Phenotropics, or Prospects for Protocol-adverse Computing



  • Future of Software Development Series with Jaron Lanier.

    Pre-registration is now unavailable.
    Please register at the door.



    Jaron Lanier (bio)

    Co-hosted by the Computer History Museum

    Whenever we pass a variable to a function, or send a message to an object, we're simulating the sending of pulses down a wire. The way that works is the sender and receiver agree in advance on a format that makes the pulses interpretable, also known as a protocol.

    Protocols aren't the only way information can travel between places, however. When a physical coffee mug sits on a table, it's possible to imagine that there's a protocol that exists between the two things, but it's an awkward way to think. And yet that's what we often do when we try to build scalable simulations of the world. We can end up with a "coffee mug module" connected to a "table module" via a protocol. In the early years of computing, many researchers wished that the world was a little more like a protocol, so that would be easier to interface computers to it.

    Early natural language researchers, for instance, were unhappy to find that it wasn't so. What happened instead was that processors eventually became powerful enough to run pattern classification algorithms that could gather information even though the world didn't agree with us in advance on a format. Some examples are face recognition and feature tracking, voice recognition, and scene understanding.

    The idea of phenotropics is to use similar pattern recognition techniques to connect software modules together inside the computer. Hopefully systems built in that way will display more informative failure modes, and therefore be more amenable to adaptive improvement. Another potential benefit is that scientific simulations might not be distorted by protocols (as in the example of the coffee mug on the table), and might be more easily integrated into a new iteration of the scientific method in which they could be usefully published, tested, and reused. A potential early application in surgical simulation will be discussed.


    Read more on the SDForum Series: The Future of Software Development and see a list of upcoming speakers!


    Speaker Bio: Jaron Lanier

    Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist best known for coining the term "Virtual Reality". Most recently he served as Chief Scientist for Advanced Network and Services, the engineering office of Internet2, a coalition of American research universities sharing an experimental next generation network. While there, he lead the Nation Tele-immersion Initiative, which was responsible for providing the "driver" applications for Internet2. Tele-immersion is an extension of Virtual Reality, in which people in different cities are given the illusion that they are in the same room.



    Event Logistics


    PARC-George E. Pake Auditorium
    3333 Coyote Hill Road
    Palo Alto, CA


    6:30-7:00pm Registration/Networking
    7:00-9:00pm Program



    Cost (light snacks will be served)
    $15 SDForum members, Computer History Museum and ASAP Members
    $20 Non-members*

    * Non-members will receive a coupon for free admission ($15 value) to an SDForum Special Interest Group.

    Pre-registration unavailable. Please register at the door.