Richard Hamming, in his well-known book Numerical Methods for Scientists and Engineers, stated, _“The purpose of computing is insight not numbers.” _ That was in 1962. Today, as the Information Age plows forward, computers touch all aspects of our lives. Far from achieving “insight”, however, there is often a feeling that we are rapidly sinking under the enormous volumes of data. The amount of technical information in the world is increasing geometrically, currently doubling about every two years. While advancing information technology can provide tools to attempt to alleviate this problem, it must be acknowledged that this technology is also a significant contributor to the problem itself. The fact that there is still heated debate on the ‘Productivity Paradox’ associated with massive utilization of computing technology underscores the apparent dichotomy of the situation.
Information processing, long considered the sole province of the computer, is not equivalent to comprehension, real world problem solving, or accurate decision-making. Data mining, for example, is capable of finding hidden relationships and connections in complex data sets. However it is often unable to determine why a correlation exists or whether the correlation is related to some other, unrecognized factor. Faster processors, larger mass storage capacity, ultra high speed bandwidths, and more sophisticated database software cannot, by themselves, the solve the business, scientific, cultural and personal
The difficulty and time required for individuals to comprehend and understand implications buried in massive computer-based information has become the crucial factor in effectively utilizing the information and drawing functional conclusions. Assisting people to explore, question and understand complex information is an essential for future computational environments. Highly interactive human-computer environments can yield insight and practical solutions to some problems far more rapidly than either can by operating independently. The human mind can process and correlate non-linear, multi-dimensional information at rates in excess of 100 gigabytes/sec. Synthetic environments that can successfully exploit this capability may well provide the most effective approach for accelerating human understanding of computational information.
The presentation will outline reasons for the current ‘information bottleneck’ and examine how new perception-based software and hardware environments can accelerate individual comprehension and understanding of complex multi-dimensional information by 2 to 3 orders of magnitude. The effectiveness of these techniques will be illustrated by presenting real-world problem solving, from both business and science, to which they have been applied. Enhancing a individual’s ability to rapidly find and understand the critical relationships contained in complex information may be the most important computational challenge of the 21st Century.
Dr. Creve Maples has undergraduate degrees from MIT and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Science from the University of California, Berkeley. After completing NSF post Doctoral fellowship, he moved into the field of computing and, as head of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’s Advanced Computer Architecture Lab, carried out pioneering work in the fields of multi-processor computers, real-time computing and interactive multi-dimensional data visualization.
He has worked in both the academic and commercial sectors and was recruited from the private sector by Sandia National Laboratory where he founded the Synthetic Environment Laboratory. His work in virtual reality (VR) and human-computer interfaces received national attention and ultimately led to the formation of a public corporation. Dr. Maples has published over 100 journal papers, given hundreds of keynote talks and invited presentations worldwide, has received six national awards for his work and holds a number of patents.
In the business arena, Dr. Maples has founded or acquired, and successfully developed, over a dozen different companies. He has been widely interviewed in magazines, newspapers and on TV including the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Wired Magazine, PBS TV, ABC, Gartner Group, etc., and has demonstrated new information processing technology to President Clinton and the Secretaries of Energy and Transportation, and to a wide variety of military, government, academic and commercial clients.
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