The Taub Faculty of Computer Science Events and Talks
Matan Gavish (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Tuesday, 13.06.2023, 16:00
Over the course of four decades, the academic field of computer science transformed from a branch of mathematics to a key driver of the evolution of our species. Graduates of academic computer science programs today routinely create systems that would have been considered, just a century ago, miracles of mythic proportions. Judging by cultural impact, computer science departments today resemble Hogwarts much more than they resemble the theoretical havens they used to be before computers got seriously strong.
Interestingly, at their core, computer science BSc programs have not changed that much since the 1990's. If indeed with great power comes great responsibility, then it is now incumbent on academic computer science departments to prepare the young witches and wizards, who train in CS, to use their digital powers responsibly - whatever this may mean. Needless to say, almost nothing in the academic computer science literature offers any clues on how to go about this. On the contrary, computer science - like all science and technology - detaches technique from its human impact, focuses almost exclusively on problem solving, and tends to view the world through a narrow quantitative lens. Questions of human impact are typically labelled under the obscure term "ethics" and deferred wholesale to the social sciences and humanities. Clear basic guidelines for individual choices, analogous to those of the medical and life sciences, still seem lightyears ahead.
I will argue that academic computer science departments offer the perfect environment to be asking these questions - as Joseph Weizenbaum and Norbert Wiener passionately prophesied at the onset of the digital age - and that it may be our solemn duty to do so. I'll share some experiences from teaching an undergraduate CS class in Hebrew University, which looked for meaningful ways to form a personal perspective on the broader implications of digital information technology.
Matan Gavish is an Associate Professor in the Hebrew University School of Computer Science and Engineering. He is the founder of the Israel-Singapore center for AI-based urban agriculture (iSURF), and of the Hebrew University joint CS-Statistics BSc program in Data Science. His research interests include statistical learning, mathematical statistics of spectral algorithms in high dimensions, applied harmonic analysis, random matrix theory, empirical mathematics, reproducible research, data-driven precision agriculture, digital communication studies, and philosophy of technology. Matan received the dual B.Sc. degree in Mathematics and Physics from Tel Aviv University in 2006, the M.Sc. degree in Mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2008 and the Ph.D. degree in Statistics from Stanford University in 2014.