Sunday, October 02, 2011

NAE Frontiers Meeting

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) runs a Frontiers of Engg (FOE) meeting annually at the Beckman center in Irvine, with 100+ bright engineers from bio to brick+martar, computers and beyond, interacting with each other over 2.5 days. I was in this main meeting in 2002 (found it intellectually very exciting), and also the US/German version a few years later.

They have a US version of the FOE. It was recently held in Mountain View, CA, at the Google headquarters. At NAE, Janet Hunziker has been quarterbacking these meetings for a long time, and at Google, Lisa McCracken who handles so many of our CS conferences so effectively, stepped up, and together they seemed to have pulled off an awesome meeting. When NAE discussed 2011 version four years ago, I connected them with Google, so I scored a ticket to the reception dinner and got to meet the participants (Michael Cafarella, Evgeniy Gabrilovich and Lisa Zhang from our communities were invited to the meeting, among others).

Alfred Spector was the dinner speaker. He started with the observation that in early days of CS, it was 50% math, logical proofs and analytics (think Knuth, Dijkstra), now it is large % empirical, more like natural sciences, because we use and enable an external world. A good example is spelling correction, which morphed from (dictionaries, cognitive sciences, algorithms) -> (large data, parallelism) in an experiment with the world. He switched to discussing set of n grams from books in the history, study of regular vs irregular words, changes in uses of words, and eventually to laying out the agenda of "Digital Humanties" that CS researchers are carving. He went on to discuss various challenges like security, healthcare, education (individualize education?), etc. Questions from the audience: state of electrical power measurement by Google; why doesnt Google keep up healthcare software for people who continue to want it even though it is discontinued; personalization in larger, search context? comment; future of smartphone?; you provide sketch, language, picture, video tools. When will 3D and shapes be more prevalent? A: Chrome supports 3D. Alfred, already a NAW Fellow, is a virtuoso, his talk and answers were well calibrated, he timed it to catch his flight straight after the talk.

Quote from Thomas Edison on the dinner menu: "Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits." So I hustled after the dinner.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

martar => mortar

10:57 AM  

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