Podcast Interview with “Father of the Internet” Vint Cerf

BLOG: Heidelberg Laureate Forum

Laureates of mathematics and computer science meet the next generation
Heidelberg Laureate Forum
Vint Cerf talks with young researchers at HLF
Vint Cerf talks with young researchers at HLF

Vint Cerf, known as one of the “fathers of the internet” and a recipient of the 2004 ACM A.M. Turing Award, was a participating laureate at this year’s Heidelberg Laureate Forum (HLF). Cerf currently acts as a vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google. At HLF, I had an opportunity to sit down with Vint and interview him for the Computing Community Consortium’s (CCC) official podcast, “Catalyzing Computing,” which features interviews with researchers and policymakers about their background and experiences in the computing community.

Prior to our interview he also participated in a press conference where he discussed some of the projects he is currently involved with, as well as other hot topics.

Cerf was asked if he anticipates any potential problems that AI might introduce, either with regards to the Internet or more broadly. Cerf responded that he is most concerned about unexpected, emergent properties that might appear as the volume of AI systems increase and they interact with each other and with humans. He noted that the Internet in particular struggles with large, emergent property effects because it is distributed: software will encounter other software in novel ways, potentially leading to adverse effects.

Cerf was also asked about how differences in individuals can advance science, and specifically what role his hearing loss has played in his career. Cerf dispelled the idea that he got involved in electronic messaging because his wife was deaf for fifty years (she has since received cochlear implants) and because he is hard of hearing. Instead he says his wife got into email because of her book club, though he admits that because of his hearing impairment he jumped on ARPANET as soon as it was available since it was more convenient for him than phone calls, and later he joined places that had, or would let him set up, email technology. Despite not necessarily being his primarily catalyst for scientific exploration, Cerf is very interested in the ways that technology can help people with disabilities or can augment people’s capabilities.

Cerf was also asked about the potential of an “information dark age” if current computing capabilities are lost or become obsolete. Cerf expressed concern for this possibility – as an example of the power of preserving information, he cited the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which explores the history of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and some of his key cabinet members. This book was possible because of the extensive letters and diaries that each man wrote and which Goodwin was able to use as a resource. If a person’s key historical records only exist as tweets and texts, Cerf fears there may come a time when such a book is not possible due to a dearth of surviving material. Even if files are not lost or destroyed, they may become unreadable to newer file formats, rendering them obsolete.

Building off some of these questions, in this episode of the podcast Cerf discusses net neutrality, how to combat spoofing, the future of Internet connected devices, and the challenges of developing interplanetary Internet.

You can stream the episode in the embedded player below or find it on iTunes | Spotify Soundcloud | Stitcher | Google Play | Youtube | Blubrry | iHeartRadio(note, it may take a few hours for the podcast to become available on your preferred platform). 

Khari Douglas

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Khari Douglas is the Senior Program Associate for Engagement for the Computing Community Consortium (CCC), a standing committee within the Computing Research Association (CRA). In this role, Khari interacts with members of the computing research community and policy makers to organize visioning workshops and coordinate outreach activities. He is also the host and producer of the Catalyzing Computing podcast.

2 comments

  1. Khari Douglas wrote (14. Oct 2019):
    > Vint Cerf, known as one of the “fathers of the internet” […]

    … to others, however, known instead as »one of “the fathers of the Internet”«.

    > […] properties that might appear as the volume of AI systems increase[s]

    > <em< […] his primar[il]y catalyst for scientific exploration

    > […] the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which explores the history of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and some of his key cabinet members. This book was possible because of the extensive letters and diaries that each man wrote and which Goodwin was able to use as a resource.

    Besides Goodwin’s book having been possible because of the extensive preserved letters and diaries by Lincoln and some of the key members of his throughout Lincoln’s presidency invariably all-male cabinet, it was possible also because of the extensive preserved letters and diaries by several females which Goodwin used as well; such as

    »an eight-hundred-page diary that [Frances A.] Seward’s daughter Fanny kept«,
    »[a] revealing section of [Salmon P. Chase’s] daugther Kate’s diary«,
    »[Edwin M. Stanton’s] sister’s unpublished memoir«,
    »[the] correspondence of Montgomery Blair’s sister, Elizabeth Blair Lee, and her husband«
    »letters [of] Julia Davenport Bates to Caroline Hatcher Bates [and] to Onward Bates«,
    along with letters of Mary Todd Lincoln and of Harriett Beecher Stowe

    .

    p.s.
    An an additional community service, and in realization of my inclinations (to react publicly, noticibly, accessibly and responsively to certain public statements, persuant to the principle of practical concordance), the following documents a SciLog comment which had been initially submitted to Joachim Schulz’s SciLog but was not published there (apparently in realization of Joachim Schulz’s administrative powers and inclinations):

    Joachim schrieb (15.10.2019, 07:03 Uhr):
    > Für einen nicht beschleunigten Stab ist die Eigenlänge immer gleich der Radarlänge, […]

    Soll das im Umkehrschluss bedeuten, dass auch einem beschleunigten Stab jeweils (“eine bestimmte”) “Eigenlänge” sowie jeweils (“eine bestimmte”) “Radarlänge” zuzuschreiben wären, die jedoch ggf. ungleich sein könnten ?

    p.p.s.
    An further community service, the following provides my (inevitably somewhat editorialized) translation into English of the SciLog comment shown above:

    Joachim wrote (15.10.2019, 07:03 Uhr):
    > For a rod whose two ends were and remained at rest with respect to each other, its proper lenght is operationally defined as equal to their chronometric distance from each other […]

    Is this supposed to mean in turn, that to a rod whose two ends did not remain at rest with respect to each other there is (one particular value of) “proper length” as well as (one particular value of) “chronometric distance of its to ends from each other” attributable, too, which however might have unequal values ?

  2. Khari Douglas wrote (14. Oct 2019):
    > Vint Cerf, known as one of the “fathers of the internet” […]

    … to others, however, known instead as »one of “the fathers of the Internet”«.

    > […] properties that might appear as the volume of AI systems increase[s]

    > <em< […] his primar[il]y catalyst for scientific exploration

    > […] the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which explores the history of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and some of his key cabinet members. This book was possible because of the extensive letters and diaries that each man wrote and which Goodwin was able to use as a resource.

    Besides Goodwin’s book having been possible because of the extensive preserved letters and diaries by Lincoln and some of the key members of his throughout Lincoln’s presidency invariably all-male cabinet, it was possible also because of the extensive preserved letters and diaries by several females which Goodwin used as well; such as

    »an eight-hundred-page diary that [Frances A.] Seward’s daughter Fanny kept«,
    »[a] revealing section of [Salmon P. Chase’s] daugther Kate’s diary«,
    »[Edwin M. Stanton’s] sister’s unpublished memoir«,
    »[the] correspondence of Montgomery Blair’s sister, Elizabeth Blair Lee, and her husband«
    »letters [of] Julia Davenport Bates to Caroline Hatcher Bates [and] to Onward Bates«,
    along with letters of Mary Todd Lincoln and of Harriett Beecher Stowe

    .

    p.s.
    As an additional community service, and in realization of my inclinations (to react publicly, noticibly, accessibly and responsively to certain public statements, persuant to the principle of practical concordance), the following documents a SciLog comment which had been initially submitted to Joachim Schulz’s SciLog but was not published there (apparently in realization of Joachim Schulz’s administrative powers and inclinations):

    Joachim schrieb (15.10.2019, 07:03 Uhr):
    > Für einen nicht beschleunigten Stab ist die Eigenlänge immer gleich der Radarlänge, […]

    Soll das im Umkehrschluss bedeuten, dass auch einem beschleunigten Stab jeweils (“eine bestimmte”) “Eigenlänge” sowie jeweils (“eine bestimmte”) “Radarlänge” zuzuschreiben wären, die jedoch ggf. ungleich sein könnten ?

    p.p.s.
    As further community service, the following provides my (inevitably somewhat editorialized) translation into English of the SciLog comment shown above:

    Joachim wrote (15.10.2019, 07:03 Uhr):
    > For a rod whose two ends were and remained at rest with respect to each other, its proper lenght is operationally defined as equal to their chronometric distance from each other […]

    Is this supposed to mean in turn, that to a rod whose two ends did not remain at rest with respect to each other there is (one particular value of) “proper length” as well as (one particular value of) “chronometric distance of its to ends from each other” attributable, too, which however might have unequal values ?

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