Thursday, June 29, 2017

50 Years of the Turing Award

The ACM knows how to throw a party, a two-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Turing Award. Every recipient got a deck of Turing Award playing cards and the ACM unveiled a new bust of Turing perfect for selfies.

The conference featured a number of panels on different challenges of computer science from privacy to quantum. Deep Learning formed a common thread, not only did it have its own panel but the Moore's law panel talked about specialized hardware for learning and deep learning causes concern for the privacy and ethics panels. Even quantum computing used deep learning as an example of a technology that succeeded once the computing power was there.

The deep learning panel focused on what it can't do, particularly semantics, abstraction and learning from a small or medium amount of data. Deep networks are a tool in the toolbox but we need more. My favorite line came from Stuart Russell worried about "Grad Student Descent", research focused on parameter tuning to optimize learning in different regimes, as opposed to developing truly new approaches. For the theory folks, some questions like how powerful are deep neural nets (circuit complexity) and whether we can just find the best program for some data (P v NP).

The "Moore's Law is Really Dead" panel joked about the Monty Python parrot (it's resting). For the future, post-CPU software will need to know about hardware, we'll have more specialized and programmable architectures and we'll have to rely on better algorithms for improvement (theory again). Butler Lampson said "The whole reason the web works is because it doesn't have to." I don't remember how that fit into the discussion but I do like the quote.

The quantum panel acknowledged that we don't quite have the algorithms yet but we will soon have enough qbits to experiment and find ways that quantum can help.

You can watch the panels yourself, but the real fun comes from spending time with the leaders of the field, and not just theory but across computer science.


  1. I don't use Facebook, are the videos on YouTube ?

  2. I dont use Facebook either, but you can watch these videos without loging into Facebook. Just click on "Not now" and then the videos become available.

    That said, ACM should post these videos on Youtube in any case.