Monday, April 18, 2011

Communications Magic

I’m in Washington DC for a few days meeting with the higher-education advanced networking community, plus representatives from the federal government, and a few people from some high-end network equipment makers.  We’re here to discuss how to continue to make cutting-edge high performance computer communications available to our researchers.  I’ve been actively involved with this community for about 15 years.

I do see the irony in a meeting such as this.  We’re supposed to be the experts on high performance networks and communications tools, and yet we all travel to Washington to talk in person.  Yes, we could use our technology instead of traveling to meet.  And often throughout the year, we do.  But we all also understand that face-to-face communications are a special kind of magic.  Sharing a physical space with someone, having a friendly argument with them in person, seeing the subtle look in their eyes, reading their body language… these are all elements of communication that nothing else can replace. 

Of course, we have tried.  With the networks we’ve built over the last 15 years – easily 1,000 times faster than the ones we started with – some amazing things are possible.  Immersive virtual reality, video conferencing that allows 6 remote participants to interact as if in the same room, collaboration tools that allow many people to share rich content in real time – these things are enormous improvements over the way we worked together 15 years ago.

Still, when we want the very best, when we want the magic, nothing beats in person interaction.  So we’ll be together in Washington DC this spring, and probably once or twice a year for many years to come.  It’s wonderful to be a part of the community developing the future of online communications.  But I never want to forget that communications magic is still best in person.


  1. But if we can have surgical simulation that allow surgeons to 'feel' the body...then perhaps one day, we will have communication tools that do likewise for communicating - closing the gap between tools and really being there in person.

  2. I love that comment, Jean. It sums up what motivates me to work on this stuff!