[ Noise ] >> Good afternoon. [ Applause ] And welcome to our panel discussion on The Future of Computing the Next 50 Years. I am Tom Cormen. I am the chair of the Department of Computer Science here at Dartmouth and also the faculty chair of the steering committee for this whole event and I am just thrilled to be here and I am thrilled that you are all here. What we’re going to do is talk a little bit about the future of computing. And as I was preparing this, I was thinking about what did we expect the future of computing to be. And I thought to my childhood and I thought it was going to be that. And I thought we were going to have robots in our houses cleaning all surfaces. Well, what we got was this.
[ Laughter ] It’s a start. But then again, we really made a lot of progress. Think about where we were in 1964. I found a couple of images of what computing was in 1964. It was that. Or sometimes it was in color. But we really have come a long way and now instead of big rooms, we carry our computers around in briefcases or in pockets. And hearing a phone reminds me of two things. First of all, the discussion may get a little heated and in that case I need to ask you to please identify the nearest fire exit. There is the main exit in the back and two doors on the side. I feel like your flight attendant here. And then the other thing is please silence your devices because 50 years in the future, we’re not going to have cell phones. So let’s– let’s be futuristic now and not use our cell phones. We’ll have something implanted in us or something like that. All right. I’d like to introduce our panelists. First is Michael Jones. He is Google’s chief technology advocate charged with advancing the technology to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Michael travels the globe to meet and speak with governments, businesses, partners and customers to advance Google’s mission and technology. And please welcome Michael. [ Applause ] Next is Brian David Johnson, a futurist at Intel Corporation where his charter is to develop an actionable vision for the future of technology. His work is called future casting using ethnographic field studies, technology research, trend data, and even science fiction to provide Intel with a pragmatic vision of consumers and computing. So let’s welcome, Brian. [ Applause ] And finally, our old friend, old in terms that we’ve known her for a long time.
Daniela Rus used to be a faculty colleague here but in 2004 moved to MIT where she hasn’t done that well. She’s only director of the Computer Science and AI Laboratory at MIT. She’s also the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering of Computer Science at MIT. So let’s welcome Daniela. [ Applause ] So here are– here are our panelists. And what I’ve asked them to do is speak for a few minutes on some questions that I’m going to show you. And then we will open the floor to questions. There are microphones on either side and we ask if you’re going to ask a question, please go to a mic. So here is the– the questions or here are the questions that I ask. Looking at the changes in the last 50 years in computers, computing and the way that we interact with computers, what do you foresee in the next 50 years? In 2064, what will computers be? What new tasks will they have taken on and how will people interact with them? Now, I was trying to figure out what would be the right order for speakers and I realized I’m not capable of making that decision.
So with the help of Professor Scot Drysdale, we wrote a basic program to randomly select in order our speakers. There is the basic program. And let’s run it. OK. So, Brian will speak first, then Michael and then Daniela. OK, Brian? >> Thank you very much and thank you for having me. Computers, I guess, seem to like me. So, as you’re saying, my name’s Brian David Johnson. I want to tell a little bit. And so my job at Intel is to look 10 to 15 years out and model how people will act and interact with computers.
Essentially, I model what it will feel like to be a human and live in the future. So that when I was asked to come and do this, it was– it was interesting to me because it was a bit of a stretch. So I looked 10 to 15 years out and so looking out, you know, this far was a bit interesting for me. But really, I’m a principal engineer at the company. It’s my day job to write a spec. I write a spec that says these are the capabilities of the platform and then I work with my colleagues to do that. I also wanted to introduce myself. This is a picture of me at age 13. This is actually 3 years after I started programming in BASIC.
I was actually teaching hand programming at a local university. You can pretty much tell everything you need to know about me by looking at this picture. I’m going to have you look right here. This ladies and gentlemen is a calculator watch, thus proving that I’m a nerd. I’m a huge nerd. I love everything science and everything science fiction and those things come together in my world. In what I do, I’m constantly trying to break my model, trying to think if we think this is what it’s going to be like to act and interact 10, 15, 20 years from now, how do we break that? And so, this fact is something that completely changed my vision for the future of computing.
And this is kind of the basis for the little kind of vision that I wanted to give you today. What this essentially says is that as we approach and pass the year 2020, as we move into this time span, the size of meaningful computational power, right? The size of the chips that go into all of our devices, they begin to approach zero.
So right now, we’re at about 12 nanometers. And as we approach the year 2020, we get to about 5 nanometers. And 5 nanometers is about 12 atoms across. And what that means is that we can turn anything into a computer. We could turn this electron into a computer. We could turn my jacket into a computer. We can even turn my body into a computer. So as we look out even further, it fundamentally changes the questions we need to ask ourselves about the technology and the devices and even the businesses that we are building. Because for decades and even meeting up from the past 50 years of BASIC, we’ve had to ask ourselves, can we do something? Can we take a desktop and make it small enough to fit into somebody’s lap? Can we take a laptop and make it small enough to fit into somebody’s pocket or their pocket both with a tablet or smartphone. But when you can turn anything into a computer, the question no longer is can we do it, but what? What do we want to do? And probably more importantly, why? Why do we want to do it? And it’s a great challenge when it comes to the future of computing because for decades, we had been bounded.
And what I see coming is that we will be living in a time where science and technology, where our engineering and our computers have gotten to the point where our only limiting factor is our imagination. That the thing that is holding us back is our inability to imagine a far more awesome future that we could then go and build. And so I think it’s a challenge and it’s actually one of the challenges that’s being met here at the school is to challenge lots of different disciplines to get together and imagine a radically different future for computing.
Also, the reason why I like to show this, because also we are talking about the last 50 years of BASIC. I love this graphic. Can everybody see the woman in 1960? She’s the one with the bouffant hairdo. Some of you, I know, remember that. See the guy in 1970s? He’s got a bell-bottom pants on. Can you see the person in 2010? Can anybody figure out who that’s supposed to be? He actually raised his hand.
You are so polite. What was your– >> Steve Jobs. >> Steve Jobs. So that’s proving that this young man right here is smarter than I am. Because I have this– I have this graphic up for like about a month and I was presenting about it and I figured it out when I was on stage in front of about a thousand futurists. And I was like, “Huh, look, that’s Steve Jobs.” So I called the graphics team and I was like, “Did you know that that’s Steve Jobs in my graphic?” And they were like, “Yeah.
It took you like months to figure it out.” And then they did the thing that they love to do. They went, “Futurist,” and they hung up. [ Laughter ] Now this is– That’s it for my slides. I have my– My next slide really is sort of a way to orient your thinking as we– as we sort of look a little bit further out.
And one of the things that as we pass this, as we pass sort of the computation that we all know and love, that one of the things that I’ve been seeing when it comes to computing is the intersection between digital, biological, and inorganic chemical computing. All right, that time where we begin to see the coming together as we look to the next 50 years where you actually begin to see this intersection, where even what we understand as computational power begins to change, that we start having things like self-replicating computational systems, that we have the ability to control and program down to the nano, even the molecular scale.
And this might sound a little bit like science fiction but I’ll give you a very, very specific example what happened just last year. And I’m sure some of you heard about it where there was a group of researchers who took all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, took half of Martin Luther King Junior’s “I Have a Dream” speech. They took the bits, they took the ones in zeros and they encoded them into a piece of DNA. And then they took that DNA and they put it into a bacteria and then they let that bacteria live. They fed it some sugar and the bacteria did what bacteria do which is just reproduces. And then they went and got one of the ones that have reproduced, they took the DNA out of it, they re-encoded it back into binary. It was 100 percent accurate. Oh. Right? Number one, awesome. But number two, that bacteria became a hard drive and that bacteria became a hard drive that you didn’t have the power. You just had to give it a little sugar. And for me that is– that’s just the beginning, that it radically force, it forces us to radically reimagine what the future of computing could be like.
And so, let me– as I start to wrap up, let me ask you a question here. So, who in here is a student? Raise your hand and keep your hand up. Who in here is a teacher? Keep your– oh, everybody keep your hands up. Who has children? Who lives in a town where there’s a college? Who is sitting next to somebody with their hand up? OK, put your hands down. For those of you who had your hands up, this is a message for you. So, as we start to push ourselves and to think what do we do with all this computing, what are we going to do and why are we going to do it? How can we radically reimagine how we think of computational systems? We don’t even have a language.
Just as in the very beginning as we’ve been talking about BASIC, we didn’t even have a language to take care and capitalize on this amazing power of computing. That is we make a leap forward. We actually have to go and fuel our imaginations. We have to do our math. Don’t get that– don’t get me wrong. We still have to do that. We have to fuel our imaginations. And so, what I would put to you as you begin to ask yourselves what will we do and why, that the why really should be how do we take all of this computing and use it to make people’s lives better? How do we use it to make people healthier and happier and more productive and more entertained? Because if we can do that, then we’ve set the bar correctly.
And because you were here and because you all had your hand up, all of you, I saw you, you were implicated in this, because we all build the future and you care, that’s why you came to this. And so now, it is your mission to go out there and start asking what are you going to do and why are you going to do it, and how are you going to optimize and how will you make people’s lives better. And then the final thing I want to leave you with as we think about the future of computing is don’t forget about the stupid ideas.
Don’t forget about the crazy ideas. I seek out crazy ideas. You want to find the ideas that are so ludicrous that everybody thinks you are an idiot for working on it. Because from those ideas, comes genius. That every idea was an idiot idea until all of a sudden somebody realized it was a genius idea and it changed the world. Thank you very much. [ Applause ] >> Well, that was inspiring from stage, hopefully from the audience as well. I’m going to take a– I won’t say contrarian view, but a different way of thinking about the same issues. Basically, where do we look for the future? And I’m going to start by showing you three pictures. You may recognize some of those people. One of them might even be in this room. Hopefully the other ones aren’t in the room. But I’m going to show you– I’m going to explain to you why I see the future when I see these people and it’s important. So, those of you that are familiar with classical music will recognize Ziggy Marley and you know a song called “Tomorrow People” where he said if you don’t know– you know, you don’t know your past, you don’t know your future.
And if you’ve studied– if you came to liberal arts college, you could have gone to like a nerdy college or a diesel repair college, but you went to a liberal arts college. You should know that one of the fundamental things about religious traditions all around the world is the encoding of the good lessons of the past and the bad lessons of the past as wisdom for the future. That’s one of the fundamental activities. So, that’s worked out pretty well. So, it also applies to technology. So, we always look at the past and I want to get just to set your brain right.
So, that’s a– on the left that’s an airplane and on the right it’s a car, right? Those were both introduced in 1960, the year I was born and we can come basically 50 years forward and we can see a modern car called the MINI and we can see a modern airplane from Cessna. And what you can see is that there’s a– you know, they look not dissimilar, right? They operate in a way that’s not dissimilar. And one of them isn’t like hydrogen powered or nuclear fueled or some crazy, you know, bewitched kind of idea of the future. It’s– ’cause they serve the same purpose. They take people who are about the same shape to the same kind of places like grocery stores and so– or wherever. So it’s just they’ve evolved. There’s actually no part common between the old one and the new one. No, not a single part. And I remember the same people, they’re entirely different. But if you were from outer space, you came back to the wrong 50-year interval, you wouldn’t immediately know which one was the old and new one. And that– so there’s a part of the future, we think about the future, we tend to think everything is different.
And what I [inaudible] sometimes is not everything is the same, I don’t mean that, but what really could be different. Like if all the food was made of concrete, that wouldn’t make sense, right, because you couldn’t eat it ’cause you’d all think your grandparents would have died. You know, and see, it wouldn’t work. So, it’s always about people. So, we’re talking about people, that’s our real past. So, another way to think of it is what can change in 50 years or maybe even in a hundred years.
OK, in a hundred years, the largest country in terms of population and area on the planet has gone from basically an imperial dictatorship that had lasted almost 1200 years to a modern, you know, kind of free enterprise fuel country, free, of course I mean the lowercase free, but still free enterprise fuel country that hosts the Olympics. You know, basically if they didn’t make all the clothes they make, you would all be naked. You know, and being here, you literally, you know, freeze your butt off on the way home. And so, that’s a hundred years can do that. A hundred years can take a billion people and completely rewrite their everyday behavior, even though 50 years isn’t enough to make an airplane look any different. Right? There’s a duality there. It’s confusing. It’s all different, it’s all the same.
So, think about that. I mean, I don’t answer it. I’m just making the question with a question. So, this– this man, his name is Thomas Edison. I don’t want you to read that. Don’t read that. But what he said was the most necessary task of civilization is to teach people how to think, all right? That’s just number one thing. And there’s a whole litany of brilliant people who said, all right, if you can [inaudible] people think, the world will be fantastic.
We’ll all be superhuman. So, you know, I’m not going to attack anybody’s university. I’ll just say that brilliant people still want people to learn how to think, you know. And the success of TV wrestling suggest that that hasn’t totally been– you know, I mean, it’s not totally accomplished. There’s still room for you to add your own part to it. So, I want to talk about education here for a moment because I chose three areas where I think the future will be unrecognizably different in 50 years, education is one. OK, so the man in the middle, Alfred North Whitehead is a hero of mine. He wrote a book called “The Aims of Education”. I suggest you should read it. And seriously, it’s my favorite book on education in the whole world, and I’ve heard a lot of them. Now, he said something, it’s really very simple and I’m not going to make you read it but I will tell you this, his model of how humans learn is from constructive play. So, the Froebel Gifts would be an example. You play with blocks and you’re, you know, a baby, you stack them there and they fall over and you laugh.
They sit there and everything is funny because it’s all new. And after a while you sort of notice that if you put the heavy one on the little one, it falls over. Put the little one on the heavy one, it stays there. And you can slowly build some sense of things like, you know, gravity and friction and planar surfaces have more of it than the big thing on the wall that always falls over. So you build a kind of a basic perception. You don’t know what it means. You’re not a physicist, but you can tell that if you put the big thing on the little thing, it’s going to fall over.
You know, that it’s– there’s a certain understanding you develop and then you can– it becomes more precise over time where you can anticipate future events. Now, he thought that’s how people learn therefore, that’s how I should teach them. Now, if you were here– there this morning at the movie, that’s what the fundamental magic of BASIC was. Is that it made people be able to play with the computer in a way they let them learn on their own schedule with no punishment for something that didn’t go right.
It wasn’t burdensome to make a mistake. You just change the line and write again until you get it right. That, that cycle is what made– I would argue, is what makes BASIC successful. And that’s something that people learn. And I want you to test yourself. So you’re students, you’re smart, you’re professor so you’re like more knowledgeable than most everybody else in New Hampshire, say. So– [ Laughter ] What is your strongest memory of the third grade class you had? Like a theorem or exact learning. Does anybody have any memory of third grade? I mean of specific that you learned? OK. So, fourth grade? OK. And so it’s like five people. They have this eidetic memory. So, I’m going to test you. You ready for this? OK ready? Remember that? Remember songs like “Conjunction Junction” or the “King of Apes” or games like one of these things not like the other? Remember that? Raise your hand if you know that? OK, let’s say basically everybody, OK.
So like nobody remembers third grade ’cause it was boring and stupid. Everybody remembers Sesame Street ’cause it was fun, all right? So like, who is your real teacher? And I mean I’m serious. It’s important. People love BASIC, they loved it. Nobody said, “It was elegant.” They basically said it worked and it was fun, it was liberating. OK. So, what does [inaudible] think about that? Let me tell you what– what he has said. He said look, the justification of a university is that it makes old people, like people that know something, and young people, vigorous young teenagers that want to learn things, put them together, they’re going to part that with zest and the bottom– and so that’s– that’s otherwise you get to read a book.
So learning is about people talking to people, not just about the knowledge, the kind of playful part. Second, it imparts it imaginatively, and what that means is you learn something and you can play with it. Like you get the Legos, you get a new shape, you’re sticking all the old shapes. You know, you just don’t look at it and say, “Oh, what a fine Lego,” you know you actually– you know, you do things with it. So this kind of thing end up– the key thing is at the bottom. He said, look, if education was like it should be, this is so fantastic ’cause it’s never been this way in history of man. If education was right, a fact would no longer be a bare fact, it would be invested with all its possibilities. Now you see BASIC and you imagine all the programs you could write, OK. ‘Cause that hey, you know, it would be energizing as the poet of our dreams. So how many of your classes here at Dartmouth are energizing as the port of your dreams? You know, see what I’m saying. You know that’s– that’s what it could be. Why isn’t it that? I don’t know.
But that means there’s something that could be better. And what it could be– I’m going to skip this ’cause I don’t– I’m going slow here and I just don’t think I have time to tell you. This is so fantastic. Well, I don’t have time for it. This is the Khan Academy. This is a new university or college in the New Hampshire when you think of things. That has taught more students than Harvard. OK. It hasn’t taught them better. It’s not a replacement but it’s different. Now, if you go online, you know, for pictures, you’ll find pictures of kids holding up signs that says “I love Khan Academy.” You see a lot of “I love Dartmouth” people outside? You know what I’m saying? I’m not– it’s just, there’s something magical about education. When people teach you something, you’re so grateful. When it’s fun, you’re so thankful.
When people aren’t always grateful and thankful, there’s something wrong in how it’s done. So the number one thing is in the future, education might be more like Einstein said it should be. That it’s as though you’re being given a valuable gift, not you doing a hard duty, right? I mean [inaudible] absolutely had that in his heart. It’s fantastic to know, it’s fantastic to share and you’re going to be all excited and aglow when I tell you that we’re all going to love how wonderful, quantum mechanics is or how wonderful the mean value theorem is. Or whatever it is, it’s wonderful to know these things. So that’s– that’s our future. I believe that in this future time, basically colleges will not exist in the form they exist in today. I do think professors will exist, I don’t know where that [inaudible], but I don’t think they’ll be doing the same thing. I don’t have time to go into that but that’s thing number one. Education, you won’t even– it don’t exist like you think of it now. The other sort of, I would say dinosaur– but the other thing that’s different then than now is this, this is a traffic accident in 1870s.
This is a– not like a flat tire, it’s more like a broken engine, OK? But at that time, people are riding in cabs pulled by horses. And there were people who just brush the horse after the end of the day, or after the shift, and there are people that sat on top and did the thing with the whips and all. Those jobs no longer exist. All right. There’s very few groomsmen, you know, at the taxi company, right? So, 50 years from now, 25 years from now, there might not be drivers in cars, right. We have cars to go all over, all over the place. Officially, they got all the states that allow driverless cars. They might even go other places. But, you know, if cars could drive themselves, if they never can have an accident, if they refuse to come together, then maybe there wouldn’t be as many taxi drivers. I mean it’s OK if they all lay on the beach in Aruba or if they all have become astronauts. It’s not that they don’t have a job. They don’t have that job, why would they do that? So, half of the jobs that exist today will not be jobs in 50 years.
If you look back 50 years, half of the jobs we had then don’t exist anymore. Well, that’s a big deal. Those of you that plan to live 50 years more, half of you probably would choose the wrong career, it won’t happen. You’ll go away before you get to the end. Think about that, OK. You get in the tax business, you’ll be fine. So then, a third thing is this picture, this picture in the lower right is considered the largest most destitute slum in the world. There’s a guy there with a, you know, mobile phone, right? So, all these people, they’re watching the Super Bowl in the upper left and they’re increasingly all showing to their friends and texting about it. So, it seems like mobile phones are in, right? There’s a billion and a half computers, maybe two billion computers, there’s four billion mobile phones. So, the line cross the world back. You know, the people that don’t have the internet and computer connection today aren’t going to have a computer, they’re going to have a phone. That’s what it’s going to be.
So, whatever you can do on the phone, they can do. Whatever you can’t, they can. That’s the way it is. There’s more than that don’t have internet can have it. So, that’s like pretty interesting thing. So, you know, when you think about what the future looks like, this is my friend Vernor Vinge, he wrote a book called “Rainbows End”. I don’t know if you read that book, but I’m the one that got him at dinner and put that part of a Google book search in it. But in that book, everybody’s wearing these little contact lenses that are kind of like looking through a heads up display on life. You know, sort of like Google glass but the future version I see built in your eye or a little contact lens.
So, what would that look like? Here’s what I believe. I believe that right now about 22 percent of humans have access to internet. Seventy-eight percent don’t have access to internet. Whatever you like about the internet, whether it’s Facebook, whether it’s playing poker, where it’s watching children’s G rated movies or something else. Whatever it is, you know, most humans have never even heard of that. And if they had heard of it, they’d wonder, well, why didn’t you bring it to me ’cause I would have liked it too.
OK. Four out of five. So if there was only one-fifth of us had polio vaccine, it would have been a pretty big condemnation of us, right? So think about that. So, what I believe is that 50 years from now, 100 percent access, 100 percent wearable. Now, whether that’s goggles or whether that’s built into your shoe, whether that’s built into your cheek, that’s, you know, we’ll see how that goes, that’s interesting. But, you’ll always be connected. Something interesting about being connected that is subtle, I’ll just bring this up real quickly, I’m not done. When you’re always connected, then you can do things, there’s a job partitioning task.
Earlier, we heard about how the basic system DTS has had one computer for talking to terminals and one computer for being basic. Well, you could think of the terminal like the teletype or the terminal control computer as like your mobile phone. But if– without the thing at the backend, it’s irrelevant. OK, it was just irrelevant. They’re like, like how many people use a phone, smartphone and really like it and there’s nothing at the other end. Maybe for Angry Birds that’s good enough. For Google Maps it’s not enough, for texting, certainly not enough. For Facebook, it’s not enough. Right? You’re not really using the phone as a phone, you’re actually using the phone as a computer. You’re actually using the phone as the front end of something that you’re absolutely betting goes immediately to somebody else across the network and they have one too and you’re both symmetric.
The idea is like the telephone system. If you had a phone but nobody else did, who would want that? Right? It’s end to end. But what that means is if everybody is connected, you can count on doing computing in the middle, so cloud computing, delivered to you. So I just– it’s a data point. When you do– and if you’re in a computer science class, you might study parallel programming, multiprocessing, correct distributed systems and you thing, well, if we had eight computers for this problem, that’d be great.
Thirty-two computers, that’d be great. OK. When you do a Google search, you’re using 50,000 computers of parallel to do that search for you. We have the entire index of the internet online and in RAM. When you do a search, it goes to all of the computers in a data center. They all search their part of the internet. They weave all the results together and give it back to you then they go to the next person. OK. So you’re doing a 50,000 way parallel computing job. Now thanks to Intel. And the thing is like even if a phone– even if the computers were tiny, probably you would have 50,000 of them and extra bytes of RAM in your shoe, maybe but maybe not, ’cause the update would be terrible.
Plug in your shoe to get another extra byte. I mean, it’s just– it’s not clear, you know, so how do you have– you’re here with a terminal. You know your phone is like your ASR-33, your teletype. The thing that you never see is this magic giant computer system that is like it’s big as Dartmouth, and everybody gets to use it. That’s really important. That’s the important part of this tethered ubiquitous networking world. And now, I promised I would end. One more modest suggestion for you, and that is to change the Dartmouth logo. That’s how it is now. And my proposal is basically that you take that book and you just kind of put in a title page on the book. See. Because what that voice was, was saying, learn about computation. It’s the power tool for the mind. It gives you strength to solve the future’s problems. And you just put that right– just put BASIC right there on the top under the A and then I won’t charge for that and that’s my advice to you.
Thank you very much. [ Applause ] >> Well, that was really great. I would like to build on what Michael and Brian said. So Tom introduced me as the director of CSAIL but that doesn’t cover the other half of my life which is to make robots. So that’s what I do. I make robots. And I am an extreme optimist in terms of the role of computing and the role of technology. I really believe that computing is critical to all the important destinations of the human species from going to the stars to scientific discovery and enhancing human life.
And with the digitization of practically everything, we have a really opportune time to think about how to enhance computing the tool and how to make computing the tool have a bigger more importance, make them bigger or more important difference in all the important problems that we face as a people, as a society. And I really believe, that’s building on Brian showed you with computing getting gradually smaller. I really believe that we have an opportunity to blur the difference between what can be in the virtual world and what can be in the physical world. In other words, I think all of us geeks are very inspired to remove as much fiction from science fiction as possible. And so, with my robotics passion, I have to say that I really believe that in the future, robots will be as common as smartphones and cars.
Today, we see a robot and that’s an amazing object. But in the future, we will have robots all around us. So one question is how do we get there? Because right now making robots is really, really hard. And the state of making machines that can be programmed is like the state of programming before the invention of the compiler. In other words, it takes many years to build any kind of functional device and it’s mostly the inventors of the device that have the ability to use it. So is this– if machines are going to be everywhere, how would that be? How would that work out? So, here’s my view for how this is going to be. I really believe that we will create the hardware compiler that will democratize access to machines for all of us. And so, for example, our user Alice who goes to work every day has a pet, a cat and the cat is bored at home for eight hours every day or more. So what if Alice could go to a robo [inaudible] kind of place, which I will call 24 hour robot manufacturing, where equipped with some intuitive interface she could specify, “I want a robot to play with my cat while I’m at work.” And so, with this interface and a little bit of support just like you get at [inaudible] today.
The store figures out the design, creates the device and creates a programming language that is specific to the device, so that Alice could go off and program her device and the cat has a playmate. So Alice can do the same with any other task in the house, whether it’s tidying up the floor space or cooking or cutting the lawn or retrieving the wedding ring from a vent. So, how do we get there? Well, what if we can imagine creating the hardware compiler where you specify I want the robot to play chess with me and you type make. And within a few automated space– steps, the device is printed for you, equipped with a programming language for you to use it. So that is the dream. That means that– so if we succeed in making the creation of machines as easy and inexpensive as printing on paper today, we will be able to imagine a world where we can have one robot for every task and where people can actually interact with the robots and use the robots.
So today, everyone can drive a car without really understanding what the engine is. In the future, we’d like for everyone to be able to drive a robot and program a robot. And that takes us to education. So I would like to add to what Michael said about education. And I have to say I was very moved by the movie I saw earlier. There was a lot of historical detail I was not aware of. But the vision that everyone in a community can learn to program and can learn to use a computer is tremendous. And I really believe that computing, learning how to program teaches you how to think. And that is very important. All right. So, 50 years ago, everyone at Dartmouth programmed the computer. Today, in Massachusetts, 750 kids took the AP exam in programming.
I’d say we went quite the ways backwards. And so, what I would like for the future to be is the following. I would really like for the future to observe that in the 21st century, programming, the knowledge of working deeply with a computer and not just surfing the web is as critical to our lives as reading, writing and arithmetic. So I would like to posit that computing is part of our literacy in the future. And I would like to hope that everyone who wants to be literate will know how to program. It’s not enough just to play with the web and to play games on the computer.
It’s really important to learn how to use the computer in the most profound way computationally through programming because that will teach us not just how to solve new problems but also how to think. So, all right. So my final bit is– so, I was going to tell you three things. My final bit is about– is also about programming and my big dream for programming, my second big– so my first big dream for programming is that everyone does it and it’s part of our schools and we just know that if we want to be literate, we know how to program. But I really see programming gradually coming out of the box. And so in fact, I would like to posit to Brian that he’s missing two boxes in his chart. All right. So you’re stopping at ubiquity where you have computers connected with every other computer everywhere in the world. But computing is getting increasingly more physical. We are proceeding to increasingly more physical instantiations of computing and that means that we are adding sensors in our computers and we are giving our computers the ability to affect the world beyond just computing in bits and bytes in a box.
So if you take on a brain, a computer that can– computes with bits and bytes, you add to it sensors and you add to it the means of impacting the world, you actually have a robot. So the next box in your progression has robots in it and in fact that connects to the idea of one robot for every task that can be synthesized extremely fast and extremely inexpensively. But then there’s a box beyond that. And the box beyond that is also related to what you said, Brian, where we can turn all the objects around us into computers but we can do– but what if we can do more? What if beyond computing in bits and bytes we can start thinking about the physical properties of the objects that we interact with and we can begin to program their properties. So what if we can program say the optical properties of the objects around us? I would love to be invisible. So, I would love the invisible cloak once in a while.
And then, I can also have– I can also be really visible when I want to make a point and I need to break into a conversation. What if we can program elasticity? What if we can program acoustic properties? There is such a– what if we can program shape? So there’s such a huge list of potential problems and opportunities if we can imagine taking computing outside of the box and putting it in the physical world. So, with this, I would like to stop. And so, I guess these are not predictions but these are just wishes. So, I’m not so good at predicting the future, but these are ideas that I would like to see implemented and carried in the future.
Thank you. [ Applause ] >> OK. At this point, we invite your questions. So if you do have a question there are microphones on either side. And we’d be happy to take questions. [ Pause ] Dan? >> I’ll just stand over here. So I’m– I like to juxtapose this moment of history as part of the moment that surrounded the discovery of the ability to split the app. And there was a significant ethical conversation with respect to the [inaudible] progress of that technology. And so, in the natural world [inaudible] we’re all tethered, we’re online and 27 by 7. There are big ethical questions. There are big moral and societal questions.
This is a big question. But I’m curious to hear what our panelists think about that dimension in the conversation. >> So, I can start. I guess even today we’re in a world where with so many sensors we have just about anything– so it’s just about anything that can be learned about us is being learned about us. So, how can we retain privacy? This is part of your question, Dan, right? >> Yeah. I mean certainly a part and the tendency of course, the place that just the [inaudible] had a very strong social vision about the extension of computing to everyone because he was trying to get– so the idea of BASIC being over large institutions that students were “being raised” in a very broad pedagogical environment. So there is– you would imagine them being well versed in history, in philosophy, OK, so that the integration of computing with their greater humanities and social education will then presumably produce [inaudible] who were broad– who were thinking broadly not just about creating shiny new things, but the implication for shiny new things with respect to the way we interact with each other and the way I guess the world moves forward.
So the privacy is certainly a significant part of it, but there are many other dimensions of [inaudible]. >> All right. So, maybe I can start talking about privacy and then we can go to other broader ethical issues. So here’s my point about privacy. I think that the data that we have available to us today has the potential to improve our lives in huge ways. But the privacy issue is very, very important. And in fact, we have seen with the NSA scandal and lots of other recent press that this is a serious question. So, I feel like computer science got us in this mess. And I also feel that computer science can get us out of this mess.
And in fact, there are– we have the hope of practical solutions to the privacy problem. We have mathematical models that show us how we can compute on encrypted data. So we if can– without decrypting the data, this is through homomorphic encryption. And so, if we can imagine making these techniques practical and if we can imagine putting people in charge of their data in a way that has guarantees, that gives people confidence that whatever is available about them in whatever digital footprint they have, they actually can control who sees it when and how, I think we can– we can counter this problem. And in the process of doing this, I think we can also open the way to huge new applications. For example, we can in– pretty soon, we will be able to sequence ourselves very inexpensively, 100 dollars. So imagine if all of us create a database with sequenced DNA, we can use that to understand disease and to understand treatments in amazing ways. But how to do that without putting people in danger with respect to their– their privacy data with like the respect of their insurance companies.
So, let’s bring this idea of homomorphic encryption into the picture and convince people that this is actually a practical solution. We can create systems that allow people to control how the data interacts with third parties, things like that. And we will have a win-win situation where we can take advantage of technology to solve important problems but not at the risk of individual privacy. >> So, I would like to take that question too ’cause there’s a– there’s another part to it that needs to be talked about. So, a few weeks ago, a sent out mail to all– all the employees of Google and I said, “I’m going to be in Dartmouth talking about we’re celebrating the fiftieth birthday of BASIC.” And if any of you like I had learned computer programming and fell in love with it through BASIC, send me a note and I’ll appreciate it. I’ll relay that or I’ll be informed by that. So, the last couple of days, I’ve been talking to people based on those things.
But I sent mail to Larry Page last night and Eric this morning and they both like wrote right back and said, “Oh, yeah.” Larry said, “Yeah. It was my first programming language. That’s where I learned how to program.” And Eric said, “Oh, absolutely. I learned it in high school and then with the system and I like [inaudible] with the system and then I worked for the high school modifying math.” And so he gives me this long, you know, speech. He’s supposed to be busy like running the world or something but he’s like [inaudible] long speech on how much he loved BASIC, right? So– so I got, you know, that’s pretty typical.
Now the result, I got hundreds of responses I got all across Google. But one that’s really– really especially interesting, it was from one of the engineers. And he said, you know, I took a programming class from Professor Kurtz when I was at Dartmouth. And he actually– he described him as coming to before– this is before he retired and he said he– I won’t go into it but he said he came to class all the time with one shirt tail not tucked in. His hair kind of wild and he had sort of the Einstein look about him.
But he said he taught us about how viruses work and how worms work and how computer security exploits are, you know, known to be done. He wasn’t like teaching them how to do it but he was teaching them how it’s done, what Robert Morris had done. And he said at the end of the class, he said, “Now, I’ve taught you how to be bad. I’ve taught you how it works so you know enough now to do wrong, to do harm, to be bad. But I beg of you as educated people to use your knowledge for good.” And that was the lasting lesson he had of the ethic of Dartmouth which was knowledge and wisdom together, OK, or knowledge and values together. And that’s what he shared with me at Google about what he learned at school here. Now, that’s– that’s always true with knives, guns, you know? I sleep with my wife in bed. We’re laying down to sleep. She’s– I’m stronger than her but when I’m sleep and she’s awake with a big axe or something, she could have the advantage on me and kill me, right? So– so, you know, what I’m saying, if she was a killer, I’d be dead, you know but– And maybe I deserve that, you know? The thing is, you know, we– it’s not that she doesn’t have an axe, it’s that she wouldn’t use it on me.
And that’s– that’s an important thing. You know, you think all these people would– they don’t drive over you is because they don’t have a car. No, it’s because they don’t want to drive over you. They have a car. They just don’t want to drive over you. And so, when we talk about technology used to hurt people and generally, you’re talking about people using technology to hurt people. And so then generally we’re talking about criminal mind or kind of uncaring mind or any case, at least an uneducated mind. And so there’s– there’s an education of the spirit that must happen in step with the development education of the technology. Sometimes, you don’t think you know enough for that. And I’m not dodging your question. For example with nuclear technology, it worked really well. And I should put it that way, it worked really well. At the– at the [inaudible] we put stuff in a big– in here. We put some dynamite in there, we’ll hit the button and it will make a big boom. It worked really well, OK, especially with the Ivy Mike, Castle Bravo things. So, took out islands, you know, vaporized islands.
It would work pretty well. It’d be deterrent to almost any low grade criminal or menacing country, right, it’s worked too well. So, United States and Britain and other society, you know, this is, you know, one person of poor judgment could take out like, you know, New York City or take out Cuba or whatever it is. That’s just too– That’s just too much because there is an idiot [inaudible] somewhere or whoever. So they put it on lock and key. They got these layers of protection, onion type stuff. So basically they– There are some technologies that you– and maybe you can’t put the genie back in the bottle but you can make sure the bottle is like inside a safe. And that’s inside a safe and that’s inside a safe, it’s thrown to the moon or whatever you think you have to do. You don’t even want one mistake to happen.
But other technologies, you can just say, “Look. Don’t open it up ’cause you might get electrocuted.” If you open it up and like touch things, you might get electrocuted. It’s– it’s a Darwinism, you know? I mean it’s OK, so to speak. So there’s a– there’s a realm of dangers and society tends to adjust to those dangers. And so all I would say is that like the NSA thing, the outrage was– I mean, I can’t interpret it to the world but it seems like the danger was greater than people realized. And they’re disappointed they haven’t taken better measures. Or, you know, sort of like, “I didn’t know it’s so dangerous.” I think if we all understood better what everything means, we’d actually be in a better position to make those tradeoffs. So, I think education is crucially important. I think if people understood the harm they can cause by what seems to them like a teenage prank but in fact is, you know, somebody is likely to kill themselves.
There’ve been students who kill themselves because of things that are done abusively. If the people actually knew the guy was going to kill himself, the girl was going to kill herself, they wouldn’t have done that. They weren’t killers, the abusers. They were just immature bullies but they didn’t realize they were playing with death. So there’s an education problem and a responsibility problem that I think is a big part of our job in computer science now not just to teach programming or teach making robots or to explain why it matters your robot doesn’t run over people’s babies. You know, that is– they go together and that education is a permanent burden that we all have, and I think we should take that really seriously. >> May I? >> OK. >> Hi. I’m John Kemeny’s daughter and thank you all for being here.
[Inaudible] stay very much. Sylvia, you said something very near and dear to my heart which was that the value of programming is teaching people to think. And that was an incredible motivating force for my father. Excuse me. And for those of you who were here this morning in the past session, there was an era in which the importance of thinking was seeing across disciplines where social science programs were being written as much as math programs. And I think it was a very powerful time. And I wish very– and I was struck by the fact that you also as I personally do think that we’ve gone backwards in terms of the degree to which programming as a device for clarity of thinking is accessible. I think it’s a language issue. And, yeah, I acknowledge that I’m biased but you could teach a third grader to program and the BASIC manual is so clear that a sixth grader on their own could learn to program and they could learn in a couple of days.
BASIC fell out of favor for a lot of reason. It’s largely because bastardized versions became– became– It was– There were versions that were inelegant and not powerful and were– became a norm and so we went elsewhere. But I don’t believe– Yeah, I was a professional programmer and I tried to learn– I took what online documentation I could find and I tried to teach myself a couple of modern programming languages and I could not do it. Both the design of the language and what comes to documentation is just so completely different. Do you believe that there’s a– so finally I’m going to [inaudible] my question. Do you believe that there’s a language today that would allow this kind of ubiquitous return to programming? >> So, I don’t know that there is one exact, one specific language but I can– but I believe that there are ways of making programming attractive and cool for all– in all levels of school.
I believe that it’s possible to get first graders to be really excited about programming if the problems and the language or the interfacing tools they have are exciting and are written for their level. I don’t believe that you put first graders in front of Java and you– you get them excited. So I think that it’s– it’s totally possible to do this. And I would like to share just a short anecdote. So, I actually have digital literacy and computer literacy program that CSAIL is running and we go to far away places and we try to get people excited about programming. So in particular, a few years ago, we went to a cluster of islands in Fiji where we put one laptop per child, not per child, sorry, per school.
So we gave each school in this cluster of islands one laptop. And you have to understand. So these are places where there’s no electricity, there’s no running water, kids don’t have shoes, there are– there is nothing. They paint coconuts white and that’s their game. They live off the land. And so, there are places like this on our planet. And school is usually not valued by these kids very much.
So after the laptops, I went back the next year and I took a bunch of Bee-Bots. So these are the little robots that look like bees and they have four arrows where you can make a simple program to get the robot to follow a path that you might lay on the floor in tiles. So these kids who were so inattentive in their classes and who disrespected the teachers got their hands on these devices and you couldn’t get them out of the classroom. It was break time, it was lunch time and they were still on top of each other trying to figure out how to get this bee to follow the path. And so, I think in this case, we have actually given them a tool that match their level of interest and that got them excited. And they actually learned a lot about geometry. They learned a lot about systems of coordinates fixed on the body versus fixed on the world. So there were lots of very valuable lessons that they learned.
So I am actually very bullish about the tools. I think we can easily get the tools and put them in schools. I think the big challenge is working with our education boards to get them to accept computer science as a valuable activity in school. Because today, in most states in this country, computer science is treated like shop. So you take programming and you don’t get credits for graduation. And somebody told me yesterday that we are thinking of cancelling the AP exam in computer science and programming because people don’t sign up. So I think this is tragic and somehow we have to figure out a way to rectify the situation. But we have organizations like co.org and we have other– so we have advocacy groups and I’m actually optimistic that we will overcome this local low. >> The other countries are doing that? >> Absolutely, absolutely, lots of other countries are doing mandatory programming and we are falling behind from that point of view. >> Yeah.
I mean it’s a cultural thing. I mean that’s– I don’t know where you went, but you– that– oh, there you are. Hi. So, as a futurist I spend most of my time traveling around talking to people about it and everybody ask me, “How do you prepare for the future?” It’s always these questions, if people were preparing for this like the future is coming at them like a raging rhinoceros and it’s going to take them out, and what do they need to do to prepare. And it doesn’t really work like that but what I tell people is learn to code. >> And coding is– >> No, no don’t. And then I just look at them. No, don’t let– that’s it. No. If you want to know how to prepare for the future, learn to code. If you don’t know how to code, learn. If you have kids, teach them to code.
If you have kids, especially young ladies, teach them to code. >> So there– >> And then– and then, wait. Stop. Stop. [ Laughter ] You got to look at them. See, this is the thing ’cause you– everybody kind of knows it. The longer you look at them like “Oh, OK.” And I’ve actually done this enough that I actually now get emails from people who actually say, “Oh, I actually did. There are places to go and you can go online. You can go to Khan Academy. You can go other places to do.” Because the thing that is amazing about it, and this goes to what you just said and what was amazing about the documentary is that when you learn to code, it’s another language. It’s how we talk to computers and how computers talk to us. There’s going to be more computers in the future. I’m the type of futurist that doesn’t make predictions. I actually go about sort of building these models for the future and then actually go and make them. But I don’t make predictions but what I will tell you is we will have more computers in the future than we have today, so it would be good if you could talk to them.
So learn to code. But also the thing that you learn is you learn two things when you learn to code. Number one, you learn that coding and that algorithms are absolutely gorgeous. They are beautiful. PageRank is beautiful. It also gets our friend here paid. But PageRank is amazing. The other thing that you learn is that computers and algorithms are stupid. They’re really dumb. I mean, the way an algorithm works is you do a step, you do a step, you do a step, you do a step where you understand that.
And it also allows you to value what human beings are really good at. ‘Cause it turns out human beings are really good at some things that their computers aren’t really good. But by learning to code, you actually begin to understand that and you start teasing away, you start teasing out those things. And so I actually– and for me I usually just stop at just learn to code, like period. End. >> OK, my turn. Wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait. So, first there’s a– >> I did give a shot at [inaudible]. >> No, that’s great. It’s great. Intel is a wonderful company as well. >> Oh yeah. >> Yes. So– [ Laughter ] And MIT is a great school.
It’s not like that. I mean it’s available if you want it. It could be that BASIC. You can write a real BASIC, you can true BASIC. You could– it’s like religion, you could have any sect you like and you could give it to a billion people today. The question is whether I want to hear it and what the environment around that is. OK. So everybody can see every movie but they don’t see every movie. They see some movies and not others. So the question is how do you make it fun, exciting, word of mouth, things to do. So at some level, it’s easier than it ever was. Doing things on the web, whether it’s in the cloud on some server built on your browser, whatever, there’s no– there’s nothing. You just click and then you’re there and you do stuff. As an example, not competing with BASIC but I’m on part of a team, or part of an effort to build an open source programming language.
We do it at Google now for three years called Go– for four years. Widely used, most rapidly growing languages. Its designers are pretty confident. They did Unix. They did C. They did a variety of things. And it’s like old guys trying to repair the sins of their youth, OK. That’s a way to think of it. And they’re making simple orthogonals, minimal as possible. Not as minimal as BASIC, not as simple as BASIC but able to run things like Google search at full speed. You know, so it’s sort of a little bit further on the maximum efficiency but still easy to use.
It’s not quite as easy to use but it’s able to do more elaborate things. We have a playground online where you can go there and type in your code in your monitor, it runs. There’s no installing anything. There’s no doing anything. The documentation is very good. There’s all clever things about it. So, people are working on that. And so, I’m not saying that’s the new BASIC. I’m just saying there’s one, we did one. So, you know, you can do one too. You know, that is– it is not like you need to us, we just did something. There’s a handful of people. There are things that aren’t programming languages in the normal sense that are programming languages in the logic and structure sense, this thing called Blockly which is like putting a puzzle together that executes as a computer. It’s popular with preschool kids or early kids. [Inaudible] logo certainly taught about bodies in their coordinates and independent Cartesian coordinates and anything that draws and it moves.
It’s pretty cool with people. There’s a game called Minecraft. Minecraft is arguably the BASIC of today’s children. I’m serious. It’s a programmable thing. It’s visual and fun. It’s actually– but it’s smart too. There are things that aren’t programming that have the essence and aura of programming. You know, programming I think is beautiful. Programming is math. Algorithmic is math. And it’s different than math because math, even though you do it proof step by step, your proof is step by step but the underlying truth you get to the end was true the whole time.
It’s not like coming true as you do the steps to prove it. It was always true. You just have a path through the truth. But programming, iteration and other things cause the truth to only be manifest at the end. So it’s a developing truth and that’s the part that’s missing from math that is present in programming. You can teach that in things that don’t look like computers and don’t look like programming and don’t even have a renumber command. You just give them a Sudoku puzzle and say solve that. You know, if you can get people to think that’s an interesting challenge, then they’re 80 percent of the way to their master’s degree at MIT. You know, I mean it’s– because it’s the same critical thought about dependencies, interrelationships and causal. It’s, you know, maybe 40 percent of the way at Dartmouth but farther, you know, at MIT.
So to me it’s not like it has to be, you know, BASIC to the return, you know, it’s not like that. I mean it could be. That’s great. >> Bigger trailer. >> That’s great. Yeah, with a chainsaw, you know, and can be encouraged with it. The thing is it’s– it could be. That’s fine. It could be a totally different looking and nobody can even tell. So I can tell you there’s another one more thing I would add when you mentioned schools. I mean I hate– I’m going to talk about hating schools for a minute. So, three of my friends and I sat at my dining table, quit our jobs, sat at my dining table, reprogram. And then we email a company and we inquire jobs, we [inaudible] company, we went out and we got funding, we built this thing, we sold it to Google. And that’s now called Google Earth.
So there– more than a billion people use this thing I wrote every single day. Now, I should be happy about that. Actually, almost none of them are in schools because schools thought that it was like a bandwidth hog that all the kids wanted to see the world and learn geography. It’s unbelievable. I’ve been all over the country, they’re like, oh, this is way more network than bandwidth than, you know, Microsoft Word does. I’m saying, “Well, it’s flying over the damn world, you know, like it’s awesome.” Oh, you know, and so if it’s six hours [inaudible] to study geography, they finally love it, and the schools, they put up a barrier against it, OK. So like there’s something in the educator, not the professor part but the dean part that just changes, you know, into Captain Queeg or something. I don’t understand. I don’t understand it. You know, if you love students and learning, why wouldn’t you love all the– somebody’s saying that there’s something that’s not just the return of BASIC in its beauty in modern form but maybe you’re the same form, whatever. There’s also, teachers want it, parents, you know, there’s an aura to it.
At here, your father arrived like some kind of, you know, Christ like figure of brains, the imprimatur of [inaudible] Einstein and said it will be this way and everybody bowed to that. And then they found out how great it was. It was like green eggs and ham where it’s like God making you eat the green eggs and ham at the beginning. It’s like a one page book. You eat it, so it’s good. You know, it’s a shortcut, right. So without some kind of you know, motivating function maybe forcing function, maybe whatever. You have this case where less people program at Dartmouth now than they did 50 years ago. Think about that, or 51– 49 years ago. How terrible is that? I was meeting with some students the other day. They were asking me their questions and when I’m saying what do you think about this thing where we can build off to take all these forced classes and other non-topic, piece of topic areas, you know. I’m thinking, well, you don’t have to be a liberal art school at all. You could have gone to the diesel maintenance school.
You know, but if you came here, why wouldn’t you study like the classics and poetry and Greek, whatever? Why wouldn’t it be Dartmouth instead of the Stevens Institute of Technology where all you do is weld all the time or whatever? You know what I’m saying like– and so you used to do that. Your leadership supported that. You’re famous with that. You ignited the world and you turned your back on it. I don’t know why you did that. I can’t give you a new backbone. I don’t know what your problem is. You know, but it’s certainly unfortunate. Nothing personal of course. The other deans, you know. Yeah. [ Inaudible Remark ] >> — makes it happen or not. But even so, I’m going to push back a little bit. I admire Logo. I love all of those languages. But they’re not general purpose languages. They’re very specific. The beauty of BASIC begins all purpose code. This is a tool that if you gave a seventh grader they could write anything. And my concern is that if a school said, “Here, take the entire seventh grade population, all of them, the people that [inaudible], the people who hate math or whatever.
OK, go teach them programming. The reason BASIC went on fire is because people could do anything with it and I just don’t believe there’s a language today and I look forward to seeing [inaudible]. >> Check out [inaudible]. >> That is– but that so much of what’s been written is very focused on the web, on visual and so on. But there isn’t actually alignment with all kids who [inaudible]. >> OK, so your statement is a good one. It– Nothing is as good as BASIC in the ways that BASIC is good and if there was such a thing you could support it, but if there’s not, why isn’t the great thing honored as it should be. And I’ll rephrase that. >> I just want something like it. I don’t think that’s a [inaudible]. >> Yeah. I think we could all agree with that. We wouldn’t have come to this complication, that’s why we’re here.
>> All right. Yeah. >> OK, let’s take a question over here. >> Hi. This question is hugely related to this topic. I’ve been a programmer for 35 years. I learned BASIC in middle school, came to Dartmouth and study computer science here. And in those 35 years, I have seen the way that programming has changed distressingly little. Programming in theory is great and beautiful and algorithms are beautiful and all of that. But a lot of it is more like doing your taxes, frankly. For people here who aren’t programmers, there are a lot of little things you have to keep track of all the time or everything goes south.
And so much of programming, much modern programming depressingly is writing little tests. You actually, you know, there’s a whole school of programming that’s very popular right now where you actually build the test before you build the program. How exciting is that, you know, and not. And in fact, Jaron Lanier who’s a great thinker about technology, many of you heard of him, I’m sure. And when the Mac OS came out based on Unix which was popular in the 1970s, he said that if he knew that the big new thing in, you know, the 21st century was going to be Unix, he wouldn’t have had the heart to stay in computer science. And so, you’ve just spent a lot of time talking about whether or not you can get people interested in programming with the current set of programming technologies. My question to you since this is about the next 50 years is can we even think in the next 10, 15 years, is it going to be different than, you know, source control and include files and name spaces and all of this just stultifying stuff that you have to do to be a programmer to make the thing happen that you want to have happen? >> Well, I’m an optimist.
[ Laughter ] Now, declaring my being a futurist and declaring myself an optimist was like the most radical thing I had ever done. ‘Cause it turns out people really like pessimistic futurists, right. I mean, I believe the future is built every day by the actions of people. That literary we build the future. But the future doesn’t happen. It’s not an accident, right. The future is built by people, by schools, by companies. And so this notion to me is, well, why wouldn’t we build an awesome future. Let’s not build a future that sucks. Let’s actually build a really good future. So, I think we can all get on board with that. And getting to your point, I mean so much– and sort of the way that you’re looking at it and the way that a lot of the schools that I talk to and the companies that I talk to is I think everyone would agree with you.
I mean you could get into the details of sort of different program languages and things like that. But ultimately everybody is going to agree that we need more people who know how to code and we need more tools and more intuitive ways for people to act and interact with technology. >> Can I just briefly say my– the product I’ve been working on for the last 10 years actually turns Photoshop into a programming language for graphic designers to build websites so they don’t have to know anything about coding. And I mean, that’s kind of where I’m coming from is a lot of these people don’t– they don’t want to know about binary searches and you know, this, you know, they want how to make their design come to life. >> Well, and there’s some really amazing tools out there. So there’s– some of my friends at Autodesk are taking 3D designs and literally having designs where you take a 3D model of an object.
Say it’s a robot, an articulated arm. And all you do is grab that arm and move that arm around in the 3D space and it programs the arm. All you need to do the program is actually just move the arm, right? We’ve got, you know, Rod Brooks’, you know, Baxter. You teach Baxter by literally showing the robot how to do it, physically showing the robot. That’s how you program, it’s by moving the robot. And the robot actually makes it better.
It actually optimizes it. So I think there are ways to do it. So what I would– would sort of put back on you and put back on everybody is that, yes this needs to happen and the only way we do it is by doing it. That’s it. There actually is no secret. But the other– but one of the things that can help and one of the things that I’ve seen happen is the way that you change the future is you change the story the people tell themselves about the future that they will live in.
And it sounds really simple but it’s really powerful. Because if you can do that, so whether it be the future of computing and the future of robotics, and the future of programming, if you can change that story that people tell themselves, whether it be through school or communities or through media, people will actually do different things. I’ve seen it happen at companies. I’ve seen it happen at schools. People will actually make changes and that’s part of it as well is just go up to people and say, “Here’s my vision for the future. Here’s what I think we should do. Here’s what I’m doing about it, what do you think?” And that’s how you make change. I guess I could spike a football. I’m done. >> So, I agree with Brian but I would just like to say one more thing.
So there is a difference between learning how to think computationally and so that means learning algorithms and what you to do for software engineering and how you actually create big systems with intuitive interfaces. And I think we need all of them. I think that it’s really valuable to learn how to think computationally. And so, your web designers can take advantage of these amazing interfaces but it would be really valuable for them to know how to think algorithmically. I’m not sure that quick sort is the right function for them to learn but things like that. >> I want to– if you’re done. >> Yeah. >> OK. I wanted to just say, same thing you just said but just little bit– it’s really important to understand there’s a spectrum of behaviors. So any of you– are any of you Formula One race car drivers? >> Well, actually– >> OK, OK. So, wait, wait, wait. So Formula race car drivers and taxi drivers, dump truck drivers, they’re all in the same bucket of just basically people are ignorant about automotive engineering that are good at using an automobile.
Real automobile science is how to design pistons, how to design cooling systems, how to design baffles, rings around pistons and things. Those are automotive engineers, OK. So in computer science like using Facebook is not becoming a programmer, OK. When people say, “Oh, you work at Google. How do I program my WiFi network?” Look, I– you know, it’s like Google Earth.
It’s not the same as like plugging in your monitor. It’s a different, you know, act, you know. So there’s a confusion about what is a technician and what is a scientist or computer scientist. It’s harmed, nothing against Intel, but by the universal dominance of Intel in the CPU field, nobody wants to study how to build a better CPU unless they work at Intel. It’s not. Nothing personal it’s just that like this, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for 10 people to make CPUs because that’s why [inaudible] two companies aren’t going to go broke making CPUs, maybe three.
But that’s it, your number four is to work for one of those. They give up, OK. So– but it was smarter and better. They just didn’t have the volume, therefore the economics manufacturing maybe better design and irrelevant. And that’s an issue. And so there’s a science part, better computer architecture. Arvind [assumed spelling] at MIT and other people work on interesting things. And then there’s physically realizable products from profitable companies and those are two separate things. Well, you’ve seen a lot of it in the last two decades. There’s a lot of centralization in computer. Now, in Google we can’t complain I guess about that. But the thing is– what I mean is that does create kind of like a smaller gene pool of sorts.
So, there’s going to be less people working like in Eclipse, 10 years from now, 50 years from now, my prediction is Eclipse will be even bigger and slower. That’s my prediction. OK. You know, what I mean. It’s kind of like, you know. So the thing is– so hopefully somebody is going to like fight that and make something [inaudible], you know. Like Go for example. You should check out Go. But– >> Go is really hard. >> OK. >> So yeah. >> But BASIC, whatever. The thing is your artists don’t need to program a computer and, you know, use a computer. It needs to be closer in its– and manifest expressions to their manifest intent. So it’s like a semantic problem, semantic gap. That’s the bigger gap. If you close the gap, they can be like just drivers and not automotive engineers, right. So a lot of people confuse those two. I was going to say computer science is a science.
It’s like a mathematics. Mathematics, this comes from [inaudible] mathema, what one knows because you actually know math in a way you don’t know like your neighbors cooking. You already know something when you know about the square root. And so programming is like that. But the people who actually care about that are people– I was 10 years old when I read computer programming [inaudible]. I memorized that book. I worked on all the problems. It’s like my bible, sort of, you know, I mean nothing personal like with the Pope but, you know, it’s like a bible. I don’t [inaudible] anybody else like that. I mean maybe I’m on stage with them but it does not mean it’s not like most people want to do that. And most programmer– people’s kids– parents and their kids at school learn about computers, they are thinking learn how to program a computer and get a job at a computer place.
They’re not saying go write a better compiler or work on, you know, IPC, work on exception– I mean, nobody is thinking– they’re thinking it, I’m thinking it. IBM POWER8 architecture is thinking it, but you know, it’s just not a– it’s not computer science. Most people think they’re computer scientists, they’re highly competent programmers, but that’s a– it’s not a bad thing but that’s not the same thing. And I think the solution to your angst is going to come from computer scientists or self-assembling robots. You know, say, or you know you paint a picture and you say go paint ones like that. Or, you know, that that is that– that sort of world. There’s a computer science I think behind that. That’s not a UI of Eclipse kind of thing.
You know, it’s just a different realm. So I think it’s important. I know it’s a speech but it kind of the answer. But it’s– I think it’s really important. It’s terrible the way things are. It’s surely terrible. I agree with that. And BASIC was at least a unified environment where things made sense. Alan Kay, my buddy Alan Kay did small talk where the whole thing made sense and was dynamic and an actor of– and in introspective, it was fantastic. So, maybe the people try. But what Apple took from seeing the Alto was to make it not flexible but pretty. So that’s what happens when companies get older with science. >> OK, let’s go to a question over here. >> As a software engineer, since before there was BASIC, I second what Ms.
Kemeny said. My question however is futurists have poor track records of foreseeing what was unforeseen. What do we currently not know that could inform your visions? [ Laughter ] [ Applause ] >> I’ll take Mr. Zino’s [assumed spelling] question over there. [ Laughter ] You know, we don’t know the future, obviously. And nobody knows the future. As the people that give you investment advice, they say, I know the future. If they did, they will be investing, right. Not selling books on investing, right. Nobody knows the future. What we do know are areas, for me at least, I know areas where people want something they don’t have and the thing that would give it to them is becoming buildable, more affordable, less intrusive, lighter weight or whatever. So people like all about telephones and then you say, I could make a small portable telephone.
You can say, people would buy because it would be even better than the one on the wall. It’s not about, you know, it’s not a deep thing about Viterbian coding. It’s a shallow thing about humans like talking to other humans. They don’t like– and they all have the [inaudible] student are too young but the adults here. You see these phones and the cords are stretched as much as possible. People try to get as far from the wall as they could.
There’s a coiled cord that’s all stretched out. So, like obviously they wanted to get further. [Inaudible] to RadioShack and bought extension cords, you know, for the phone. So mobile phones are going to work really well, right. I mean that’s obvious. You know, so I mean when I’m predicting the future, I’m not saying we’re all going to have three heads or something. I’m saying look, like right now, GE has made their engines so they have temperature sensors and all inside, inside all the turbines as they run. And they get a megabyte per second out of each blade. It goes to the central part of the 787 Dreamliner. It get sent by computer network to the airline. They forward it to Boeing. Boeing has a contractor work by GE at Boeing.
They diagnose the engines and they shift replacement blades and parts for that engine to forward destinations for that plane. So you got a little problem developing. By the time you get to three hops and you get back to Phoenix, there will be a part there waiting for you. You could fix it that night. That’s great. Machine shops measure drill presses to see if the bit starts vibrating, if it’s going to break soon. I should change that on the line before it breaks. So those kinds of– you know, obviously people want intelligent devices. They want them to make life better to avoid problems. My car says wait, you’ve got a low pressure in your right rear tire, it’s two pounds less than the other tires. That’s awesome. You know, it’s not like some weird science fiction robot thing. It’s just an air pressure gauge.
But the fact that it tells me imports by exception. What’s wrong is– that stuff is incredibly important. So I think when we make people want like, you know, better, faster, cheaper, when they want more convenient, more trustworthy, more reliable, more informative, pretty likely. You know, it’s not hard to believe in those things. So I think what we don’t know as industry or as educated society is we don’t know enough. We don’t choose to think enough about what it means to be human. We listen to marketing messages too much. You should look at what people really want and say how can that need be met. Are people lonely or whatever? >> So, for myself, I mean literally as a futurist, everything that I do to pick off what Michael said is everything that I do is based on humans, first and foremost.
Everything I do. So, I– in my– the process of future casting I have a team of social scientists, of anthropologists and ethnographers who go out and study people all over the world, have been doing it for over a decade. They don’t study markets, they don’t study demographics, they study human beings. How they live, how they shop, how they worship, how they die, right. Human beings are wonderfully complicated, we are weird and it is awesome from a design standpoint, right. Our diversity is what makes us awesome. And so you start– and that’s the basis of everything that I do. And as you heard me say earlier, ultimately I think it’s my job in the bar that I said is to make those human beings’ lives better. If you can make it better, like anybody tells you in business school, if you can solve a problem for somebody, you can make a business.
All I can say is if you can make somebody’s life better, you know, that is going to be incredibly important. So, earlier on, kind of what Michael said, I was actually in a group a lot like this but it was actually in Silicon Valley who were a lot– much more rude than you people are, by the way. Like Silicon Valley, they’re very rude. I had somebody said, could you have predicted email. And I said, well, I don’t actually make predictions. I refuse to predictions. Again, if somebody gives you a prediction, they’re usually trying to sell you something.
That should just be a flag. And so I said I don’t make predictions, it’s really my job to come up with the specs so that I can work and we can actually go and build it. That’s what I do, I’m a builder. But with that said I said, could I have predicted email, yes. And the guy was like, “Intel’s futurist could have predicted email.” And I was like, “Yeah, I could have.” ‘Cause there was this thing we had before email. It was called mail. >> That’s right. >> And it was really popular for a really long time. We solved the problem. We made people’s lives better, right. Well, yeah, submitting the spam, it was a little bad but you’ve got the good and bad. So that’s one side of it. Now, I’m going to get all– I’ll get nuts and bolts with you for a minute. So in my job, you played a little debate society thing on, by the way, that was a foul. You can’t do that in debate society. But how do you know what you not know? You know, how do you know the things that you can’t know? And my answer to you is you don’t.
You don’t know them. And in the modeling that I do, it’s almost like a catastrophe or innovation actually. So what I do is I look 10 to 15 years out based on these inputs and say this is kind of the way we think the future is going. This is the future we want, this is the future that we want to avoid, here are the steps that we need to take today, tomorrow, five years from now to go there and then we start. And we say, OK, we got to build these fabs. We got to do this. We got to work with these companies. Got to file these patents. So we just sort of do the work and the engineering work of what we do.
Invariably, something will happen, right. There’s incredible amount of uncertainty in that future. But– and so what I tell people is that’s the exact same thing. You respond to innovation, you respond to the things that you don’t know the same way you respond to a catastrophe. You don’t respond to a catastrophe. You don’t respond to an earthquake in Japan a month before it happens. You don’t respond to it a month after it happens. You have to get out there and you got to keep sensing and talking to people. That’s kind of why I spend most of my time on the road. And the moment you see it, you go to it. And you talk to people and you find out what’s going on and you create a culture that then can react to it.
And you create in the sort of future casting work that I do as a futurist is then in that you embrace that uncertainly. You embrace actually the things that you don’t know. And what I do is I literary, physically fly all over the world seeking those things out. Because that uncertainty– remember I work for an engineering company where uncertainty like I tell them, “Uncertainty is awesome.” And they’re like, “You’re crazy.” And I was like, but uncertainly is the landscape of innovation. Out of uncertainty comes these great ideas. But you got to go there. You have to create a culture that goes and searches it out and then actually changes the model for what you know of the future. >> So I would just like to add a quote from the movie we saw earlier.
And one of the early programmer’s task to build this compiler said, “Yeah, we started doing this and we had no idea what– that the task was impossible.” I mean– so in some sense, there are things we know that we know and there are things we know we think we know but in fact we don’t know. There are lots of things that we don’t know and we don’t know that we don’t know them.
But all together bringing the knowledge in the world is about having the courage to jump and just do it. And so there is a necessary risk involved in that, because if we knew everything, then well what we would come up with would be kind of boring. It would be absolutely totally predictable. But bringing new knowledge in the world really requires that we have the courage and we don’t worry too much about what we don’t know. >> And I think– let me just– if you think about great surfers, they might say I’m a better surfer. I know I’ll do a better job today as we go out. But they don’t know what they’re going to do. Their sport is reactive to the wave, right.
It’s a great poker player, say, reacts to the cards they get. They don’t know what cards they’re going to get but if they’re a really good poker player, they win a lot anyway. So there’s a– the greatness in some of these things is your ability to respond, observe and plan and respond to unfolding circumstance that you didn’t have– you have no control of. You have no delusion that you made the wave. It’s insane if you thought that. But you control your feet, you control your balance, you decide what one, two, three fins on your board, what kind of [inaudible]. You know, there are things you control but they’re pretty lightweight.
But how you choose to use those controls is your genius. And that’s the kind of reality of what it means to be an innovator. It’s not to just know the future, build it, everybody salutes you. It’s know what like which Lego blocks you could build and from those which interesting things you could build and the customer want something and you make the parts or some sort of more sophisticated version of that.
But you don’t– I don’t think you ever know the future but you certainly know how to prepare for it into some basic way. In New Orleans they have more sandbags now than they had before Katrina and they know where they are. You know, I mean that’s the kind of smart people, at least they get better after each mistake, right. Stupid people do the same mistake over and over again. So like that’s the difference. It’s not the lack of mistakes.
It’s the presence of learning and positive feedback. >> Well, when this session started, we knew that we would be going for an hour and a half into the future and that future has arrived. So, I want to thank our panelists, Michael Jones, Brian David Johnson, Daniela Rus. [ Applause ] And thank you all for coming. There is a reception in the pre-function area of the Hanover Inn and you are invited to that reception. ——————————3450857febdc–.