Embedding Computing in the Physical World: What If, When and How?

Document Type

Bucknell Film

Publication Date



Computer Science & Engineering


Since the early 20th century, computing has increasingly been used to mediate physical processes. If you drive a modern car, what you are really doing is requesting the actions you want to make, and a computer sitting between you and the mechanical parts of the car decides how the car should respond. Modern aircraft literally fly themselves. When we look for opportunities to embed computating in existing processes, the first question we usually ask is "what if ...?" Two other questions we should be asking are "when should we ...? and "how ...?" I will talk about the implications of these questions using examples from the three application areas I work in: medicine, civic agriculture, and sustainable energy. I will also discuss the implications of this embedding of computing in processes for society, as well as for those in the workforce and for education.

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