Monday, June 26, 2017

Best. STOC. Ever.

The Panel on TCS: The Next Decade
Last week I attended STOC as its first new TheoryFest in Montreal. Pretty much everything about TheoryFest went extremely well and for the first time in a long time I felt STOC played a role beyond a publication venue. Great plenary talks from both within and outside the community. The poster sessions were well-attended and caused our community to talk to each other--what a concept. Senior people took junior people to lunch--I had a great time with graduate students Dhiraj Holden (MIT) and Joseph Bebel (USC). I missed the tutorials and workshops but heard they went very well.

By the numbers: 370 attendees, 46% students. 103 accepted papers out of 421 submitted. These numbers are moderate increases over recent years.

The Panel on TCS: The Next Decade talked about everything but the next decade. A few of my favorite quotes: "Hard instances are everywhere except where people care" (Russell Impagliazzo, who walked back a little from it later in the discussion). "I never know when I proved my last theorem" (Dan Spielman on why he keeps trying). Generally the panel gave great advice on how to do research and talk with other disciplines.

Avi Wigderson argued that theory of computing has become "an independent academic discipline" which has strong ties to many others, of which computer science is just one example. He didn't quite go as far as suggesting a separate department but he outlined a TCS major and argued that our concepts should be taught as early as elementary school.

Oded Goldreich received the Knuth Prize and said that researchers should focus on their research and not on their careers. The SIGACT Distinguished Service Award went to Alistair Sinclair for his work at the Simons Institute.

Oded apologized for lying about why he was attending STOC this year. TheoryFest will be a true success when you need reasons to not attend STOC. All happens again next year in Los Angeles (June 23-27) for the 50th STOC. Do be there.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic. I look forward to attending one of these.