David Gelernter has been derided as a “fiercely anti-intellectual computer scientist” by influencers whose computer systems may well depend in part on his software (though they probably don’t know that and couldn’t tell us how). From his page at Yale University:
The “tuple spaces” introduced in Carriero and Gelernter’s Linda system (1983) are the basis of many computer-communication and distributed programming systems worldwide. “Mirror Worlds” (1991) “foresaw” the World Wide Web (Reuters, 3/20/01) and was “one of the inspirations for Java”; the “lifestreams” system (first implemented by Eric Freeman at Yale) is the basis for Mirror Worlds Technologies’ software. “Breaking out of the box” (NY Times magazine, ‘97) forecast and described the advent of less-ugly computers (Apple’s iMac arrived in ‘98). Gelernter’s essays are widely anthologized (for example in J. Brockman, ed., “The Next Fifty Years: new essays from 25 of the world’s leading scientists” (Vintage, 2002), R. Stolley, ed., “Life Magazine – Century of Change,” (Little Brown, 2001), and the ACM’s 50th Anniversary collection).
If you want to hear this plainspoken visionary, along with other tech movers and shakers at COSM 2022, November 9–11 in Bellevue, WA, the good news is that you can still get the Early Adopter conference price. The bad news is that you can only get it until September 15.
Gelernter’s topic isn’t yet announced. But here are some things we could ask him about:
He has a proposal for sharing the vast wealth created by social media more fairly. We don’t always realize that information is money as well as power. All that stuff we so freely tell the algorithms owned by social media moguls is how they got so rich and powerful. So Gelernter (along with some other tech pioneers like Brendan Eich of Brave) are asking, why shouldn’t the providers of the information get a cut?
He told Edge, a leading thinksite, what he believes is wrong with computer science today:
A community is not a community of disembodied spoken statements, in part because the most important aspect of the communication that people have is emotional, and one often communicates emotion not in terms of the text but as a subtext. The physical body is not irrelevant to a human community. The emotional subtext of human communication is crucial to human thought. It isn’t a footnote. Too many computer scientists don’t understand this.
Are the IBM Watson developers listening? Watson, an AI doctor substitute, was a huge and costly flop in medicine because the algorithms were ill-suited to complex medical conditions that change constantly over time — and listening is an important skill for doctors. Google Glass never took off either because, we are told, “wetware” (that is, humans) regard the wearers of those weird ET glasses with “widespread derision.” Well, as Gelernter points out, “The physical body is not irrelevant to a human community”…
Gelernter — worried about the current general direction of U.S. tech — offered Elon Musk some advice about Twitter via the Wall Street Journal earlier this year:
Today Twitter is like Hoover Dam, with all its raging power put to use lighting one 40-watt bulb. But with a few fairly small changes, Twitter would stand a decent chance of becoming the basic interface between users and all their digital information.David Gelernter, “How Elon Musk Can Unlock Twitter’s Full Potential” at Wall Street Journal (May11, 2022)
As Musk and Twitter await the court hearing in their now epic conflict, Musk may wish to go back and reread Gelernter’s suggestions.
After the Unabomber declared war on technological society, David Gelernter lost much of his right hand in 1993 to one of the mailed bombs.
COSM 2022 (November 9–11, 2022) at the Bellevue Hyatt in Seattle is an exclusive national summit on the converging technologies that are remaking the world as we know it — artificial intelligence, 5G and WiFi6, blockchain, cloud computing, space flight. It’s a great chance for civilized conversation between and with industry leaders on trends that really matter.
Remember, register here before September 15 to get the early adopter discount.
You may also wish to read: Facebook gets rich off what we tell our friends Social media pioneer David Gelernter also has a proposal for sharing the wealth more fairly. Yale University computer science prof David Gelernter, “a leading figure in the third generation of artificial intelligence” (Edge.org). social networks pioneer, and Unabomber survivor, discusses his idea in a podcast at The Federalist Radio Hour. (September 13, 2019)