Featured in Five is a monthly section where we pose five questions to a Computing Reviews featured reviewer. Here are the responses from our current featured reviewer, André Mariën (K.U. Leuven, Belgium).
Q: What is the most important thing that's happened in computing in the past 10 years?
A: Computing’s move to invisibility: ever smaller devices that are ever more powerful, with more intuitive interfaces. The focus is now on creating solutions to problems, rather than making possibly useful products that are not very usable.
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: I am lucky that this is not a very long-term prediction. First and second lives are getting blurred into one. I envy the wealth of means to learn and experiment that I missed at school, and hope that this will reform education significantly. Most travel time is lost time and is unnecessary. Virtual meetings and virtual visits open the world at minimal costs. We will see more information and less data dumps(ters). We may step into a new brave world under constant supervision and analysis, with a risk of massive abuse. All we do and realize may be compressed in a few terabytes, and be wiped out in the blink of an eye.
We cannot expect to reap the benefits without caring for the risks.
Q: Who is your favorite historical figure? Why?
A: I am convinced we need to learn from history, and we learn best from mistakes. Most historic figures teach us about something we should not do, or something that should have been done. One person stands out: Mahatma Gandhi. He did not conquer continents or build an empire, but made a big difference in a situation where another, possibly disastrous outcome was likely.
Q: If you weren't working in the computer science field, what would you be doing instead?
A: The computer science field has exploded. To my surprise, most of the alternatives I considered at one time would now be considered subfields of computer science. The one thing that bothers me about this is that so much of what we do is invisible, making it difficult to explain its beauty and relevance.
An architect must have a vision and broad competencies, and can leave a lasting and tangible footprint. Therefore, I think I would consider a career in architecture. Moreover, they get to sit behind computers for much of their time as well.
Q: What is your favorite type of music?
A: Good music. Most any type has been able to appeal to me, but I must confess that opera and jazz have not been able to tempt me yet.