[PITAC] Interim Report to President Clinton on IT Research.

I Find Karma (adam@cs.caltech.edu)
Thu, 13 Aug 1998 07:56:19 -0700

Joseph Reagle, I'm still trying to think of just one book to recommend
you read


because right now, about twenty books come to mind. Meanwhile, in my
daily exercise of Bolcer's second corollary to Godwin's Law, I thank my
advisor for forwarding my morning read, which I will now inflict on all
of you.

The President's Information Technology Advisory Council (PITAC) sent
its interim report to Bill Clinton on August 6. Looking at the
membership of this council


we see that the cochairs of the Advisory Committee are Bill Joy and Ken
Kennedy, and the members include Eric Benhamou, Vint Cerf, Dave Farber,
Jim Gray, Danny Hillis, David Nagel, Raj Reddy, Leslie Vadasz, and
Irving Wladawsky.

In other words, not the kind of people who are likely to put their kitty
cats on a scanner solely for the purposes of trying to win a "cat-scan"
contest (though I'm sure that just by linking to said contest, Greg is
going to get another idea-of-the-day... :)


Ahem. Anyway, back to the Interim Report to the President:


In section 1, they lay out some visions:


The communication vision (only a billion people? that's only a sixth of
the planet):
> Vision: One billion people worldwide can access the Internet
> simultaneously and engage in real-time electronic meetings, download the
> daily news, conduct financial transactions, or talk to friends and
> relatives around the world. This can be done regardless of the language
> in which the participants are speaking, since language translation can
> be done instantaneously, and regardless of physical limitations, because
> devices can accept and provide input and output in many ways.

The information vision (suddenly Ted Nelson's transclusion doesn't seem
like such a fringe idea):
> Vision: An individual can access, query, or print any book, magazine,
> newspaper, video, data item, or reference document in any language by
> simply clicking the mouse, touching the computer screen, talking to the
> computer, or blinking an eye. Individuals can easily select among modes
> of presentation: data, text, images, or audio. Information can be
> referenced and derivations can be incorporated in many new ways, adding
> value and revealing insights through networked and software-enabled
> tools.

The education vision ("no one gets left behind" sounds so utopian):
> Vision: Any individual can participate in on-line education programs
> regardless of geographic location, age, physical limitation, or personal
> schedule. Everyone can access repositories of educational materials,
> easily recalling past lessons, updating skills, or selecting from among
> different teaching methods in order to discover the most effective style
> for that individual. Educational programs can be customized to each
> individual's needs, so that our information revolution reaches everyone
> and no one gets left behind.

The commerce vision (where are the brokers and middlemen in this vision?
because a world of everyone online is going to need some serious
intermediation or we'll drown in a flood of email):
> Vision: Any company can be easily reached by its customers, regardless
> of location. It can receive immediate customer feedback, and rapidly
> adjust marketing strategies or product inventories based on that
> feedback. Consumers can shop for the best products, services, and prices
> from the convenience of their hotel room, home, or office. Electronic
> purchases can be made securely, providing suppliers and retailers with
> immediate access to cash generated by sales and consumers with automated
> statements detailing spending and purchases that allow for improved
> personal financial management.

The work vision ("while en route" is cool -- I wonder how many billions
of dollars of productivity are lost to commuting):
> Vision: The workplace is no longer confined to a specific geographic
> location, as workers can easily access their tasks and colleagues from
> alternate locations or while en route. Workers have access to jobs
> without regard to physical proximity to major metropolitan areas. They
> can choose where they live based on nearness to family or lifestyle
> preference rather than job market opportunities. A highly flexible
> workplace is able to accommodate each individual's needs, from working
> parents to workers with disabilities.

The health care vision (empowering patients always seemed like a suspect
idea to me -- I mean, they didn't go through 17 years of medical school,
so how well informed could their decisions possibly be?):
> Vision: Telemedicine applications are commonplace. Specialists use
> videoconferencing and telesensing methods to interview and even to
> examine patients who may be hundreds of miles away. Computer-aided
> surgery with Internet-based video is used to demonstrate surgical
> procedures to others. Powerful high-end systems provide expert advice
> based on sophisticated analysis of huge amounts of medical information.
> Patients are empowered in making decisions about their own care through
> new models of interaction with their physicians and ever-increasing
> access to biomedical information via digital medical libraries and the
> Internet.

The design vision (doesn't this make it sound like design will soon be
so easy?):
> Vision: Complex products and structures can be designed via computer
> simulations that accurately represent the physical properties of the
> systems being built. Designers, manufacturers/builders, suppliers, and
> end-users participate in the design process, providing immediate
> feedback. Multiple designs and manufacturing processes can be rapidly
> explored, resulting in safer products, high quality, and lower costs.

The research vision (wow, I'd love to be able to do all my research from
a small cabin in Montana, if possible...):
> Vision: Research is conducted in virtual laboratories in which
> scientists and engineers can routinely perform their work without regard
> to physical location -- interacting with colleagues, accessing
> instrumentation, sharing data and computational resources, and accessing
> information in digital libraries. All scientific and technical journals
> are available on-line, allowing readers to download equations and
> databases and manipulate variables so one can explore the published
> research interactively.

The environment vision (wow, sounds like societal engineering):
> Vision: Reliable climate models permit us to determine the rate and
> regional distribution of climate change to support accurate projections
> by sector and region. Sophisticated models accurately predict the
> response of ecosystems to changes in temperature, water availability,
> and atmospheric composition. Fully integrated models allow scientists
> and policy makers to consider information on climate trends, population
> trends, resource utilization, and the value of natural and economic
> resources when making decisions regarding technically feasible and
> cost-effective options to reduce or adapt to climate change.

And, of course, the government vision (does the government really WANT
citizens to have easier access? we might start demanding more
> Vision: Government services and information are easily accessible to
> citizens, regardless of their physical location, level of computer
> literacy, or physical capacity. Intelligent systems guide citizens by
> providing a one-stop shopping experience for locating requested
> information. Documents and forms can be accessed, completed, and
> submitted electronically. Automated business processes allow nearly
> instantaneous response to citizens' requests. In times of natural
> emergencies, emergency crews have instant access to three-dimensional
> building models, risk analysis and assessment, high resolution local
> weather predictions, stress analyses of damaged structures, rapid
> evacuation planning tools, and emergency agency coordination.

Section 3 addresses research focal points and societal implications


and there are a lot more analyses and recommendations in the report;
visit the web site if you want to see them. Below I'm just going to
forward the summary of the recommendations for software research:

> Software is increasingly important to the fabric of our society. By
> failing to improve the quality of the software we develop and use and
> the processes used to develop it, we put the Nation at risk. Long-term
> research is needed to strengthen our software enterprise. That research
> is not being adequately supported. This research should be closely
> coordinated with research undertaken in response to the President's
> Commission on Critical Infrastructure designed to protect the nation's
> infrastructure from intentional attacks.
> The Committee recommends that a variety of additional investments be
> made to enable fundamental improvements in the Nation's software quality
> and its development processes. In particular, major improvements must be
> made to methods for software development, verification and validation,
> maintenance, user interfaces to computing systems and electronically
> represented information, software for high-end computing, and software
> to support emerging ubiquitous and collaborative computing.
> Recommendation: Fund more fundamental research in software development
> methods and component technologies.
> The Committee recommends that research in software methods, especially
> in the area of automated support for software development and
> maintenance, be aggressively pursued. Such research should explore and
> create:
> component-based software design and
> production techniques, and the scientific and
> technological foundations needed for a
> software component industry
> techniques for using measurably reliable
> components and their aggregation into
> predictably reliable and fault-tolerant systems
> theories, languages and tools that support
> automated analysis, simulation, and testing
> of components and their aggregation into systems
> techniques for aggregating provably secure
> components into provably secure systems
> standardized protocols and data structures to
> promote interoperability of applications
> running in parallel across wide-area networks
> Recommendation: Sponsor a national library of software components in
> subject area domains.
> The Committee recommends that a program be established -- based on the
> recommended research on software development methods and component
> technologies -- to create a National Electronic Library of reusable
> software components in areas useful for Science and Engineering research
> and education. This library would initially be a way to test components
> and component technologies. The Committee expects that standards will
> develop based on technologies for robust software, and will enable
> widespread registration and sharing of software. In this way, the
> library can evolve into a widely used resource. The Committee is fully
> aware of previous attempts to establish national software libraries as
> well as the reasons for their lack of success. However, the Committee
> feels that this is still a desirable goal and recommends that funding be
> directed to address the technical problems associated with the previous
> failures.
> The technical problems to be addressed include mechanisms for high-level
> specification of components, for reliability and performance guarantees,
> for evolution of components over time, and for solutions to other
> unanticipated barriers to effective use of the components. In addition,
> methods are needed for effective discovery of existing components, for
> appropriate organization of the library, for appropriate intellectual
> property safeguards, and for integrity of the collection with respect to
> tampering of various kinds. It is anticipated that as the technology
> matures, researchers will contribute software components to the library,
> and that those components that are accepted will have passed
> acceptability tests. The Nation's information infrastructure will be
> used to provide widespread access to the library.
> Recommendation: Make software research a substantive component of every
> major IT research initiative.
> In the past, major initiatives, such as HPCC, have suffered from
> under-investment in software research. When considering new initiatives
> like the ones proposed later in this section, we must ensure that the
> software research necessary for success is included.
> For example, we cannot build a scalable information infrastructure
> without an adequate investment in the software that will provide
> services on that network. For this reason, the Committee recommends in
> Section 3.2 substantive new software investments to support scalability,
> distribution and reliability.
> Similarly, there is a continuing need to raise the level at which the
> users of high-end computing create applications software and migrate
> their software solutions to new architectures. Thus an adequate
> investment in software to support those activities is called for in
> Section 3.3.
> In short, Federal research support programs have a history of
> underestimating the software research and development investment needed
> for success. This tendency must be reversed if new information
> technology initiatives are to have the impact the Nation needs.
> Recommendation: Support fundamental research in human-computer
> interfaces and interaction.
> There are many facets to human-computer interfaces and interactions. We
> must provide easy access to all people, regardless of economic
> circumstances, physical impairment, or intellectual limitations. To that
> end, user interfaces must become considerably richer, depending less on
> textual interfaces and manual dexterity, rather taking more advantage of
> the decreased cost and increased miniaturization of audiovisual devices,
> increasing the use of natural language, and providing more assistance to
> the user, through techniques ranging from help systems to inference.
> Progress in ease-of-use is a good example of the coupling of software
> advances with those of the underlying hardware devices.
> The spectacular advances in computing power and new display technologies
> can provide a deeper understanding of information and data.
> Full-immersion environments such as "CAVEs" are beginning to explore
> some of the implications, but substantial funding for hardware to enable
> software research in this area will be needed for the next breakthrough.

Anyway, on August 10, President Clinton responded to the report


Anyone know anything about the NSF Authorization Act of 1998?

> Dear Bill and Ken:
> Thank you for your Interim Report advising me of the President's
> Information Technology Advisory Committee's (PITAC) findings and
> recommendations on future directions for federal support of information
> technology research and development. The Vice President joins me in
> thanking you and the other PITAC members for your guidance on how best
> to preserve America's commanding lead in computing and communications
> technology.
> Our nation's economic future and the welfare of our citizens depend on
> continued advances and innovations in the information technologies that
> have produced so many remarkable developments in science, engineering,
> medicine, business, and education. Sustained prosperity for America
> requires a steady stream of technological innovation. The
> knowledge-based society of the next century makes our participation in
> the front ranks of research essential if our nation is to capture the
> gains of scientific and technological advances. Half of our economic
> productivity in the last half century is attributable to scientific and
> technological innovation. One third of our economic growth since 1992
> has been spurred by businesses in the computing and communications
> industries. Information technology sustains our global competitiveness,
> provides opportunities for lifelong learning, and expands our ability to
> solve critical problems affecting our environment, health care and
> national security.
> Through my Administration's initiatives in computing and
> communications, such as the Next Generation Internet, the Defense
> Advanced Research Projects Agency's support for breakthrough
> technologies, the Department of Energy's high performance computing
> programs, and the National Science Foundation's Knowledge and
> Distributed Intelligence emphasis, we have laid the foundations for the
> technological advances that promise to profoundly transform the next
> millennium. Yet, to maintain this momentum, we must adequately fund
> critical federal investments in fundamental research. In my recent
> speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I proposed
> significant increases in computing and communications research. Your
> proposed research agenda will help guide Dr. Neal Lane, my Assistant for
> Science and Technology, in developing a detailed plan for my review.
> For six years in a row, I have proposed budget increases to sustain
> American leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge. Most
> recently, I was pleased to sign into law the National Science Foundation
> Authorization Act of 1998, which will create new knowledge, spur
> innovations, foster future breakthroughs, and provide cutting-edge
> research facilities that will produce the finest American scientists and
> engineers for the 21st century.
> I am hopeful that the Congress and my Administration can work together
> to advance the leading edges of computational science to help us
> discover new technologies that can make this a better world. We have a
> duty -- to ourselves, to our children, and to future generations -- to
> make these and other farsighted investments in science and technology to
> take America into the next century well-equipped for the challenges and
> opportunities that lie ahead.
> Sincerely,
> Bill Clinton


Progress, n.: The process through which Usenet has evolved from smart
people in front of dumb terminals to dumb people in front of smart
-- obs@burnout.demon.co.uk (obscurity)