Exponentials R Us: Seven Computer Science Game-Changers from the 2000′s, and Seven More to Come

12/24/09

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5. eCommerce. The only thing as good as being Amazon.com is being UPS. eCommerce is new, it’s big, and it’s growing like Topsy.

6. The Cloud. This transformation isn’t quite complete, but we’re almost there. A few years from now, if you’re a business, having your own datacenter is going to look just about as smart as generating your own electricity. And if you’re a consumer, running your own application software (and doing your own upgrades and your own backups) is going to seem just about as bright. The cloud also provides universal access and sharing. What’s not to like?

7. Social networking and crowd-sourcing. eBay. Craigslist. Wikipedia. YouTube. Blogs. RSS. Facebook. LinkedIn. Flickr. Yelp. Twitter. Sorry, I’ve exhausted my 140 charact

For further information on some of these, and some additional topics, see the wonderful presentations here .

So, what about the next 10 years? I won’t burden you with the Niels Bohr quote. Here are a few things to watch – none of them, unfortunately, surprising:

1. Smart homes. Compare your grocery bill to your electric bill. The former is an instantaneous, complete, accurate itemization of every expense, allowing you (and incenting you) to tune your behavior. The latter arrives once every two months and says “$133.08.” It’s nuts. Within a few years, it will change, thanks to inexpensive sensors and machine learning.

2. Smart cars. You’re seeing the beginnings of this. Adaptive cruise control that monitors the distance to the vehicle in front of you. Stay-in-lane systems. Collision alerts. Self-parking. There will be much more. Even more broadly, transportation will be revolutionized. Smart routing of on-demand neighborhood transit to get you to major transit arterials. Smart routing of transit vehicles and personal autos around congestion – not just the congestion that exists right now, but the congestion that will exist 20 minutes from now. Improved vehicle sharing—Zipcar on steroids. (The average car is utilized only 5 percent of the time. Doubling that should be easy. Think of the improved amortization of the financial and environmental costs of manufacturing the damned things!) … Next Page »

Ed Lazowska holds the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. His research and teaching concern the design, implementation, and analysis of high performance computing and communication systems. Follow @

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  • Rick LeFaivre

    Listening to Ed off-and-on for over 30 years, I am always impressed with his insight and ability to synthesize and summarize deep thoughts. Great post!

  • Mark Minie

    “Teenage gamers are beating the pants off of Ph.D. biochemists – there’s such a thing as too much education.”

    WOW! Is there data to support this? Please share! This could have very important implications on our strategies for promoting science education!

  • http://hasandiwan.info Hasan

    : A decade ago, your mobile phone was a brick, and all you could do with it was make calls (if you were lucky!).

    A decade ago, my mobile could (and routinely did) purchase coke from vending machines, pay for parking tickets and text to anywhere on Earth. I wasn’t in the United States though, which is the point of my comment. The list is very US-centric. I’m sure our Japanese mates are laughing at your list as well.

  • http://www.dash7.org Pat

    The data deluge is unlikely to be driven by high bandwidth sensors, rather by many billions of low bandwidth sensors that, in the aggregate, requires lots of bandwidth. Most sensor transactions are and will continue to be but a few bytes of data each.

  • Rangeen

    Where would have you gotten the fast computers and high bandwidth connectivity if electrical engineers and communication engineers would not have worked their asses off. The list has been made from just one point of view. Its as shame that you are unable to see the bigger picture. No discipline is small or big. Its the mix of everything that creates the impact. Alas you are too rude to understand this.

  • Ram

    “Teenage gamers are beating the pants off of Ph.D. biochemists – there’s such a thing as too much education.”

    Pure hyperbole. Or gross simplification. In the example cited, the team that created the environment where video gamer apply their visual analysis and orientation skills to protein structure analysis was lead by two two PhDs. It is false to draw the conclusion there is “such a thing as too much education” based on this example. It is more accurate to say that deep knowledge, education and creativity enabled Dr. Baker to have the insight that it may be possible to harness the abilities of population of people with a set of skills different from that of the usual protein research scientist. And enabled Dr Popović to translate the all the complexities of modeling protein structures into a scientifically accurate – and fun – “game” that enabled those gamers to contribute meaningfully, in a manner not possible by the brute application of rules and computation power. WIthout the PhDs setting the stage, these teenage gamers would likely be contributing nothing of value to the advancement of science.

    That being said, it is a very very cool tool, more so if it actually influences some young teens to pursue the study of science.

  • than

    Rangeen: The list is fucking called Seven COMPUTER-SCIENCE game changers….

    It’s about CS. Go make your own list.

  • ChrisFizik

    with computer science in the title here I thought this list was going to be way more technical or concept/theory based. I get the impact / influencer / Exponentials R Us idea…..but this could have been a bit more specific rather than a ‘Technological advances of the decade’ list….

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  • Harv

    Great Post!

    I’m currently working on a project designed to make high school students more aware of the roles that IT in general and CS in particular play as societal agents of change. Lists like this help highlight those changes and make my job a little easier.

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