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Welcome and Opening Remarks, History

04/11/2011 9:00 AM
David A. Mindell, PhD '96, Frances and David Dibner Associate Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing; ; Dr. Susan Hockfield, President, MIT; Victor Zue, ScD '76, Delta Electronics Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Director, CSAIL; F. Thomson Leighton, Ph.D. '81, Co"Founder and Chief Scientist, Akamai; Professor of Applied Mathematics, MIT; Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington; Patrick Henry Winston, '65 SM'76, PhD '70, Ford Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science; ; Randall Davis, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering,

Description: It's Day 95 in MIT's 150 days of sesquicentennial celebration, and all thoughts turn to the evolution of computer science and MIT's pivotal role in that history. As Victor Zue puts it so succinctly, "Computers sure have changed." They are even invading biology, and President Hockfield (who is also a Professor of Neuroscience) sees this history as another branch in the tradition, initiated by William Barton Rogers, of education bringing the "useful arts" (or as we now say, technology) to bear on the economic development of the United States.

Tom Leighton asserts that "To say computers are transforming everything is an understatement." Leighton offers a brief lesson in theoretical computer science, defining an algorithm through the example of searching for the prime factors of a given number N, and identifying the key follow"up questions: Can you prove it works? How long does it take? How good is it? Then the big question: Does theoretical computer science matter? Leighton cites some powerful examples of the field's impact on our lives, from encryption to Google's page"rank algorithm to the content delivery system of Akamai Technologies (which he co"founded in 1998).

Ed Lazowska asks a very different question: What four important events happened in 1969? If you guess the landing on the moon, the Woodstock festival, or the Mets winning the World Series, you're right but no cigar: the most important event was the first data transmission over the ARPANet, forerunner of the Internet. Since then, relentless innovation has produced computer systems that make possible digital media, mobility, search _ and set the stage for the next generation of smarts, i.e., computers embodied in our homes, cars, healthcare, and in a sense, ourselves, via crowd"sourcing. In all this, even when viewed from the "left coast," MIT's role continues to be central.

But the rock star of this symposium is actually IBM's Jeopardy"winning Watson, whose glowing blue countenance beams in all three talks. Patrick Winston takes off from Watson to look for the beginning of artificial intelligence, and after a few hops backward through the late 20th century, arrives at Aristotle and then Neanderthals and the paintings at Lascaux. The modern progenitors of artificial intelligence, whom Winston honors one"by"one in a digital photo gallery, include Marvin Minsky (for focusing on human cognition), Roger Schank (storytelling), and David Marr (layers of explanation).

Where is artificial intelligence headed? Winston is working on a "trinity of strong hypotheses" _ about story, perception, and social interaction _ and he promises to report on the success of this way forward at the MIT bicentennial celebration.

About the Speaker(s): Victor Zue is the first holder of the Delta Electronics Chair endowed for senior researchers. His main research interest is in the development of spoken language interfaces to make human/computer interactions easier and more natural, and he has taught many courses and lectured extensively on this subject. Prior to 2001, he headed the Spoken Language Systems Group, which has pioneered the development of many systems that enable a user to interact with computers using multiple spoken languages (English, Japanese, Mandarin, and Spanish).

Outside of MIT, Zue has consulted for many multinational corporations, and he has served on many planning, advisory, and review committees for the US Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the National Academy of Science and Engineering. In 1990, he became a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America. In 1999, he received the DARPA Sustained Excellence Award. In 2002, he received the Speech Technology Magazine's inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, he was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering.

Host(s): Office of the President, MIT150 Inventional Wisdom

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