The expanding role of computer science education—in disciplines from engineering to the arts to health to the environment—took center stage during a series of academic discussions held on Day 2 of the celebration of the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing.
MIT Provost and Ray and Maria Stata Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Martin Schmidt SM ’83, PhD ’88, speaking to a gathering of reporters, underscored that awareness of the societal impact of current and future advances in computing “should shape how the research is performed.” The day ended with a fireside chat that brought together six MIT professors who have received the esteemed A.M. Turing Award, often described as “the Nobel Prize for computing.”
Panelists emphasized the importance of integrating skills and knowledge from other fields with computer science to ensure that ethical, political, and social implications of technology are fundamental to the education of computer scientists.
“The future of the humanities depends on our ability to bring in computational resources, and the ability of computer science to effect societal change depends on bringing humanities to the table,” said Michael Scott Cuthbert, associate professor of music and the director of digital humanities at MIT. “I think both futures at MIT are very bright.”
“We hope to integrate computing with just about every other subject at MIT so that students leave here with the knowledge and resources to be wise, ethically and technologically competent citizens and professionals. This is a very serious assignment, one that could have global consequences.”
—Susan S. Silbey, former Chair of the MIT Faculty, Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities, Sociology, and Anthropology, and Professor of Behavioral and Policy Sciences
“Feeding 22 million children in a free and reduced lunch program is a big data problem, more important than self-driving cars, and it’s the kind of computing I think we should do on inequality and poverty.”
—Megan Smith ’86, SM ’88, former US Chief Technology Officer and founder and chief executive officer of shift7