Baidu CEO Robin Li Lays Out Mission To Turn Search Engine Firm Into AI Leader

Robin Li, founder and chief executive officer of Baidu Inc., sent an internal letter to staff yesterday and stressed again the importance of Baidu’s artificial intelligence strategy. He predicted that AI will be the center of the company’s future.

Below is a translation of the letter for your enjoyment:

Dear Baidu students:

Today is the May Fourth, Youth Day. I have one piece of bad news and one piece of good news to tell everyone.

The bad news is that, according to the new standards set by the United Nations, the age of 15 to 24 belongs to the "youth" category, which means that most of our Baidu students are already aged beyond "youth" as our Baidu family’s average age is 26.

However, the good news is that, in accordance with this standard, 17-year-old Baidu, is just entering the season of youth, full of infinite vitality.

In fact, I believe that youth should never be defined by age – "youth" is a spirit of determination, the mentality of not being satisfied with the status quo, also of those who dream of changing the world.

At any time, as long as our hearts and our dream remain the same, our courage and perseverance remain the same, we can still travel thousands of miles but remain young!

Today is the May Fourth Youth Festival, a festival in the name of youth. Whenever we approach this festival, I feel a sense of respect and enthusiasm.

The glory of the May Fourth Movement was transmitted from the annals of the Chinese nation, not only because it was a historical event involving national and civilian wisdom, but also because of the young people who dreamed to change the world opened a new chapter of history, just like today’s Baidu students.

This makes me recall the years of my own youth, when I was standing in a bookstore in a small town in Shanxi, looking across the counter at the few computer books on the bookshelf. At that time, a dream was born from the bottom of my heart to find a way to allow people to access information and knowledge, no matter where they are.

This dream became the key word from my school years to later work life, until at the turn of the century, I create Baidu to "give people the most equal and easy access to information."

Fast-forward 17 years, we are pushing forward this mission everyday, never stopping, and never satisfied.

Now, through Baidu, information is within reach for every Internet user. For us, it is our luck to be in this era, we are also proud to be witnesses and participants of history.

But we also see that, despite the fact that people can access endless information via Baidu today, and although our search results are already running in milliseconds, the world still has a lot of complicated things that we need to spend time to learn and adapt to, which have made our lives inconvenient.

Old people still do not understand how to operate a mobile phone and struggle if they should ask for help from young people. Children also need to be taught by their parents closely to learn to play their favorite cartoon. Each time we put Our food into the refrigerator we must remember to not miss the expiration date of its shelf life. When we travel, we need to undergo a rigorous examination, and new drivers must put a sticker on their car to warn other drivers. We have to go through various checks in order to obtain cash and spend it. We need to get through security checks going to work, going to parties and when we travel. Whenever there is a new electrical appliances, we wonder if "we are too stupid and don’t even know how to use this thing?"

In the ever-changing technology today, the world is still so complex and cumbersome. It is the same with 17 years ago, when it was inconvenient for people to get information. In the history of mankind, access to information has never been as simple as today, but now it is only "the first step of the Long March", there are many complicated things in this world, waiting for us to make them easier, and more reliable!

This vision, whether in the early days of PC search or mobile search, are unimaginable. After 17 years of industrial baptism, after cloud computing, big data, deep learning, we see that it’s possible to make these time-consuming and cumbersome things simple, and we have the capability and responsibility to make them become true.

Technology for Baidu, from a few years ago to the foreseeable future, will be focused on artificial intelligence. We initiated our artificial intelligence strategy to let the machine have some of the ability of people, but also allow more people to use and enjoy technology without any barriers.

So today, we want to clearly state that Baidu’s mission is to expand the "use of science and technology to make the complex world simpler," which means to use artificial intelligence and other innovative technology to simplify and awaken all things! Let our cause glow with a new sense of vitality!

We hope that one day, product description, user manuals and similar things will be swept into the history museums by the power of scientific and technological innovation.

We will let the steering wheel turn itself, freeing up more lives to their own destiny. We will let the machine speak, so that we can talk more with our family. We will use artificial intelligence to sketch out a more reliable and simpler life. Let the people spend their time on the nicer things in life, and leave the most complicated things to us!

The wheel of history is rolling forward, and we are about to embrace a new technological revolution that is destined to go down in history. We have reached the same starting line with the world’s most outstanding companies.

Artificial intelligence will eventually give this world a new look, but its full potential will go beyond our imagination.

But there is one thing we are sure of, which is Baidu will ride the tide to transition from the largest Chinese language search engine to a globally leading artificial intelligence company!

In a few months, Baidu will be 18 years old. "Use technology to make the complex world simpler" is Baidu’s new mission, the best gift for our company that is finally becoming an adult.

In the name of youth, let’s march toward the new mission, turn the key to innovation, and create a simple and happy new world for people!

Let us encourage each other!

Robin
May 4, 2017

 

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