Featured in Five is a monthly section where we pose five questions to a Computing Reviews featured reviewer. Here are the responses from our January featured reviewer, David Goldfarb (Degel Software, Israel).
Q: What is the most important thing that's happened in computing in the past 10 years?
A: This question can be answered in so many ways, so I’ll be a bit contrary and choose a negative.
Computers have become fast enough for most users. For years, I needed to move to a new computer every two to three years. But, today, I’m happily typing on a computer that I bought in 2011, and most of its cores are sitting idle. As we lost the ability to improve CPU speeds, Moore’s law has resulted in multi-core architectures that our software is ill-equipped to handle. Most software has failed to grow in power because it is just too difficult to write large programs that take advantage of today’s complex hardware.
Solutions are coming – personally, I’m a fan of functional programming as one direction – but much of the last ten years has shown a dramatic slowdown in the rate of improvement of, especially, mass-market software.
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 to that?
A: Our perception of computers has always reflected society’s uses. As a kid, I loved Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Writing in the 1950s, he portrayed computers as giant thinking machines. When he continued the series in the 1980s, his (and society’s) view of computers had changed: computers had become communications devices. Today, computers continue in both of these roles, but have become media devices for most users. At the same time, we are being flooded by exponentially increasing quantities of media and data. I recently heard a truly terrifying statistic that 90% of all data has been created in the past two years. Mind-blowing!
Over the next few years, I expect us to find better ways to manage these streams of data. I’m working to create tools to help people manage the overwhelming streams of personal media and data that they wish to save, consume, and curate.
Q: Who is your favorite historical figure? Why?
A: Maimonides, the great Jewish sage of the 12th century. A devout Jew, as well as an astounding philosopher and doctor, his worldview resonates across the centuries and plays wonderfully with today’s scientific approach.
Q: If you weren't working in the computer science field, what would you be doing instead?
A: I don’t know. Programming resonated with me from a very early age and I don’t think I would have found the same satisfaction in any other field. But, to someone starting today, I do recommend looking at biology. This will be the century of dramatic advances for biology, just as the last century was for physics/electronics/computing. That said, a generation ago, much of what is called biology today would have been called computing, so maybe I’m still saying to stay in computers.
Q: What is your favorite type of music?
A: I’m sadly lacking in musical taste. As background music, almost anything will keep me happy. When I pay more attention, my focus is mostly on the lyrics, and not the notes or musical style. So, anything funny will keep me happily entertained. Weird Al Yankovic has been a lot of fun for the past many years.