Southern Man

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

SC12 Day 3

Yesterday was long and tiring but Southern Man got up with the alarm and had breakfast with his colleagues and made haste over to the Salt Palace for the keynote address by Dr. Micheo Kaku.

Dr. Kaku and a few book titles. Southern Man was kicking himself for forgetting to bring his copy of Parallel Worlds but (as it turned out) wouldn't have been able to get close enough for an autograph anyway. Photo stolen from Teh Interwebs.

He gave a very exciting and upbeat talk about both the past and the future. His thesis is that (a) science and technology create wealth and (b) that wealth migrates into a bubble and bursts every eighty years. He used as examples the Great Bust of 1850 (when wealth created by the steam engine moved into railroad stocks, creating an unsustainable speculative bubble), the Great Depression (in which wealth created by the automobile and other technological advances created yet another unsustainable bubble), and the financial crisis of 2008 (in which wealth created by high technology moved into real estate, creating a bubble which later burst). Dr. Kaku predicts that advances in supercomputers will fuel increases in wealth over the next eighty years, and talked in detail on how inexpensive, pervasive computing will change our lives in almost every way. He also said quite a bit about the evolution of "perfect" capitalism and the importance of both education and "intellectual" capital (as opposed to commodity capital) which made Southern Man (a STEM educator with intellectual capital ready for sale) very happy. Dr. Kaku is a very engaging speaker and it was a fascinating talk.

The afternoon was spent somewhat in frustration, in talks encouraging us educators to do things that are frankly impossible. Southern Man is willing - nay, eager - to introduce parallel computing as early in the curriculum as possible, but it ain't gonna happen in the tenth week of CS1 when he's still trying to get the students to think in terms of loops and branches. CS2, yes. And he's also frustrated at all the papers that have the undergrads working in parallel-friendly languages like C and Python while Southern Man must (for many good reasons) work with Java in the CS1/CS2/CS3 sequence. He's already formulating ideas for a paper about how one can get these ideas across in Java for SC13 next year.

The afternoon was also frustrating because Southern Man lost his phone and he spent a fair amount of time trudging between various security offices and lost-and-founds hoping it had been turned in. And after several attempts to call it someone answered and it turned out to be a hotel employee who'd picked it up where Southern Man had left it but (inexplicably) had not turned it in. Well, at least he finally knew who had it and had a good chance of getting it back but in the confusion neglected to attend some evening receptions and therefore missed out on free food. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.


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