Artificial intelligence expert honored in Oak Ridge

Artificial intelligence expert, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, visits his boyhood school in Oak Ridge, Saint...
Artificial intelligence expert, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, visits his boyhood school in Oak Ridge, Saint Mary's School.(WVLT)
Published: May. 6, 2019 at 6:31 PM EDT
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A leading researcher and author on artificial intelligence took time to visit the school where he says a principal once gave up her lunch breaks for him.

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee said, "At St. Mary's the principal at the time Sister Mary David saw that I didn't speak a word of English and took every lunch period off to teach me English at grade one even though I was in grade seven."

St. Mary's honored Lee Monday as the first recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Visionary Leadership Award. Mayor Warren Gooch declared on behalf of the city of Oak Ridge that May 6 was Dr. Kai-Fu Lee Day.

Lee took questions from St. Mary's students on technology and education. He also credited another teacher in Oak Ridge for giving him an early start. "At Oak Ridge High School, I had the best math teacher in the whole world, Mrs. Benita Albert."

Dignitaries in attendance for Lee's visit to St. Mary's included Bishop Richard F. Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville.

Lee said of he writes about the artificial intelligence in his best-selling book titled AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order.

"The future will be exciting, but at the same time, there are challenges.", said Lee. Lee is the former president of Google China. He currently is CEO of an AI investment firm called Sinovation.

Lee said AI can be useful in education, for simply taking over tasks for teachers and saving time.

"Artificial intelligence can learn what each student is maybe stuck on so that we don't leave anyone behind. So if someone is stuck on multiplication, you don't go into teaching division."

Some advice for students and others interested in the changing workforce included, "Some jobs won't be as exciting or even displaced by AI. Other jobs will be enhanced by AI. So it's important to think about what career plans one makes and also to be thinking of what kind of skills and what kind of ways of learning are most important to be ready when artificial intelligence becomes a great tool that everybody uses."

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