EE380 Computer Systems Colloquium

Backwards toward the Future
Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 4:30pm to 5:45pm
Gates B03
David J. Farber (Carnegie Mellon)
Abstract / Description: 

A good friend on mine, Dr. Richard W. Hamming (a Turing Award winner), once said to me that, "while Isaac Newton observed 'If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants', in parts of computer science we often stand on each others toes'".

I would like to focus this talk on trying to answer the question of why after all these years our computer systems/networks are insecure, breakable and ill-suited to many of the critical tasks we have given them.

I will review the evolution of our current networked systems and suggest why they have turned out so commercially successful but yet so much of a problem in aspects such as security and privacy.

The field has produced a number of very robust securable fault tolerant systems. Why hasn't the field learned from them and built based on their successes (and failures).

I believe that it is time to undertake a real grand challenge for our field – that is to design and deploy in critical areas a complete robust environment capable of providing a base for the future. I will try to demonstrate why I believe it is a timely goal that can be achieved.



The Stanford EE Computer Systems Colloquium (EE380) meets on Wednesdays 4:30-5:45 throughout the academic year. Talks are given before a live audience in Room B03 in the basement of the Gates Computer Science Building on the Stanford Campus. The live talks (and the videos hosted at Stanford and on YouTube) are open to the public.

David Farber was, prior to his retirement, Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science and Public Policy in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University holding secondary appointments in the Heinz College and the Engineering Public Policy Group. He is now an Adjunct Professor of Internet Studies in the School of Computer Science as well as in Engineering Public Policy in the School of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon as well as Distinguished Faculty Fellow at the University of Delaware and Distinguished Career Professor in the School of Arts and Letters at Stevens Institute of Technology.

In 2003, he retired as the Alfred Fitler Moore Professor Emeritus of Telecommunication Systems at the University of Pennsylvania where he held appointments as Professor of Business and Public Policy at the Wharton School of Business and as a Faculty Associate of the Annenberg School of Communications.

In 2000, he was appointed to be Chief Technologist at the US Federal Communications Commission while on leave from UPenn for one year ending in early June 2001. While at UPenn, he co-directed The Penn Initiative on Markets, Technology and Policy. He was also Director of the Distributed Systems Laboratory - DSL where he managed leading edge research in Ultra High Speed Networking. Research papers of the DSL are available in its electronic library. His early academic research work was focused at creating the worlds first operational Distributed Computer System -- DCS while at the ICS Department at the University of California at Irvine. After that, while with the Electrical Engineering Department of the University of Delaware, he helped conceive and organize CSNet, NSFNet and the NREN. He graduated from the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1956 and then started an eleven-year career at Bell Laboratories where he helped design the first electronic switching system - the ESS as well as co- designer of the programming language SNOBOL. He then went west to the Rand Corporation and to Scientific Data Systems prior to joining academia.

Prior to his appointment to the FCC, he served on the US PresidentialAdvisory Board on Information Technology. He is a Visiting Professor of the Center for Global Communications of Japan -- Glocom of the International University of Japan and a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and the Stevens Institute of Technology and the Internet Society.

He is a Fellow of both the ACM and the IEEE and was the recipient of the 1995 ACM Sigcomm Award for life long contributions to the computer communications field. He was awarded in 1997 the prestigious John Scott Award for Contributions to Humanity. In 1999, he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology and in 2013 was awarded the Stevens Honor Award, Stevens highest award, for outstanding contributions to his field.