ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. >> Bard College graduates in the Class of 2018 on Saturday were reminded that in an age when social media has been weaponized to undermine social fabric, sometimes the most productive way to achieve beneficial results is old technology.
The comments were made by commencement speaker Megan Smith, chief executive officer for shift7 and the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer, to the college’s 469 undergraduate students and 164 graduate students.
“Sometimes the oldest technology is the most profound,” she said.
“What I love about the hokulea is what the people did … is they sailed around our planet in a small Polynesian canoe using zero instruments,” Smith said. “No compass. Nothing.”
Smith used the example to emphasize that each graduate has significant potential without the use of data-driven devices. She then moved forward in time to remind students how the application of simple statistics and forms of analog technology can be used to address significant social issues.
“How can we have … wise communities and more just societies in the spirt of Ida B. Wells,” she said. “One of America’s greatest data scientists, she used data and journalism to stop us from lynching people. What might we do to use data science in our communities to help those who would not go hungry if we did that.”
Administrators speaking to the students, family and friends asked the graduates to fight against the resurrection of Jim Crow polices coming from leaders in Washington while also listening to what people with significantly different views have to say.
“I want to welcome everyone during a time when so many of our so-called leaders are idiots,” said college board Chairman James Chambers. “Weak, cruel, scared, pitiful…We need active, peaceful but boldly courageous opposition to them and to it.”
College President Leon Botstein was actually required to practice one of the pieces of advice when the power when telling students that best satisfaction comes from being tested during their endeavors.
“We will experience happiness only …” he said as the microphone cut out.
After several minutes, and the power restored, he continued “…only if we extend systematically as citizens kindness to strangers.”