Okay, I’ve had a few days to reflect on the session on Software Engineering for the Planet that we ran at ICSE last week. First, I owe a very big thank you to everyone who helped – to Spencer for co-presenting and lots of follow up work; to my grad students, Jon, Alicia, Carolyn, and Jorge for rehearsing the material with me and suggesting many improvements, and for helping advertise and run the brainstorming session; and of course to everyone who attended and participated in the brainstorming for lots of energy, enthusiasm and positive ideas.
First action as a result of the session was to set up a google group, SE-for-the-planet, as a starting point for coordinating further conversations. I’ve posted the talk slides and brainstorming notes there. Feel free to join the group, and help us build the momentum.
Now, I’m contemplating a whole bunch of immediate action items. I welcome comments on these and any other ideas for immediate next steps:
- Plan a follow up workshop at a major SE conference in the fall, and another at ICSE next year (waiting a full year was considered by everyone to be too slow).
- I should give my part of the talk at U of T in the next few weeks, and we should film it and get it up on the web.
- Write a short white paper based on the talk, and fire it off to NSF and other funding agencies, to get funding for community building workshops
- Write a short challenge statement, to which researchers can respond with project ideas to bring to the next workshop.
- Write up a vision paper based on the talk for CACM and/or IEEE Software
- Take the talk on the road (a la Al Gore), and offer to give it at any university that has a large software engineering research group (assuming I can come to terms with the increased personal carbon footprint 😉
- Broaden the talk to a more general computer science audience and repeat most of the above steps.
- Write a short book (pamphlet) on this, to be used to introduce the topic in undergraduate CS courses, such as computers and society, project courses, etc.
Phew, that will keep me busy for the rest of the week…
Oh, and I managed to post my ICSE photos at last.
When my children grow up, the world they live in is likely be very different from ours. There’s a small chance that humanity will rapidly come to its senses, start massive program of emissions reductions, and avoid the worst climate change scenarios. The Hadley Centre gives us about a 50/50 chance if carbon emissions peak by 2015, and then fall steadily at a rate of 3% per year (They are currently rising by nearly 3% per year). If we manage to pull this off, and also win the 50/50 bet, our children and grandchildren will ask us how the hell we managed it.
If we can’t stop emissions growth in the next five years, things look much more grim. Perhaps the simplest way to explain it is the picture painted by the New Scientist: How to survive the coming century: a world that is 4°C warmer, 90% of the human population wiped out, the rest relocated to dense cities in Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia. Uninhabitable deserts across the subtropics. Virtually no life in the oceans. And that’s the good part. The New Scientist article glosses over the climate wars that are almost certain if large parts of the world become uninhabitable. If they survive, our children will demand to know what the hell we were doing: we knew it was coming, we knew how bad it would be, and still we did almost nothing to prevent it.
When my kids ask me these questions in decades to come, I need to be ready with an answer. I’d like to say that I did everything I could possibly do. I’d like to say that what I did was effective. And I’d like to be able to say that I made a difference.
Having talked with some of our graduate students about how to get a more inter-disciplinary education while they are in grad school, I’ve been collecting links to collaborative grad programs at U of T:
The Dynamics of Global Change Doctoral Program, housed in the Munk Centre. The core course, DGC1000H is very interesting – it starts with Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point book, and then tours through money, religion, pandemics, climate change, the internet and ICTs, and development. What a wonderful journey.
The Centre for the Environment runs a Collaborative Graduate Program (MSc and PhD) in which students take some environmental science courses in addition to satisfying the degree requirements of their home department. The core course for this program is ENV1001, Environmental Decision Making, and it also include an internship to get hands on experience with environmental problem solving.
The Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI) also has a collaborative doctoral program, perfect for those interested in design and evaluation of new knowledge media, with a strong focus on knowledge creation, social change, and community
Finally, the Centre for Global Change Science has a set of graduate student awards, to help fund grad students interested in global change science. Oh, and they have a fascinating seminar series, mainly focussed on climate science (all done for this year, but get on their mailing list for next years seminars).
Are there any more I missed?