In the past 10,000 years, we have been struggling to make sense of our world by breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces. We’ve dissected, and looked into microscopes, and specialized in our knowledge. This reductionist approach has been extremely successful: It brought us the clock, calculus, electricity, the Theory of Relativity, so many of the brilliant ideas and breakthroughs you learned here at Cal.

“Divide and conquer” has been our primary strategy for centuries. But now it’s time to focus on how to put things together. It’s time to look for connections, to look for information to help us understand connections and build connections.

As we spend so much time these days searching, looking and finding all this information, what becomes that much more important is understanding context for that information you find. The good news is that a great education at UC Berkeley provides that context that you need. And looking at how the world is connected is exactly the context we need to find solutions with this perspective, and all these amazing tools are at our fingertips to connect the dots. We can find new ways to share ideas to help solve the problems facing our planet and our species. New, bold ideas will come from engaging all different perspectives and different minds in solving these problems.

I truly believe we are at the beginning of a new Zeitgeist. Today, we are seeing that shift in action. We are shifting to this way of thinking, of looking at the world as a system—a system in which everything affects everything else. We need to look at the world this way.

– Tiffany Shlain at UC Berkeley Commencement address to class of 2010