Celebrating The Influence of Computation

150 years ago, work was underway on sending the first transatlantic telegraph cable, a breakthrough in global communications that decreased message delivery times from weeks to mere minutes. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a professor at MIT and a principal investigator at CSAIL, provided this perspective on how rapidly technology has transformed daily life during Computation and the Transformation of Practically Everything, a symposium held as part of MIT’s 150th anniversary celebrations. The symposium offered a look into the past and a glimpse into the future of the impact of computation on everything from business to finance, communication, entertainment, medicine and much, much more.

Speakers hailing from a wide variety of fields treated symposium attendees to insights on how computation has altered our world today and how it will continue to do so going forward. CSAIL Professors and Principal Investigators offered a look at the cutting edge new ways that computation is being used to study the human brain, perfect photography, speed and improve the transfer of mobile data, decipher ancient languages and increase robotic intelligence. Professor John Hennessy, president of Stanford University, discussed the future of computing, and the need to create more energy efficient software and hardware.

On the artificial intelligence side, Professor Patrick Winston stressed the need to investigate and grasp a better understanding of human intelligence as a means for creating robots that are smarter, have higher functioning capabilities and will be able to assist humans in a wide variety of areas. This sentiment was echoed by Professor Emeritus Rodney Brooks, former director of CSAIL, who expressed his desire to exploit the powers of computation to create robots that can be more useful and function in human-like ways.

Suzanne Berger, a professor of political science at MIT and chair of the Production in the Innovation Economy Project, discussed the ways in which computation has altered our economy, shifting the market from manufacturing to a new era of innovation. Meanwhile, Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of One Laptop per Child, offered a glimpse at the extraordinary impact a computer can have on a child, and the influence the sharing of technology can have on an entire community.

Winners of the prestigious Turing Award, given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of computing, discussed web security, P vs. NP, social networking and offered up advice to current students.

“Ask questions about the hot technology of today, but ask them in a way that will be interesting a couple of decades from now,” said Professor and Turing Award recipient Ronald Rivest.

For more on Computation and the Transformation of Practically Everything, click here.

Abby Abazorius, CSAIL