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I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

07 September 2013

Vinton Cerf and Re-Imagining the Internet in the 21st Century

WITS Vice Chancellor, Prof. Adam  Habib opened the proceedings of the 62nd Bernard Price Memorial Lecture, with reflections on Dr Bernard Price - a notable engineer and scientist who straddled a number of scientific disciplines and also had significant input into the development of South Africa's electrical infrastructure. In that sense, Prof. Habib concluded that, Vinton Cerf was similar; as someone who has straddled the development in science, most notably in the sphere of Internet protocols; but has also had a profound impact on the development of the world through his contributions.

 Vinton Cerf's talk definitely paid homage to that theme; where he charted the development of the Internet, from the initiation of ARPANET itself, all the way to the modern Internet of things, and inter-planetary Internet. His insights into the development of ARPANET itself was interesting - from the considerations that were needed for satellite and radio inter-connectivity, and to more humourous commentary on how the address-space allocation in IP was derived.

He covered some of the coming challenges of the Internet including privacy concerns (something, he believes will only be addressed through trial and error), the promise of Google glass (which will go on sale next year, apparently) and the policy battle for the control of the Internet. 

It is the first time, I have heard a clear and succinct explanation on why ICANN is better than the ITU - ICANN is a multi-stakeholder body that includes corporations, private persons and governments; whereas ITU is purely a government organisation. Thus, ICANN, being more participatory is more likely to uphold the tenets of the Internet, as opposed to ITU which may make it a political football. He did think that ICANN requires more government engagement, especially with regards to cross-border disputes and crimes - but ultimately it should be run without political interference.

He finished with commentary on the challenges of inter-planetary Internet. I had not considered the challenges to be that difficult, beyond the physical constraints - and the actual deployment of relay points via orbiters, probes etc. is something fairly logical IMO. However, when he threw the discussion to inter-stellar Internet, and the challenges posed by the bending of light via gravity, it did make the challenges far more interesting - although the approach was seemingly still similar.

Vint Cerf is an amazing speaker, and it was a great memorial lecture by one of the great scientists of today. You can see the full video on YouTube, though apparently the slides aren't shown.

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