Distinguished Visitor Lecture—The Computing Universe: Towards the Third Age of Computing
Professor Tony Hey (University of Washington)
P-514, Level 5, P Block, QUT Gardens Point campus
Live streamed at UQ in B47 (Axon Building), Room 505, St Lucia Campus
The talk will start with a look at the origins of ‘computational thinking’ and the rise of computer science from its beginnings with the ENIAC machine. The engine of the computing revolution for the last 40 years or more has been Moore’s Law and the microprocessor. However, after the early struggles with computer hardware, software and applications now take centre stage. In Jeannette Wing’s vision of ‘computational thinking’ shows that computer science is much more than just being able to use a spreadsheet or to program in Python.
Algorithms are at the heart of computer science – from Euclid’s classical algorithm to find the Greatest Common Divisor, to PageRank, the ‘billion dollar’ algorithm that launched tech giant Google.
The 1970’s brought the personal computer revolution with a key role played by hobbyists and computer gaming. Turing Award winner Butler Lampson likes to classify the ‘ages’ of computing in terms of the types of applications. For the first thirty years – Lampson’s ‘First Age of Computing’ - computers were primarily used to do complex calculations or ‘simulations’ – from designing air planes to manipulating spreadsheets.
Experiments with networking computers culminated in the Internet and the World Wide Web, giving rise to Lampson’s ‘Second Age of Computing’ over the next thirty years with computers being used for ‘communication’ – exchanging and sharing information. This has led to new types of applications like the Web, search engines and social computing.
We are now entering Butler Lampson’s ‘Third Age of Computing’ – with new applications that act intelligently on our behalf - which Lampson calls ‘embodiment’.
The talk ends with a look at the resurgence of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies and speculates where we may be going in the future.
The accompanying book – ‘The Computing Universe: A Journey through a Revolution’ – was inspired by the great communicator and Nobel Prize winning physicist, Richard Feynman. The field of computer science is undoubtedly the ‘science’ that has changed the world most profoundly over the last 50 years. It is strange that although there are many popular books on science – from astronomy to genomics - but very few about computer science. This book is an attempt to redress this imbalance. Its intent is to explain to a general audience how computers work, how we arrived at where we are now, and where we are likely to be going in the future.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Tony Hey began his career as a theoretical physicist with a doctorate in particle physics from the University of Oxford in the UK. After a career in physics that included research positions in Caltech and CERN, and a professorship at the University of Southampton in England, he became interested in parallel computing and moved into computer science. In the 1980's he was one of the pioneers of distributed memory message-passing computing and co-wrote the first draft of the successful MPI message-passage standard.
After being both Head of Department and Dean of Engineering at Southampton, Tony Hey escaped to lead the UK's ground-breaking 'eScience' initiative in 2001. He recognised the importance of Big Data for science and wrote one of the first papers on the 'Data Deluge' in 2003. He joined Microsoft in 2005 as a Vice President and was responsible for Microsoft's global university research engagements. He worked with Jim Gray and his multidisciplinary eScience research group and edited a tribute to Jim called 'The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discover.' Hey left Microsoft in 2014 and is now a Senior Data Science Fellow at the eScience Institute at the University of Washington.
In 1987 Tony Hey was asked by Caltech Nobel physicist Richard Feynman to write up his 'Lectures on Computation'. This covered such unconventional topics as the thermodynamics of computing as well as an outline for a quantum computer. Feynman's introduction to the workings of a computer in terms of the actions of a 'dumb file clerk' was the inspiration for Tony Hey's attempt to write a popular book about computer science. Tony Hey is a fellow of the AAAS and of the UK's Royal Academy of Engineering. In 2005, he was awarded a CBE by Prince Charles for his 'services to science'.