Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit (banazir) wrote,
Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit

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Talk and Q&A by Vinton Cerf

Today, Dr. Vinton Cerf, the 2004 ACM Turing Award recipient, and Chief Internet Evangelist of Google, came and gave a very interesting talk about the future of the Internet. Later in the afternoon, he hosted an informal question and answer session which turned into a second talk.

The morning talk, in our Provost's lecture series, was webcast live from Fiedler Auditorium, and while it was full of interesting anecdotes about the exponential growth of Internet demand and infrastructure to date, the more interesting highlights in my opinion were Dr. Cerf's discussion of his pet projects, global warming and InterPlaNet, and his responses to questions.

weninger asked Cerf whether he viewed the Internet as a socially isolating mechanism, and Cerf replied that while there were risks of antisocial uses of the net, there were also social opportunities, from social networks and communities to interactive media and communications. I followed up and asked him about the facilitative role of the net in collaborative work and play, and he continued to describe a vision of creative uses of internet technology.

Before I went to the talk, I told taiji_jian and a few others about the webcast, and during the talk, I continued to use MSN Messenger to IM people from Angrist (my Audiovox PPC6700 PDA phone) and I hope a few of you were able to catch it. ETA, 05:45 CST 17 Nov 2006: If not, you can watch the recorded lecture using RealPlayer. Our Office of Mediated Education prepared this and also broadcasted the lecture on KST8 (our campus station, which gets air time via our local PBS affiliate).

Cerf's afternoon talk was fascinating in its own right, but more so because he was able to take a series of questions that Travis Bradshaw asked about privacy and the computerized economy and turn it into an insightful hour-long exposition about risks and opportunities. Seeing as the pioneer of microloans just won the Nobel Prize in Economics, I asked Cerf what he thought of the overhead of digital signature-based authentication relative to small electronic transactions (e.g., micropayments). He replied that currencies sometimes arise that are built around existing infrastructures for demonstrating the ability to pay - for example, did you know that in many developing countries, there are quasi-barter economies based on exchange of cell phone minutes?

Dr. Cerf is the fourth Turing awardee whom I have heard speak, after Juris Hartmanis (1993), who came to Illinois several times to speak (I heard him in 1997, when he was NSF's director of CISE), Butler Lampson (1992), whom I heard at a Gillies lecture at Illinois in 1994, and Richard Karp (1985), whom I heard as an undergrad at Hopkins in 1992. Cerf's talk was by far the least technical, but it was quite a bit more engaging and interesting for the general audience.

Tags: computer science, history, internet, talks, turing award, vint cerf

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