Featured in Five is a monthly section where we pose five questions to a Computing Reviews featured reviewer. Here are the responses from our August featured reviewer, Yousri ElFattah (Causal Computing).
Q: What is the most important thing that's happened in computing in the past 10 years?
A: I think the most important thing that’s happened in computing in the past 10 years is mobile computing--a technology that allows transmission of data, via a computer, without having to be connected to a fixed physical link. Examples of those computers are smartphones, tablet computers, and wearable computers. A smartphone is a mobile phone built on a mobile operating system, with more advanced computing capability and connectivity than a feature phone. A tablet is a type of mobile device integrated into a flat touchscreen and primarily operated by touching the screen. Wearable computers, also known as body-borne computers are miniature electronic devices that are worn by the bearer under, with, or on top of clothing. Mobile computing is transforming the way we live and play and do business from retail to health to autos to finance to education, and the trend is happening at a considerable scale and speed. Access to the Internet, using mobile computing technology, has made vast arrays of information readily available to users at their fingertips. Mobile apps are extending and customizing the processing power of mobile devices and are adding rich types of user interactions and services.
Q: By the end of your career, where do you think computer science will have taken us? What are you working on that might contribute toward that?
A: We will see sophisticated context-based mobile apps equipped with learning and data mining capabilities. Those apps will combine location and contextual services like individual needs, social networking, sensor information, and many other clues from relevant data sources to offer custom recommendations and services. Those apps will have a rich set of interactions with the physical world based on a vision of the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Those future mobile apps will mature a vision of pervasive computing and ambient intelligence.
For the past ten years, I have been involved in developing decision aid applications for planning courses of action using technology based on modeling and reasoning in probabilistic causal networks. I am working on adapting the technology to niches of decision-aiding apps whose first incarnation will run on smartphones.
Q: Who is your favorite historical figure? Why?
A: My favorite historical figure is Alan Turing, founder of computer science, a brilliant mathematician, a philosopher, and a visionary, among many other things. He was so far ahead of his time. He is considered the father of artificial intelligence, and theoretical computer science, through his concepts of the Turing test and the Turing machine. His work has made significant contributions to philosophy, in what is loosely called the “science of mind.” He was also a very controversial, enigmatic figure who really embodied all of the intrigue of his era (1912-1954). The complexity of his personality, his keenness, the intensity of his charged life, and the scientific contributions he made all lead me to consider him as my favorite historical figure.
Q: If you weren't working in the computer science field, what would you be doing instead?
A: I would be an artist, most likely a painter. One of the masters I admire is the French painter, Henri Matisse. I have a passion for mixing colors and expressive oil painting on canvas. I have been a student of drawing the human figure and I attend classes for drawing and painting with live models. While my computer science work uses my left brain, I find that art brings me balance and excitement while exercising more of my right brain.
Q: What is your favorite type of music?
A: Classical music. I am a fan of Mozart. It was said that he seemed to conceive of music in final form and to simply write down his conceptions. I like all of his music, but am very fond of his last four symphonies (Nos. 38-41), which have some haunting, intense, and convolved musical themes from melancholic to uplifting.