Friday, October 5, 2012

GHC12: Keynote, Anita Jones, Another Perspective

Anita K. Jones, is a University Professor Ermerita at the University of Virginia and a Professor of Computer Science in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and was sworn in as the Director of Defense Research and Engineering for the U.S. Department of Defense in June 1993.

Dr. Jones was the keynote speaker at the very first Grace Hopper Celebration in 1994! I wasn't at that first event, so how cool to get o see her now - a woman that has a seamount in the ocean after her!

Dr. Jones starts by looking at the conference theme: Are we there yet?

Analyzing this phrase, we need to think about the we - many great things are done together, so it's important who you associate yourself with.

Today, there are 2 times more jobs in IT than all other engineering disciplines combined. In the near future, there will be 4 times as many - an ever growing field, more people to surround yourself with :-)

Electrification of rural America in the 50s, better sanitation practice and better access to water revolutionized America and nearly doubled our life expectancies. Can there be a software revolution with that much impact?

Dr. Jones believes it's happening. The spread of the Internet, the ability to visualize organisms and galaxies, all the way to just-in-time delivery enabled by RFID tracking devices.

We're now connecting with one another in ways we never thought imaginable: there are 5 billion cellphones in the world, and only 7 billion people! We have Facebook, twitter, Google+ (and Google in general), LinkedIn, etc - where we can connect with each other, keep in touch, meet new people. Something unheard of just 20 years ago.

Yes, I did make new friends on a BBS nearly 20 years ago, and I'm sure some of you met folks through your MUDD or CompuServe chat room - but we were the very few, the Internet elite.

If you want to revolutionize the world, do research - but pick a new topic, look for new ways to  help the world. It's always easier to write the first thesis on a topic, as opposed to the 20th.  Dr. Jones jokingly said she'd like us to do research into making it possible to order really nice shoes that fit your feet perfectly.

This years revolution? Massive open online courses.While not the same as a university offered curriculum, it's getting there. Harvard and other big universities are funding these courses.

These can't be really successful until three is automated grading, individualized assistance and a way to motivate the students to finish. Let's do research in these areas - we can revolutionize education!

Revolutions can be hard: For example, the Air Force was against pilotless planes, because who are the top guys in the Air Force? Why, pilots of course - they didn't like the idea of these drones because it took pilots out of the picture. But these drones can do things pilots can't - fly for 40+ hours, no need for a cockpit, loaded with sensors and cameras and without risking the lives of pilots.  The Air Force still wasn't interested, until the Army tried to order some. The air, though, is the domain of the Air Force - and they didn't want to give that up to the Army :-)

Technology can revolutionize all sorts of industries. Being a computer scientist and information technologist means you can steer the revolution. We can make the difference!

This post syndicated from Thoughts on security, beer, theater and biking!