Computer Systems Laboratory Colloquium

4:15PM, Wednesday, January 10, 2001
NEC Auditorium, Gates Computer Science Building B03

Computer Science Vs. The Garage

Alfred Z. Spector
IBM Research Division
About the talk:
Computer Science Renaissance

Killer applications and architectures have commonly been invented by user communities who perceive a need and satisfy it in a straightforward fashion, rather than by computer scientists who “solve the problem right.”  Sometimes, this modus operandi has truly led to simpler and more practical solutions, but it has also led to a view that most problems can be solved quickly by the few or the garaged.  This short-term approach calls into question the motivation for computer science Ph.D. programs and related long-term research.


However, ambivalence towards computer science research may soon change to renewed excitement, motivated by the fascination, the necessity, and the feasibility of solving key challenges:  some traditional and some new.  This renewed focus will be motivated particularly by (1) real needs of an ever-broader base of computer users, (2) nearly always connectivity of everything, (3) the need to apply a broad collection of techniques to solve some truly hard problems, and (4) raw power resulting from rapid advances in underlying technology.


This presentation will quickly make this case and then focus on a few interesting research problems that could have profound implications on many aspects of life:  from the way we organize our society to the design of the drugs and foods we ingest.  For example, if we assume the utilization of shared societal resources such as transportation links, restaurants, and theaters can be monitored in real time and allocated efficiently in accordance with utility functions unique to each individual, there are enormous opportunities to improve urban life.  But the problems to be solved are massive and interdisciplinary in nature.  There are similarly complex problems in simplifying computer users’ experiences.  The presentation will conclude with a summary of some of the pitfalls in computer science research that we must avoid if our research is to be effective.


About the speaker:

Computer Science Renaissance

Dr. Alfred Z. Spector is vice president of Services and Software at IBM Research responsible for setting IBM’s worldwide services and software research strategy.  For the year ending August 2000, Dr. Spector was an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University's Computer Science Department and Senior Technical Strategist in IBM's Application and Integration Middleware (AIM) business, which has responsibility for a number of IBM software product families including CICS, WebSphere, MQSeries, and Visual Age.


Previously, Dr. Spector was the general manager of Marketing and Strategy for IBM's AIM business, and the general manager of IBM's Transaction Systems business.  Dr. Spector was also founder and CEO of Transarc Corporation, a pioneer in distributed transaction processing and wide area file systems, and a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University.  Dr. Spector received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University and his A.B. in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University.  Married and a father of three young children, Dr. Spector is an avid runner.


Contact information:

Dr. Alfred Z. Spector
Thomas J. Watson Research Center
30 Sawmill River Road
Hawthorne, NY 10532