to that of other revolutionary technologies of the past, such as radio, telephone, and the Internet, which have shaped entire generations, urging the audience to embrace the unpredictability of the future. On the other hand, he reminded them that even past generations had a poor plan for managing the new technologies they had, but could adapt and make them a valuable tool for growth. That’s why, the visionary entrepreneur reminded us, one should always beware of extremes that demonize or glorify AI, advocating instead for a balanced perspective capable of harnessing the potential of technology to solve real problems. Because if it’s true that “Our tools are a reflection—and the creation—of us” our task with artificial intelligence is to focus on shaping the tool that will, in turn, shape us.
Hoffman then left the graduates with three fundamental questions helpful in moving forward consciously in their human and professional journey: “How can I make better tools?“, “How can I increase beauty in the world?, “How can I make better tools and increase beauty to the benefit of my fellow humans?“. He drew parallels with the Italian Renaissance, during which artists and inventors like Brunelleschi and Michelangelo combined beauty and utility to create works that have stood the test of time. “Beauty is made by tools, and tools make beauty—and that is the story of the elevation of humanity,” he said, paraphrasing the words of another famous English poet, John Keats. Finally, he reminded us that one can also get lost in technology. Still, only if one forgets that “technology is human. It comes from us and for us.” It also depends on us “How we choose to organize, create, and improve ourselves, together.”
Reid Hoffman’s Commencement Speech concluded not only as an invitation to the graduates to be the custodians of an invaluable cultural legacy and the pioneers of an unexplored future but as a true manifesto for the next generations. His masterful lesson transcended the boundaries of technology to touch the deepest chords of human potential, engaging and inspiring all who had the privilege to listen to him.