Moshe Y. Vardi,

U – Rice University


IST Distinguished Lecture

Computer scientists think often of "Ender's Game" these days. In
this award-winning 1985 science-fiction novel by Orson Scott Card,
Ender is being trained at Battle School, an institution designed to
make young children into military commanders against an unspecified
enemy. Ender's team engages in a series of computer-simulated battles,
eventually destroying the enemy's planet, only to learn then that
the battles were very real and a real planet has been destroyed.

Many of us got involved in computing because programming was fun.
The benefits of computing seemed intuitive to us. We truly believe
that computing yields tremendous societal benefits; for example, the
life-saving potential of driverless cars is enormous! Like Ender,
however, we realized recently that computing is not a game–it is
real–and it brings with it not only societal benefits, but also
significant societal costs, such as labor polarization, disinformation,
and smart-phone addiction.

The common reaction to this crisis is to label it as an "ethical crisis"
and the proposed response is to add courses in ethics to the academic
computing curriculum. I will argue that the ethical lense is too narrow.
The real issue is how to deal with technology's impact on society.
Technology is driving the future, but who is doing the steering?


Moshe Y. Vardi is University Professor and the George Distinguished
Service Professor in Computational Engineering at Rice University. He is
the recipient of several awards, including the ACM SIGACT Goedel Prize,
the ACM Kanellakis Award, the ACM SIGMOD Codd Award, the Blaise Pascal
Medal, the IEEE Computer Society Goode Award, and the EATCS Distinguished
Achievements Award. He is the author and co-author of over 650 papers, as
well as two books. He is a fellow of several societies, and a member of
several academies, including the US National Academy of Engineering and
National Academy of Science. He holds seven honorary doctorates. He is a
Senior Editor of the Communications of the ACM, the premier publication in


Date: 2020-Dec-03     Time: 17:00:00     Room:

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