BOX 1.2

Some Research Goals for Information Technology

Despite the incredible progress made in information technology over the past 50 years, the field is far from mature. A number of compelling goals will drive research. The following is just a partial list of possible research goals articulated by Jim Gray, a leading IT researcher and recipient of the Turing Award, the top prize in computer science. They are envisioned as well-defined goals that can stimulate considerable research.

  • Scalability—Devise a software and hardware architecture that scales up by a factor of a million. In other words, an application's storage and processing capacity would have to be able to automatically grew by a factor of a million, doing jobs faster or doing a million jobs in the same time, just by adding more resources.

  • Turing test—Build a computer that wins the “imitation game” at least 30 percent of the time. In a blind contest, the computer should be able to behave convincingly like a human 30 percent of the time.

  • Speech-to-text—Build a device that can hear as well as a native speaker.

  • Text-to-speech—Build a device that can speak as well as a native speaker.

  • See as well as a person—Build a device that can recognize objects and behavior.

  • Personal memex—Build a system that can record everything a person sees and hears and quickly retrieve any item on request.

  • World memex—Build a system that given a text corpus can answer questions about the text and summarize the text as precisely and quickly as a human expert in that field. Do the same for music, images, art, and cinema.

  • Telepresence—Build a system that can simulate being some other place retrospectively as an observer (Teleobserver: hear and see as well as actually be there, and as well as a participant), and simulate being some other place as a participant (Telepresent: interact with others and with the environment as though actually there).

  • Trouble-free systems—Build a system used by millions of people each day and yet administered and managed by a single part-time person.

  • Secure system—Assure that the system in the preceding goal services only authorized users, that service cannot be denied by unauthorized users, and that information cannot be stolen (and prove it).

  • Always up—Build a system that is unavailable for less than 1 second per hundred years (and prove it).

  • Automatic programmer—Devise a specification language or user interface that (a) makes it easy for people to express designs (1,000 times easier), (b) computers can compile, and (c) can describe all applications (is complete). The system should reason about the applications, asking questions about exception cases and incomplete specifications, but it should not be onerous to use.

SOURCE: Gray (1999).

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