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CSUN 2004 Keynote Speech by Dr. Vinton Cerf, introduced by Bud Riser

Bud : Dr. Vinton Cerf is the Senior Vice President for Technology Strategy at MCI. Widely known as the "Father of the Internet", Dr. Cerf is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocol and the architecture of the Internet. In December 1997, President Clinton presented the U.S. National Medal of Technology to Dr. Cerf and his partner, Robert Kahn, for founding and developing the Internet. Dr. Cerf served as the Chairman of the Board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and has served as founding President of the Internet Society from 1992 to 1995, and in 1999 served a term as Chairman of the Board. There is so much information about Dr. Cerf available. I was looking for some updated information and I came across some quotations from an article published in Wired Magazine and written by Jeffrey Davis. And I quote from this article:

"Leave it to Vint Cerf to think a few light years ahead of the rest of us mortals. One of the most celebrated tech architects of the last century and now, Chief Internet Strategist for MCI, Cerf is deep in a project to move the Net into outer space. No joke! The launch pad will be busy over the next decade with public and private missions aimed at Mars and other Planets, the Moon, asteroids and deep space. Cerf recently joined a small team of engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to begin sketching out the wireless communication network that will let all those space-based machines, and eventually, astronauts, to talk to one another. For example, rovers confined to a planet surface could use a common standard to exchange data with spacecraft from other missions whizzing by. The project, dubbed 'Interplanetary Internet', called for space probes and satellites to serve as Net gateways, conveying data packets to and from Earth and among themselves." End of quote.

Dr. Cerf holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Stanford University and a Masters of Science and Ph. D. degree in Computer Science at UCLA. And I'll add here that he actually grew up right here, Southern California actually, in the San Fernando Valley in Van Nuys. There is most likely not a person in this room who has not used the Internet. If you are here, would you please raise your hand? [Laughter] All right, it is unanimous. The simplicity of moving our hand, or our head, or our eyes, or using our voice, to point to a topic, and instantly be bombarded with thousands of choices from which to pick, was something of pure science fiction, perhaps only 15 years ago. Today, it is as real as the man who helped to bring it to us. It is both a great pleasure and a humbling experience to introduce to everyone, this year's keynote speaker, Dr. Vinton Cerf. [Applause]

Dr. Vinton Cerf : Thank you very much, Bud, and Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone. I'm not wearing anything green, so I'm using green PowerPoint slides as my substitute for that. Thank you all for getting up at this early hour. I'm sitting here, speaking of humbled, I have to tell you, last night, I said that I felt very humbled in front of all of you who are far deeper into the use of assistive technologies and implementing them than I am. And so, in some sense, I feel like a keynote speaker who may not bring as much to the table as you have already collectively brought, but I'll do my best to give you some idea of what's happening in the Internet world. Also, I don't plan to spend a lot of time on the Interplanetary system just because there's a finite amount of time available this morning and right now, I think, dealing with problems on Mars is not your highest priority. [Laughter] You've got plenty of problems here on Earth to deal with. If you go away with nothing else this morning than one quote, I want to share this one with you. It's from my former boss, a guy named Bob Harcharik, who some years ago went to MCI from the West coast, in fact. He used to be the President Of TimeNet. And he launched a program at MCI, which ultimately became what's called, what was called "MCI Mail". I was the engineer on that project and when Bob launched this thing, he said "You have nine months to get this project done. Create a commercial, electronic mail service from virtually nothing." And he wrote on the board, "To do the impossible, first, you have to believe it isn't." And in some sense, that's exactly what you do every single day, doing the impossible because you don't believe it isn't. So that's what the topic today is, "Doing the Impossible", because we don't believe it isn't.

So, let me start out, by trying to outline for you a little bit about what's happening to the Internet because it's one among many enabling technologies that we use every day. And I also have to admit to you that I feel funny using PowerPoint slides. Here's why. I have a new aphorism, "power corrupts" and PowerPoint corrupts absolutely. [Laughter and brief applause] Now, I have to apologize to my good friends up in the Northwest coast, who actually bring this capability to us. I make regular use of PowerPoint, but in some sense we need to be aware of Marshall McCluhan's point that "the medium is the message" and this kind of technology sometimes causes us to simplify messages that are complex. Sometimes that's a good thing for communications, but sometimes it's not a good thing because the subtleties and depth are missing. So, there actually have been some studies about people using PowerPoint and similar technologies to make presentations. The confines of the technology sometimes lead to a weakening of the depth of the communication. However, I have things I want to show you, some of them are images that I would find hard to describe without actually putting them on the screen. So I am going to go ahead with PowerPoint, in spite of this aphorism.

I want to first start out by just giving you a little bit of statistical information about what's happened to the Internet in the last five or six years. In the middle of 1997, we estimated that there were 50 million people on the Planet using Internet. The estimates now, at the end of 2003, are more along the lines of 800 million to a billion users. Of course, we don't really know because there isn't some place where everybody has to register so we know that they are Internet users and often we can't quite tell because Internet facilities are used and shared a great deal. In fact, we'll see in a couple of other little examples of that momentarily. In terms of where the Internet has gone and where people are using it, it's quite surprising to see how quickly these statistics have moved away from the centralization in North America, to a distribution across the world. Canada, the U.S., Europe and Asia, the Pacific Rim, are all about equally filled with Internet users on the order of 180 to 190 million each. Latin America, Africa and the Middle East are smaller-sized components of the Internet. I think Africa is a very big challenge because there are a billion people there, but only an estimated six million or so have access to the Internet today. In Asia Pac, I think we're going to see a massive increase in the absolute numbers of users there. After all, it's a huge population center if you include India and China, with more than a billion people each. So, over time, I think during the rest of this decade, we will probably find that the most populous component of the Internet is in Asia and the Pacific Rim. As far as projections going forward go, I believe that we will have on the order of two and a half to two point seven billion users by the middle of the next decade, 2015. This curve is a little odd because it looks like it rapidly grows more than linearly until about 2005 or 2006. And then it continues to grow, but at a less rapid pace after that, reaching about maybe 45% of the world's population by 2015. The reason that I think the pace will slow down a little is that, as we try to move Internet further out to parts of the world where it has not yet gone, we are challenged first by economics, because we're trying to deliver a communications capability to economies that are relatively weak, and therefore there's a lower disposable income capability. And perhaps, also, a challenge is that the underlying communications infrastructure in some parts of the world are still quite weakly developed. And without good telecommunications infrastructure, it's hard to deliver Internet service. So, I think it's going to get more difficult as the next decade unfolds, but nonetheless, I think the Net will continue to grow.

This is a picture that was taken by a friend of mine in Belize. It shows how enterprising people have become. This gentleman is running a laundry, a coin operated laundry, and he added wireless Internet service. So, while you're waiting for your laundry to finish, you'll have something useful to do like your email or surfing the Net. This is just one of many examples of this kind of enterprising thinking. I was in Ghana about a year and a half ago and I drove around the capital city of Accra and counted 36 Internet cafés. I was impressed that the number of people there were trying to offset the cost of getting access to Internet by allowing many people to share a common infrastructure. In the sense, that may be an indicator of the likelihood that my estimates for the number of users on the Net will turn out to be low, because there will be many people online sharing resources that might otherwise be dedicated to one person or one family. The technological observation that I would like to make, because I think it's very relevant to the kinds of things that we try to do with the Internet, with regard to its enabling powers. The Internet layer of this multi-layer architecture of Internet has two very interesting properties. The first one is that it doesn't care how it is being transported, so Internet packets can go over radio or satellite or optical fiber or twisted copper pair. Virtually any communication system that can move bits can move Internet packets. Perhaps, even more important, the Internet protocol doesn't care what it's carrying, so every Internet packet could be carrying a bit of the web page, a bit of digital voice or digital video, a bit of an email. It can carry anything that can be digitized, but it's agnostic about what it is that it's carrying. So, the Internet layer protocol isolates applications from the underlying transmission environment.

This has regulatory implications and it has engineering implications, because it says I don't care anymore what the application is. I don't care anymore what the underlying transport is. Internet will carry virtually anything. So, I had a T-shirt made that said, "IP on everything". [Laughter] And that's sort of what I've been doing for the last 30 years. And once, if you're successful in getting an infrastructure in place, people begin to assume that it's there, just like they assume that there is power plugged into the wall. And for many of you who require wheelchairs, one thing we wish you could assume, is that there are ramps everywhere that you need them. That's something we all need to work on. But once these infrastructures are in place, then you begin to realize people are relying on them, they're depending on them. So, now I know I need a new T-shirt. I don't know what it should look like, but I know what it should say. It should say, "IP under everything." Because that's basically what's happening. People assume that the Internet protocol layer is there, and then they create new applications that assume it's there, and rest on top in this structured layered protocol architecture.

Well, there are a remarkable number of appliances that are starting to show up on the Internet. They are Internet enabled, and I have to say that I really was surprised and did not ever anticipate things like this 30 years ago when we started this project as a research program for the Defense Department. But there are now Internet enabled refrigerators, Internet enabled picture frames and Internet enabled telephones, among many other things. And I'd like to talk a little bit about them because their presence in the Internet implies a great many things about how this future technology has to unfold.

Let me take Internet telephony for just a moment. What's interesting about it is that its sound is simply another medium that you can digitize, and so there shouldn't be any surprise that we can carry voice communication across the Internet. But the thing that I want to emphasize to you is that having Internet enabled some particular device, like a telephone, opens up a range of possibilities that are frankly not accessible in the ordinary telephony world, the world of circuit switched narrow band voice. Why do I make such a bold assertion? Once you Internet enable a device, it now can interact with virtually any other Internet device on the Internet, assuming, of course, that their software in the pair of devices we're talking about is suitable and compatible. That means that a device that we think of as a telephone can draw on other computing capabilities, other transforming capabilities that are imbedded in the Internet and accessible through the Internet layers of protocol. So, a thing which looks like a telephone can actually invoke a great deal of computation, a great deal of transformation in the course of carrying out its normal function, which is to get two parties to communicate with each other. So the ability to automatically bring in relay services, to bring in speech-to-text or text-to-speech capability, if that's needed to assist the communication, end to end, is much more naturally performed by a device that is simply a part of and embedded in the Internet architecture. So, I bring this to your attention because I think for many devices that are Internet enabled we can see them as part of a ... simply the tip of an iceberg sized collection of other functionality that we can draw on in this rich and increasingly complex Internet environment.

So, I'm going to just mention a few applications that we can, either already see today or predict with some confidence, because of this tide of Internet enabling. There are a number of programming languages that are becoming popular for use in the Internet environment. They go by names like Java and Python. They have the characteristic that they are interpretive languages, so it's actually quite easy to transmit a source program across the Internet and load it into a target device, adding functionality to that device that it didn't have moments before. So, this ability to adapt a device based on what it learns is needed, is an extremely powerful capability. You see some of these devices regularly if you travel, Web TVs for instance, Palm Pilots or other kinds of personal digital assistants. Mobile telephones are increasingly Internet enabled. In fact, I would point out that, in the last five years or so, the number of mobile telephones has ballooned to something like over a billion devices worldwide. Added to the number of wired line telephones, which are also about a billion, so there's two billion plus devices on the telephone network and most of those mobiles will be Internet enabled in the next several years. So, we will see a significant influx, measured in the billions of devices, that are both mobile and Internet capable. Video game manufacturers are Internet enabling their video games. There are picture frames that have been Internet enabled, and I have to tell you that when someone came into my office a few years ago and said, "Vint, Vint have you seen it? It's an Internet enabled picture frame." And my first reaction was "Well, that sounds about as useful as an electric fork." [Laughter] You know, just stab yourself. But I thought about it for a while and I came away with a very different view because these devices are prototypical of what we really want.

They are ultra simple in their functionality, they have only two buttons. One button changes the contrast of the image that's being presented, and the other button says go connect to the Internet, and specifically to a website, which is associated with this particular picture frame. Go to that picture frame's web page and download instructions about what you should do. Those instructions might include download some images, remove some that you already had in memory, play them in sequence, add some captions to say something about the images that are being displayed. And recently, the company that sells these products also will sell, let me call them channels, that go with the picture frame. So, it will put up news reports, possibly financial news or scientific news or society news. It will also put up local weather reports as long as you tell it where the picture frame is located. So, this thing is very simple from the user point of view, which is great. The grandparents can put this in the living room, and it will periodically bring up pictures that you or other members of your family have uploaded to the website showing the grandchildren growing up and going to school and playing and so on. So, I have about a half a dozen of these devices scattered around the United States among family members and we all upload our digital images to the website and we get to watch our family kind of growing up and living on a day to day basis.

The video game manufacturers that are Internet enabling these devices, are doing so in part because the game players would like to interact with each other, not only in the context of the game, but they want to talk to each other while they're playing. And they don't have keyboards with those little video controls. They have about 25 buttons on them already. They can't afford to type on a keyboard while they're shooting at somebody. So, they talk to each other. And I suppose, if you put an inexpensive video camera on the television set, you could actually create an interesting video communications, video and audio communications environment. It's occurred to me that video conferencing, which has been a kind of, sort of a holy grail for a great many people in the information and communications technology world, may actually be realized in the business world by people buying video games and bringing them into the office and using them as video conferencing technologies because of the cameras and the sound. And of course, if the videoconference gets boring, you can always go back to playing video games. [Laughter]

There are even washing machines that have been Internet enabled. IBM and the German high-end appliance maker Miele are test marketing Internet enabled washing machines at a University somewhere up in the North of the United States and the students love it, right, because they put their wash in the washing machine. And then they go off and have a beer, and the washing machine pages them when the wash is done, so they can go back and get it out. [Laughter] There are high-end refrigerators that are being sold. Now this is expensive, it means they're $8,000 refrigerators, but those of you who possibly look at some of the high-end appliances know about companies like SubZero that make very, very beautiful, but very expensive gear. So, these things are being Internet enabled. There is a recent technology, which is starting to emerge called RFID for Radio Frequency Identification Device. These things are used typically today in toll roads where you mount a little device on your windshield. It's a passive device, but it receives radio energy as you go through the tollbooth. And that radio energy is converted to electricity and the device itself then emits a radio signal stating you know, which device is it, which account number should be debited in order to pay for your trip through the toll booth. I always wondered exactly how this worked and how do I know that I'm not paying for all the other cars that are nearby. I haven't found that out yet, but so far it seems to be working okay. So, there are companies like Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble, that are suggesting that consumer products should have these RFID chips in them. Part of the reason they're interested in that, is that if a product has a shelf life issue, you want to know which products should be taken off the shelf. And you can quickly find out by literally interrogating the shelf, by sending this radio pulse to find out which things are on the shelf. And then by doing the database lookup, you can find out which ones should be removed. That's especially important when it comes to medications that have a finite shelf life and should be taken off at the appropriate time. So, you can imagine a refrigerator that's equipped with an RFID reader, so it now knows as you put things into it what it has in it. So, what does an Internet enabled refrigerator do while you're off at work, given that it knows what it has inside? Well, it's surfing the Net looking for recipes so when you come home. [Laughter] The liquid crystal display has a list of things that you can make with what it knows it has inside.

Now, you can extrapolate this to other kinds of scenarios. For example, you might be, you might be on vacation, and you get an email, and it's from your refrigerator. [Laughter] It says "I don't know how much milk is left, but you put it in there three weeks ago, and its going to crawl out on its own if you don't do something." Or, you might be shopping at the grocery store and your pager goes off, and it's your refrigerator again. [Laughter] Only this time it says, "Don't forget the marinara sauce. I have everything else I need for spaghetti dinner tonight." Now, I'm sorry to say that our Japanese friends, who are so wonderful in making appliances, have made an Internet enabled bathroom scale. [Laughter] When you step on the scale, your weight is recorded and it gets sent to the doctor to become part of your medical record. Which I suppose is okay, but what if the refrigerator gets the same information? [Loud laughter and applause] Now you come home, and you see diet recipes coming up on the display. Or maybe it just won't open, because it knows that you're on a diet. [Laughter]

Well, not to be outdone, our friends in Germany are competing with our friends in Japan to build Internet enabled automobiles. And this is actually quite exciting, and there is a lesson that I want to share with you to take away about technology. Imagine for a moment, you have an Internet enabled automobile. The car also has a global positioning satellite receiver, so the car's computer knows where the car is. There are other devices in the car that are Internet enabled, including you with your pager or your mobile phone or your personal digital assistant. So, this collection of devices in the car forms a small local Network that is using Internet technology to communicate among the devices. You're driving down the street, and with your mobile phone you say to a computer that's on the Internet, "Where is the nearest ATM machine?" Now, the computer can't answer that question, unless it knows where you are, or where you were, when you asked that question. But the mobile phone, being a part of the local Net on the car, can ask the GPS receiver, "Where are we?" And send that as data along with the sound that it is sending to the computer that is understanding the question. The computer takes those two pieces of information, goes to another computer on the Internet, with a geographically indexed database and gets the answer, interprets that, transmits back as sound something that you hear saying, "It's two blocks up and to the right." But because the navigational display in your car is also Internet enabled, it has an IP address. That IP address is also sent to the computer that was understanding the question, and so it takes the geographic information and sends a map back to the navigational display. What has happened here, this may not be a fabulous money making application, but what I want to emphasize is that a collection of Internet enabled devices has been drawn together briefly to perform a function as a group. And then of course, they go off to serve as other requirements. So, this momentary collaboration of Internet enabled devices is extremely powerful, conceptually, and I believe will be an engine for the creation of all kinds of products and services in the future.

Now, I've got two other items on this chart that would be fun to share with you. One of them has to do with Internet enabled wine corks. And before you conclude that I've blown my own cork, I'm a wine collector and I really care a lot about what's in the bottle, especially when I pull the cork. And sometimes when you open these bottles, you discover that they are bad, that something has gone wrong. And of course, my first reaction when that happens, aside from disappointment, is to wonder what happened? Can you imagine that the kinds of devices that allow us to store memory in a computer or personal digital assistant or a new device that you hear about now called memory sticks? That same kind of storage could be literally embedded in a wine cork along with an RFID capability. So, you can imagine as you fill a bottle of wine at the winery, that you record the location and time and the nature of the wine that was put in. When the wine is moved to a merchant, you could record that information. If you have a suitably equipped storage facility, you could actually be recording the temperature and humidity that the wine is stored at on a daily basis. And as the wine moves from one place to another, that information could be kept up to date. So, when you finally pull the cork out of the bottle, and the wine is not good, you interrogate the cork. And you ask, "What happened?" [Laughter] And you discover that some summer day in 1995, that the air conditioning failed and the temperature of the wine reached 107 degrees, and spoiled it for you. Now, it would be nice, of course, if you were smart enough to interrogate the cork before you bought the bottle, in order to find out whether its history has a problem. Although that sounds a little silly, there are many, many systems that need to have a record of their service, or a record of their experience kept with them. Automobile engines that require servicing over time, a record of all that could easily be kept using this technology.

There's another area which is similar in nature to all this, and that's clothing which has been Internet enabled. For a number of applications, one is interested in capturing vital signs. You know, a person who might have need of observation, in order to either detect or evaluate a particular medical problem. I'm sure many of you would resonate with that situation. And, of course, when we send astronauts into outer space, we typically instrument their clothing so that we can keep track of their vital signs.

So, I got to thinking about what life would be like if I had Internet enabled socks. First possibility is that I can interrogate my sock drawer and get back a report saying I have 17 matched pairs of socks. And then I'd get a report saying, "There's one sock missing, sock 144L is not in the drawer." [Laughter] So, I would send a multicast around the house [Laughter] and I'd get back a report saying, "Hello, this is sock 144L. I'm under the sofa in the living room." [Laughter] So, with this wonderful technology we've just solved the missing sock problem, which is an enormous contribution to society.

So, just to give you a sense for possibilities, you can, I'm sure, invent much better ones than this. But the idea that there are going to be billions of devices on the Internet that are Internet enabled, and therefore can be managed and controlled, is very important. If you're like me, you have a lot of remote controlled devices at home. And, you know, they're intended to control video cassette recorders and the television set, and you know the projection displays and so on, sometimes even the microwave oven or other appliances. And if you're like me, it's hard to remember which device controls which appliance, and so you know, you fumble around with all 14. And when you finally get the right one, the right remote control, that's the one whose batteries are dead. [Laughter] So, I think Internet enabling will actually do something else for us, which I think is quite interesting. It will allow us to have a single device that can control literally any Internet enabled appliance. In fact, because it's part of the Internet environment, we can invoke those resources that are literally out on the Network. So, I should be able to say to my VCR "Record Star Trek at 10 o'clock on Sunday night." My voice doesn't go to the VCR directly. It goes out through the Internet to a computer, which has been programmed to manage appliances in my house. And it figures out, because it's been configured to do so, which device is it, what's the right instructions to tell the VCR, how to record Star Trek at 10 o'clock on Sunday night.

So, the idea of having software out on the Net that will help you manage Internet enabled devices at home, or in the car, or maybe that you're wearing, is perfectly reasonable. It does underscore the importance of security, however, because you certainly, because you can control a device using your single Internet remote control. Maybe it's actually embedded in your mobile phone, means that anybody else on the Internet might be able to manage your devices at home, including the 15 year old next door who has, you know, a reason to want to mess up your house. So, it's very important that we introduce security techniques into all of all of these ideas, to make sure that only the right people are controlling the devices that are important to you. So, let me shift gears for a moment now and try to focus on this whole matter of assistive technologies. I am not an expert in assistive technologies. I am not the guy who invents them, I'm a guy who sees how they get used. I see you and your uses, and my wife's, and I try to help supply some infrastructure that allows these assistive devices to work.

But Sigrid's story is very important, I think, for its illustrative character. Sigrid, my wife, was deafened at age three. She had lost her hearing after she had acquired speech, so she has more or less normal speech, but she was profoundly deaf for many years. She got a cochlear implant in 1996, and I'm sure many of you are familiar with that technology. It's pretty astonishing because it's an outpatient operation. You go in in the morning and you come home with an implant. A few weeks later, after everything has healed, they activate it. What's important is that you have a speech processor, which is actually performing the function of your inner and middle ear and outer ear, really. That computer is "hearing" essentially. And it knows how to stimulate the auditory nerve inside the cochlea with the appropriate kinds of electrical signals to fool the brain into thinking that the ear is actually functioning, even though it really is not. So, that little computer is a terribly important part of the design of the cochlear implant technology. When Sigrid got her implant, she sort of turned into a 50-year-old teenager. I couldn't get her off the telephone, it was incredible. [Laughter] She even would take calls from telemarketers [Laughter] and she would chat with them saying, [Laughter] "How did you get your job?" She'd love the AT&T calls, especially, and she would take them on a merry chase, for maybe 15 minutes or so. And then, finally they'd say, well you know, "Would you like to switch your telephone service to AT&T?" And of course, the answer was "No, my husband works for MCI, but thanks for the call." [Laughter]

Even Sigrid has finally gotten a little bit tired of the calls in the middle of the dinner hour. But she went after every decibel she could possibly get, having missed a bunch of them for 50 years. So, she saw this auxiliary input, audio input of the speech processor, as an opportunity to take advantage of auxiliary devices. So, she got CD players so she could listen to books on tape or books on disc. She called the library and said "I want to subscribe to books on tape." And the reason she wanted to do that was that she wanted to hear how words were pronounced that she had not heard before. She knew what they looked like, but she'd never heard them. So, she wanted to hear this and so, of course, the path for doing that was books for blind folks. So she called on the phone to the library, and she said "I'd like to subscribe to these" and they said fine, and took name and phone number and they said, "Now you're blind, aren't you?" And she said, "No, I'm deaf." [Laughter] Now, there was this long pause while they were trying to figure out, well you know, "How's that going to work?" She's now listened to something like 480 books over the last, since 1996, on tape. And it has gotten to the point now where she not only recognizes other people mispronouncing words, but she's also very interested in hearing accents and tries to figure out where they come from.

She acquired a vast array of different kinds of microphones to plug into this thing. She always carries several microphones with wires of varying length, sometimes they're, you know, 10 feet, 5 feet, 15 feet. She even has a 50 foot microphone that she uses in lecture situations, if she doesn't happen to have her FM transmitter receiver, which she uses regularly. If she goes to lectures, like we did on Saturday at the Smithsonian, she simply attaches an FM transmitter to the microphone, or to the speaker, and then sits comfortably anywhere in the room and gets very, very high quality sound from that. When she's at the movies, she listens to an IR transmitter. When she's at home, she has a little IR transmitter plugged into the television set, so that the sound gets to her directly out of the audio output from the television. She has magnetic detectors to use on the telephone.

Of course, no one is, let's say safe, from Sigrid's snooping. Because now she's wearing microphones, and she has them scattered around the dinner table, and so there are no private conversations at her dinner parties. And in fact, it has some social side effects, which you don't think about until you're actually stuck in the situation. Sigrid and I had dinner one night with Sam Donaldson and his wife, Jan. And Sigrid dutifully, in this noisy restaurant, connected a small microphone to Sam Donaldson's lapel and they were having a wonderful conversation back and forth. And then Sigrid decided she wanted to talk to Jan. So she reaches over and she pulls the microphone off of Sam's lapel and she clips it on to Jan's blouse. Now, Sam has never been de-miked like this before in his life. [Laughter] Now, I remember he was, his mouth was flapping saying, "Oh, my God, I've been de-miked! [Laughter] What do I do now?" So, you know, it's not something, it's not very subtle, I mean, you know, you just plug off to somebody else.

The point is, I want to make two points about this. One of them is that Sigrid is not afraid to use those technologies visibly. And so when she meets perfect strangers who might be taking her on a guided tour somewhere, and she wires them up. We have, we had a priest take us through the cellars of the St. Peter's Basilica, down in the crypt, you know, where the popes are buried and so on. This young man was taking us on the tour, and the first thing Sigrid does is leash him to her microphone. And bless his heart, he immediately understood what was going on, and took us on a fabulous tour. But, my point I want to make is that Sigrid's not afraid to do that.

And I want to challenge the folks at CSUN, and every one of you who deal with folks who use these technologies, or could use them, to help them not be afraid to do that. Some people are worried that it's different, and it looks funny, and it's not normal or something. And you know, if you'll forgive me, I won't even use the bad words I was thinking of, the heck with that. You know, grab the decibels where you can, and however you can, because they are ephemeral, ephemeral and perishable. And you won't get them if you don't grab them.

So, I want the CSUN people who teach, speech therapists, and audiologists who work with hearing impaired folks, and folks who have cochlear implants and other things, to be fearless about their use of these auxiliary technologies.

But, one other thing I have to tell you about Sigrid's speech processor. I am determined to re-program the thing so that it does TCP/IP [Laughter] and plug it into the Internet. And the reason I want to do that, is that Sigrid, since she's got a microphone on this thing anyhow, could actually ask questions of the computer that's out on the Internet and get the answers back and nobody would ever know. Because the stuff goes through, it's all electronic, and the only time it ever turns into sound is the electrical impulses in her cochlear implant. So, you know, you could have a fabulous source of information on the Internet that, I shouldn't tell this to the students who aren't supposed to get outside help from their exams, okay. [Laughter]

All right, so, just, I'm going to run out of time here if I'm not careful. Just to overemphasize wherever I can, that it's really important to harvest whatever residual abilities any individual happens to have. And so, we want to amplify those abilities, and it's not just amplifying sound, it's amplifying anything that you've got available. Whether it's a neural impulse, you know, in what is left of an arm that might have been injured. Or literally using eye motion, or any other muscle we can get our hands on, to amplify its capability to allow those individuals to control systems that they otherwise wouldn't be able to control. Now I know I'm preaching to the choir, so I won't overemphasize this anymore. Another thing that we can do is to either substitute, or to translate from one medium into another, by using these kinds of electronic technologies. And especially technologies that are programmable, because they are so flexible. We also have the ability to combine a lot of these capabilities together. So, we can simultaneously be, for example, signing, we can be speech reading. We can use amplification to improve sound, we can do text-to-speech. We can do a variety of transformations in order to help everyone who might need special assistance, communicate effectively. I sit on the Board at Gallaudet University, and when we have our board meetings, it is really pretty amazing to watch every possible, imaginable assistive technology at work, all at the same time. Though we have real time captioning going on, we have people who are translating from sign to speech, we have people going the other way. We have people who are doing blind interpretation, very much like what's going on in this room right now. And it's that combinatorial power that I find so exciting, because it says that we get to harness literally every imaginable technique, and we don't have to use one at a time. We can use a bunch of them all at once.

Last night I alluded to something that I want to emphasize again today. And that is the inestimable value of being able to make mainstream, any of the technologies that we use for helping people remediate a disability. In fact, in some respects, when we look at the technologies that help people overcome one or another disability, those same techniques may actually help someone with normal abilities become supernormal. It's sort of like Sigrid and her Internet enabled speech processor. The possibilities of being able to literally talk to the Internet and have it speak to your head is well beyond the normal capability of most human beings. And so, I get very excited about the idea that our technologies that we collectively develop are of use, not only to people who might need them to remediate a particular challenge, but they may also be used by people to increase their capabilities beyond what would be normal. Of course, the primary reason for mainstreaming things is economy of scale. Once a particular technology is useful to literally everyone, then the cost will come down because there just has to be more of it available. Moreover, it becomes infrastructure.

To give you some small examples of that, in Europe the short messaging system capability of the mobile phone service is intensely used, especially by teenagers. It is their means of communication. When they're not talking to each other, they're sending these little short messages. In our world in the U.S., it's more common to see things like pagers and instant messaging as a similar kind of service. Email has become an infrastructure that many of us rely on very, very heavily. And so, once things become infrastructure, everyone is familiar with them, they're comfortable with them, and it's the usual thing instead of something special. And making our technologies the normal thing, the usual thing, is tremendously useful, not only because of its social effect, but because of its economic effect. Now, one thing I have noticed and another one of aphorisms for you to take away is this incredible power of four words in the English language, "While you're at it." Now, I've experienced this particular little expression in building a house, and it has side effects, you know, "While you're at it, why don't you?" And that's another $200,000 or something like that. But the idea that, as you work on assistive technologies, while you're at it, think about some of the other things you could do. Think about what other assistive technologies could do in combination with what you're doing. Think about Internet and standards and the ways of making these various systems interwork with each other, to add up to more than their individual parts. That's pretty exciting, and that's why regulation and standards can sometimes be a very powerful tool. I realize I'm going to run out of time in a minute here, so I think I'm getting close to the last few slides.

Regulation is sometimes necessary. You sort of wish that we didn't have to insist on X, Y and Z happening. But sometimes companies won't react to what would be a socially beneficial thing, unless everybody has to do it, so they feel like they're being treated fairly. And so, regulation often is a way to achieve that. And for individuals, I think similarly, we'd like to feel like all of us are being treated fairly because the rules say we should all get whatever it is we need to benefit, in order to function in our society. Now, there are, of course, some extreme cases. I'm not going to try to label any, but you know, from time to time, I believe that there are people who abuse the intent of the ADA. And I worry a little bit about that because, if someone is using the ADA to make up for something that they really, you know, that's something under their own control, it hurts the rest of us who really need ADA to function for things, those things that we can't do anything about without help. So, I'm always a little sensitized to that distinction. On the whole though, I think that the intent of ADA and its execution has been very beneficial, but that doesn't mean we can't do a better job of it. I think that things like ADA and other sorts of legislation that state rules for assistance, create some important incentives. It creates opportunities, because it's mandated, you'll find that people will discover new ways of improving assistive capability. That's something that I suspect every single one of you will either have personally engaged in, or will discover from looking at some of the displays that will be in this room momentarily.

Hence, and finally, the most important thing from my perspective, is that standards create interoperability. And there is nothing more powerful, I think, than creating an environment where every new invention has the possibility of interworking with earlier ones. That's how Internet has grown so quickly, is because everything is essentially standardized. And when you build a new application sitting on top of the Internet, there's a high probability that it will interwork with all the others because of the standards that are in place.

There are some policy challenges that I want to draw to your attention, because you might not be following them particularly. There is something called the World Summit on the Information Society. It's a four-year activity. It had its midterm in Geneva in December of 2003 and it will have its final in Tunis in November, I think, of 2005. That summit was originally organized by the International Telecommunications Union. It is now adopted by the United Nations as a focus on what an information society is like, what it is technologically like. And what policy should look like in order to make it work, as a sort of an infrastructure for commerce, for social interaction, for learning and education. The reason I draw this to your attention is that, I don't think that assistive technologies have been adequately represented in the discussions at that world summit. I will be in New York at the United Nations next week, on the 25th of March, and I intend to raise exactly that point. And try my best to articulate how important it is, for anyone thinking about an information society, to pay attention to the assistive technology aspect of it and the enabling that is needed to allow all of us to take advantage. Finally, I want to be very careful that we not steer ourselves or our colleagues or our friends who rely on us into a technology ghetto. What do I mean by that? Well, I have been troubled for many years by the tension between the TTY device, which was wonderful because it allowed the telephone to be used by people who were deaf. And the fact that that TTY device was a five-bit Baudot instrument, which was not compatible particularly with modern-day eight-bit ASCII computers. And so for a very long time, I felt like my friends who were using these TTY devices were cut off from the rapidly evolving Internet world, and the world of computing. That's changing with time, thank goodness, because the devices that are compatible with the Internet are getting less and less expensive, and can be used in lieu of some of those earlier devices. But it's been 20 years for that evolution to take place. And I consider that to have been a kind of ghetto, that however beneficial it was, steered a lot of people into a spot where it was hard to get out of, without making additional expenditures. So, if you can avoid that, as you think your way through various assistive ideas, it would be helpful. I hope no one misunderstands my comments, because I benefited from those TTYs, too. But they still felt like they were not as enabling as a device that was fully Internet capable, or at least computer based. So, let me simply close by suggesting a couple of things.

Right now, this world of information and communication technologies is coming together. It's a rich, rich mix of opportunities for us in our assistive technology explorations. We have the opportunity to enable a great many capabilities that are not there today and, of course, it's a huge challenge to figure out how to do that. Part of that challenge is software. My background is in software. I made my living writing code many years ago, and I see it as simply an endless opportunity, because software is simply whatever you can figure out how to program. And so, all those devices that are out on the Internet, I think of as these little receptacles that are waiting for somebody to pour software inside of them, to make it do something. And of course, with these interpretative languages, like Java and Python, we can make it do something new at every next moment by pouring in new interpretative software. So, creativity is really an endless opportunity in the software world.

And finally, with regard to technology opportunities, neural electronics of various kinds, I think are going to open up a huge pathway. We can already see it, cochlear implants. That's a sensory neural system. But think about the possibilities of optical implants, which I know are in research now. And what about these sensory motor implants that might be possible someday? And I know there's experimentation for people who have various spinal cord injuries, with propagating nerve signals past the injury, into the rest of the system, neural system. So that we get, not only, improvements on the sensory side, but improvements on the motor side, as well. I think we're just beginning to see the possibilities. And as nanotechnology improves, as we can build these devices smaller and smaller, so that they become compatible with our neural systems. The more likely it is that these systems can be used to remediate, in various significant ways, disabilities that otherwise impair our enjoyment of life, and our ability to be productive. Let me stop there and thank you again for all that you do. I'll see you on the Net. [Loud applause]

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