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SCS celebrates 25th anniversary

Serkan Piantino (SCS ’04), the site director of Facebook’s New York office, spoke on Friday about the future of the computer science industry. (credit: Abhinav Gautam/) Serkan Piantino (SCS ’04), the site director of Facebook’s New York office, spoke on Friday about the future of the computer science industry. (credit: Abhinav Gautam/) Serkan Piantino (SCS ’04) had a conversation with Dean of the School of Computer Science Andrew W. Moore as part of the celebration of the school’s 25th anniversary. Moore and Piantino spoke in Rashid Auditorium on Friday about the future of computer science. (credit: Abhinav Gautam/) Serkan Piantino (SCS ’04) had a conversation with Dean of the School of Computer Science Andrew W. Moore as part of the celebration of the school’s 25th anniversary. Moore and Piantino spoke in Rashid Auditorium on Friday about the future of computer science. (credit: Abhinav Gautam/)

In this age of Big Data, digital technologies, and social networking sites, companies are grappling with consumer privacy. According to Carnegie Mellon alumnus and Site Director of Facebook’s New York office Serkan Piantino (SCS ’04), who spoke as part of the School of Computer Science’s (SCS) 25th anniversary celebrations, computer scientists must take the lead in making policies and creating technologies that deal with these privacy issues.

“We have to have a conversation. Technology has created so much potential for data interaction, and with that comes great potential for risks. We, the engineers, need to have a sophisticated dialogue about having a good, nuanced, ethical understanding of how we want our data represented and shared,” Piantino, who oversees Facebook’s engineering office in Manhattan, said.

“When you are learning software engineering, you have to be learning about policy implications; there is no such thing as a pure technology,” added Andrew W. Moore, the dean of SCS, an expert in artificial intelligence and robotics, and a former executive at Google.
Piantino and Moore shared their visions for the future of the industry before a packed audience of students, alumni, and faculty members in Rashid Auditorium as part of a celebration of SCS’s 25th anniversary on Friday.

Moore and Piantino also discussed how computers and mobile devices are changing our lifestyles. With smartphone apps completely infused into our lives and wearable devices becoming more and more prevalent, “a lot of our industry is in this pause-mode, waiting to see how the iWatch does,” Piantino said in reply to a question regarding the future of technological accessories.

This year, the School of Computer Science celebrates its 25th year as a stand-alone college within Carnegie Mellon University. The School of Computer Science is considered one of the world’s premier programs in the field.

The story of this college goes back further, however: A decade or so after the emergence of the first computer, Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Computer Science was formed in July 1965 by a group of visionary enthusiasts comprising Allen Newell, Herbert Simon, and Alan Perlis.

By the early 1960s, the university offered an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program called systems and communications sciences. Over the decades, the School of Computer Science has expanded and created new degree-granting departments such as the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and the Institute for Software Research. The Robotics Institute, also a division of the school, is the largest university robotics research group in the world.

In a separate panel discussion titled “SCS25: The Next 25 Years of Computer Science,” led by Corporate Vice President and Head of Microsoft Research Peter Lee, the panelists included Severin Hacker (SCS ’09, ’14), Assistant Professor of computer science Emma Brunskill, and Assistant Professor of computer science Aarti Singh, who discussed their research and what trends they see evolving during the next 25 years.

“From the beginning, the School of Computer Science has drawn on the expertise of psychologists, management specialists, mathematicians and electrical engineers,” said Majd Sakr, founder and director of the Cloud Computing Lab at Carnegie Mellon’s Qatar campus.

“We’ve had a lot of diversity, and that is why we are uniquely positioned to be able to make an impact that will make a difference in the way technology is designed,” Sakr said.

“What’s coming next is human enhancement,” said former School of Computer Science professor Nathaniel Borenstein (SCS ’85), who helped design the MIME protocol for formatting multimedia Internet electronic mail.

Borenstein is working on creating digital eyeglasses that may someday assist people with colorblindness, as well as allow humans to see in infrared and ultra-violet spectrums. Borenstein’s work, he said, comes from his own imagination, adding that that sort of thinking is encouraged at Carnegie Mellon.

“There is a real culture here [at Carnegie Mellon] that none of us is really satisfied. We are constantly thinking about the future, and we think it’s fun to have this opportunity to change, as well as feeling a sense of earned responsibility for it. We really do need to debate amongst all of us how should those 25 years go,” Moore said.