IEEE Talks Big Data: Sorel Reisman & Sheikh Iqbal Ahamed
Professor Sorel Reisman chairs the Standing Committee for the IEEE Computer Society Signature Conference on Computers, Software, and Applications (COMPSAC), serves as a tenured professor of information systems in the Department of Information Systems and Decision Sciences in the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University (Cal State), Fullerton, and as managing director of MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching), a project of the Cal State University Chancellor’s Office. Professor Sheikh Iqbal Ahamed chairs the COMPSAC Steering Committee and serves as a professor of computer science and director of the Ubicomp Research Laboratory at Marquette University. The two professors recently participated in a joint interview during COMPSAC 2017 in Turin, Italy, on the impacts of Big Data, disruptive technologies and how COMPSAC 2017 contributes to IEEE’s mission to advance technology for the benefit of humanity.
Question: What are the quintessential disruptive technologies today with the greatest impact?
Sheikh Iqbal Ahamed: I’m not sure it is disruptive, but Big Data is certainly driving a lot of new efforts toward new applications such as self-driving cars and social robots for community engagement using autonomous and smart computing. These efforts are leading us to fog or edge computing as a means to speed in situ processing when and where possible, and to manage data flows to the cloud. That in turn drives a need for standards in fog, edge, and cloud computing. Big Data is a big driver of change.
Sorel Reisman: I agree to an extent. Big Data isn’t really new, but it is driving new efforts as Iqbal said. Another big change is that, in the past, computing solutions and applications were proprietary, and that made work in that area a specialty; and perhaps databases and systems then, were, to a degree, more secure. Standards and open source code have provided everyone with infrastructural technologies that can be built and shared over the Internet. I think that’s socially disruptive, if not technologically disruptive, because that’s driving, in part, new or increasing concerns about data security and privacy.
Question: What are your thoughts on how ethics fit into this new picture of Big Data and its collection, storage and analysis?
Reisman: The misuse of data is a big concern. Governments can misuse data to suppress democracy or target dissidents. Policies and standards for the proper use of data are meaningless if a government doesn’t conform to them. If you read the newspapers, this is happening all over the world right now. It’s worrisome. But there are less clear-cut cases with an ethical dimension. We have digital cameras in many public places and some say they don’t want to be surveilled. But those cameras have also identified perpetrators of crime. Do digital cameras in the home aid security or are they threats to privacy? I expect discussion of these issues will continue. Some issues fall within public policy, some we will need to decide as individuals.
Ahamed: Another way to look at Sorel’s point is that we can impose limits on the use of cameras or alternatives to them. For instance, I personally think that cameras in public places are generally a good thing, considering their ability to record criminals in the act. But I don’t want cameras in bathrooms. One way to avoid this is to use other technologies. For example, motion detectors or even smart slippers could detect if someone has fallen in the bathroom and needs help. So one aspect of the ethics relating to Big Data is how it is collected and used and whether alternatives are less intrusive.
Question: What were the themes of this year’s COMPSAC 2017 and how do they relate to the IEEE’s mission to advance technology for the benefit of humanity?
Ahamed: This year’s theme for COMPSAC 2017 held 4-8 July in Turin, Italy, was “Building Digital Autonomy for a Sustainable World.” Big Data implies that we must move from human-centric and directed collection, storage, analysis and application of data to autonomous systems better suited to the speed and scale of new data streams. We want the benefits of Big Data – and avoid the pitfalls – but not the total demand on our attention it would require. In fact, that’s beyond human capabilities. To benefit humanity, we must conceive, design and implement autonomous systems that can enhance people’s lives. And that is happening with numerous topics we discussed in Turin in July, such as wearable computing, the Internet of Things, social networking, privacy, security and surveillance, as well as emerging architectures and network issues that affect these technology-driven innovations.
Question: Have you articulated a theme for COMPSAC 2018 and can you elaborate on the shift from this year to next year?
Reisman: Yes, the theme for COMPSAC 2018, our 42nd annual meeting 23-27 July in Tokyo is “Staying Smarter in a Smartening World.” Iqbal just described the role of autonomous systems, which go hand-in-hand with “smartness” or intelligence that must build upon itself. These two topics are part of a continuum. Autonomous systems will involve learning and adapting across innumerable domains. Autonomy and intelligence applies to autonomous vehicles, medical devices, manufacturing robotics – the advent of autonomous systems that must possess and develop intelligence to govern their behavior is touching every aspect of our lives. So there are social and ethical implications that must be addressed as well. Given our mission to advance technology for the benefit of humanity, I wouldn’t be surprised if the social implications of Big Data and computing became the theme of a future COMPSAC meeting.
|Professor Sorel Reisman chairs the Standing Committee for the IEEE Computer Society Signature Conference on Computers, Software, and Applications (COMPSAC), serves as a tenured professor of information systems in the Department of Information Systems and Decision Sciences in the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University (Cal State), Fullerton, and as managing director of MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching), a project of the Cal State University Chancellor’s Office.
|Professor Sheikh Iqbal Ahamed chairs the COMPSAC Steering Committee and serves as a professor of computer science and director of the Ubicomp Research Laboratory at Marquette University.