CLARK: I was not suggesting that we had any control over the pace of innovation, but are you saying you think it will continue to be just as fast and just as chaotic?
REDDY: And most of us will be left behind, actually.
ROBERT LUCKY: We were talking this morning about the purpose of academic research. The problem that many of us involved in research have is that, as at Bell Labs, we used to talk about research in terms of 10 years. Now you can hardly see two weeks ahead in our field. The question of what long-term research is all about remains unanswered when you cannot see what is out there to do research on.
Nicholas Negroponte was saying recently that, when he started the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his competition came from places like Bell Labs, Stanford University, and the University of California at Berkeley. Now he says his competition comes from 16-year-old kids. I see researchers working on good academic problems, and then two weeks later some young kids in a small company are out there doing it. You may ask, "Where do we fit into this anymore?" In some sense, particularly in this field, I think there must still be good academic fields where you can work on long-term problems in the future, but the future is coming at us so fast that I just sort of look in the rear-view mirror.
MARY SHAW: I think innovation will keep moving; at least I hope so, because if it were not moving this fast, we would all be really good IBM 650 programmers by now. I think what will keep it moving is the demand from outside. In the past few years, we have just begun to get over the hump where people who are not in the computing priesthood, and who have not invested many years in figuring out how to make computers do things, can actually make computers do things. As that becomes easier—it is not easy yet—more and more people will be demanding services tuned to their own needs. I believe that they will generate the demand that will keep the field growing.
JURIS HARTMANIS: As was stated this morning, I think we can project reasonably well what silicon technology can yield during the next 20 years; the growth in computing power will follow the established pattern. The fascinating question is, What is the next technology to accelerate this rate and to provide the growth during the next century? Is it quantum computing? Could it really add additional orders of magnitude? Is it molecular or DNA computing? Probably not. The key question is, What technologies, if any, will complement and/or replace the predictable silicon technology?
CLARK: I wonder if growth and demand are the same thing as innovation? Mary, you talked about a lot of demand from outside. We could turn into a transient decade of interdisciplinary something, but does that actually mean there is any innovation in our field?
SHAW: We have had some innovation, but it has not been our own doing. Things like spreadsheets and word processors, for example, that have started to open the door to people who are not highly trained computing professionals have come at the academic community from the outside, and they had very little credibility for a long time. I remember when nobody would listen to you if you wanted to talk about text editors in an academic setting. Most recently, there has been the upsurge of the World Wide Web. It is true that Mosaic was developed in a university, but not exactly in the computer science department. These are genuine innovations, not just nickel-and-dime things.
EDWARD FEIGENBAUM: First, I would like to say a few words about the future, and then I will pick up on the theme that Dave Clark started with, the debris, and ask some of my friends in the audience about their debris.
There has been a revolution going on that no one really recognizes as a revolution. This is the revolution of packaged software, which has created immense amounts of programming at our fingertips. We go to the store; we buy it. This is the single biggest change from, say, 1980. I think the future is best seen not in terms of changing hardware or increased numbers of MIPS (or GIPS), but rather in terms of the software revolution. We are now living in a software-first world. I think the revolution will be in software building that is now done painstakingly in a craftlike way by the major companies producing packaged software. They create a "suite"—a cooperating set of applications— that takes the coordinated effort of a large team.
What we need to do now in computer science and engineering is to invent a way for everyone to do this at his or her desktop; we need to enable people to "glue" packaged software together so that the packages work as integrated systems. This will be a very significant revolution.