Joint ICE-TCS and GSSI virtual seminar: Are we doing the work we should?

Speaker: Phillip Rogaway -- University of California, Davis, USA

  • 17.9.2020, 16:00 - 17:00


Schedule: 17 September 2020, 16:00 GMT/18:00 Italian time
Virtual link:
Speaker: Phillip Rogaway -- University of California, Davis, USA WWW:

Title: Are we doing the work we should?

Abstract: It sometimes feels as though the apocalypse has come. I write these words in Portland, Oregon, an environmentally focused city of the U.S. Northwest. With hundreds of forest fires burning in California, Oregon, and Washington, I have pressed a damp towel beneath my door to discourage the outside air from coming in. An air purifier runs tenaciously to clean my little cave. Meanwhile, 190,000 people have already died in the USA from COVID-19. Yet ten-months in, it remains impossible for an ordinary person to buy a medical-grade face mask. Across the country, police continue to kill unarmed black men with near impunity. People protesting this are carted off by federal “police” who aren’t in fact police. Last month, California apparently set a world record for the hottest recorded air temperature on earth. Ice melt is tracking worst-case scenarios. Near-term environmental collapse seems likely, if not inevitable.

Fortunately, my colleagues and I have sprung into action. Nearly 1100 papers have been posted to the Cryptology ePrint Archive in just this fraction of 2020. Most address key questions that we face. Further afield, conference tracks like “AI for Affordable Healthcare” and “Tracking Climate Change with ML” remind us that computer science is playing a pivotal role in improving our world. We can be especially proud of our students, who, with positions at places like Google and Facebook, are poised to organize the world’s information and give people the power to share.

Of course the last paragraph is pure BS. In this talk I would like to gently ask if our collective work is of actual value to the world, or if, just possibly, we are spinning self-serving fantasies and making things worse.


Bio sketch: Philip Rogaway is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of California, Davis, USA.

His research is in cryptography. After finishing an undergrad degree from UCB, he did his Ph.D. at MIT’s Theory of Computation group (1991), graduating under Silvio Micali. After that he worked at IBM as a security architect, then went to UCD (1994), where he has spent most of the last 26 years. His research has focused on obtaining provably-good solutions to protocol problems of genuine utility. He has received several recognitions such as Levchin prize (2016), PET Award (2015), IACR Fellow (2012), ACM Paris Kanellakis Award (2009), RSA Award in Mathematics (2003).

These days, his technical work in cryptography is paired with corresponding concerns for social and ethical issues connected to technology, especially the problem of mass surveillance.

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