令和2年度 東京大学秋季入学式 情報理工学系研究科長式辞
Dean’s Address at the 2020 Autumn Semester Matriculation Ceremony
Congratulations to the new students who have just joined the University of Tokyo! I am Reiji Suda, dean of IST, the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo. On behalf of all faculty and staff, I would like to give my warmest welcome to all of you. You are now members of the University of Tokyo, and we are proud that you, students with great talent and immeasurable potential, have joined us.
Some of you might understandably feel that it is unfortunate that you are starting study and research in these hard times, with the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus infectious disease. Some of you must have taken online entrance examinations, which were very different from entrance examinations in years past. You might be bewildered, and feel anxiety, about the examinations, and about enrollment. We feel the same. We were challenged by many hurdles that made offering examinations in the usual way impossible.
However, we are determined to never stop educating. Precisely because these are hard times, we feel driven to continue providing education. Our world now needs talented young people to be highly educated, to know how to tackle unsolved problems, and how to collaborate with each other for that purpose.
The reality is that, we, the staff, are still struggling to find the best way to provide education under so many restrictions. It is very important for us to hear from you, the students, about the problems you face, and about suggestions for improvements. Let us think together, and improve our solutions, to make them better and better.
Coronavirus is not the only problem in our society. In the course of the two world wars in the early 20th century, and various conflicts after that, humankind must have learned that peaceful collaboration is vital for human welfare. Human history is full of wars, but if people continue to be enemies, destruction will be the only result. However, some people seem to forget this simple fact. Division seems to prevail over unity, and selfishness over compassion. We know that such an inclination reflects undesirable situations within each country. Coronavirus severely attacks the economies of developing countries. In developed countries, the gap between rich and poor seems to be expanding.
We, the University of Tokyo, have declared that we will work to achieve the SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals. You, and we, are privileged to work here, in the University of Tokyo. As it is said, those who have talents, must use those talents for appropriate purposes. Some of you may think that, “I am only a single weak person, and I cannot do anything great to solve such big and long-standing problems.” But, if you look at history, there are many cases where great revolutions can be traced back to a single individual. A single person can have a stronger confidence and will than a group of people. I think that a single person with a strongly determined belief and will is essential in finding solutions to big problems that are seen as almost impossible to solve by many people. The passion of that person, hopefully, moves the minds of larger and larger numbers of people, and finally changes the world. Unless someone believes and acts, no change can happen.
We, in the 21st century, have a tool which was unavailable until recently. That is, information and communication technology, or ICT. Now, smartphones are available in every corner of the world, and connect all people. Combined with related technologies, such as AI, IoT, robots, drones, and 3D printers, ICT makes possible many things which were once just a dream. However, please remember that the history of ICT is relatively short, compared to, for example, physics and medicine, and because of that, only a small fraction of its potential has been developed. Tremendous possibilities are waiting to be developed with your own hands. I am not talking only to students of ICT-related areas, but to all students. Actually, ICT is not for ICT itself, but for people. ICT can connect people all over the earth, crossing national borders. ICT can help people to use machines more easily and safely. ICT can store an enormous amount of information, and calculate arithmetic or infer logic without error. I would like to suggest that students of non-ICT research areas keep an eye on ICT, and consider, perhaps once a while, whether some problems in your own research area could be solved by ICT. We at the IST have an educational project which is open for students of all the graduate schools. Students from ICT areas and other areas gather to exchange ideas for how to use ICT to solve social problems. Also, we provide courses from basic programming to machine learning that are open to all students. Some level of knowledge on ICT itself will be useful to get new ideas.
Now, we are in a time of severe problems. I hope that this time of problems can also be a time of solutions. Because the conditions of our world today have changed so drastically, we do not have to be constrained by conventional common sense. Right now, all the world shares the same problem. Let us gather our ideas, and collaborate to build a new society, which overcomes the coronavirus.
Thank you very much for your attention. Let me say again, congratulations and welcome to the University of Tokyo.
Dean of the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology
The University of Tokyo
September 24, 2020