Computer Chip Visionaries Win the $1 Million Turing Award

Former Stanford president John Hennessy and UC Berkeley professor emeritus Dave Patterson won the $1 million 2017 Alan Turing Award on Wednesday for their breakthrough work in designing energy-efficient chips in the 1980s that set the stage for smartphones' omnipresence today.

Yet the two world-renowned computer scientists are worried about some aspects of the very computing revolution they have helped to jump-start. In an interview with this news organization, Hennessy and Patterson expressed concerns about the impacts artificial intelligence and advanced robotics will have on younger generations, and the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities in computer chips that can allow hackers to access critical personal data.

Hennessy suggested Silicon Valley is about to undergo the latest industrial revolution, which will occur much faster than the one in the 19th century -- perhaps within a decade. He expressed concern about the effects artificial intelligence and advanced robotics will have on the American job market.

"What are my grandkids going to do?" Patterson asked. "Are they going to have to retrain themselves for jobs every few years? I hope we figure it out before we pull out the pitchforks and guillotines."

Patterson called the Spectre vulnerability, which tricks running programs to hand over private data, an "existential attack on how we build processors today."

The Meltdown and Spectre bugs are found in nearly all microprocessors in smartphones, computers and servers produced since 1995, after Hennessy's and Patterson's award-winning microprocessor design work was conducted. Santa Clara-based chip maker Intel said last week that it has made progress in fighting the vulnerabilities through software patches and an upcoming generation of microprocessors with newly designed hardware.

The Alan Turing Award -- named after the famed British mathematician during World War II credited as the father of modern computing -- is the most prestigious award in the field of computer science. Referred to...

Comments are closed.