Friday, April 30th, 2021

Letter from the Director, April 2021

Dear friends,

Greetings from Berkeley, where we are preparing to welcome scientific visitors to a Quantum cluster in Calvin Lab this summer. We are excited to be opening our doors for indoor activities after nearly sixteen months.

Ten years ago, the leading edge for the theory of computing was the interplay between core algorithms and complexity on the one hand, and on the other hand the “algorithmic lens,” which reaches out to domains outside the field with computational questions at their core. Today the field of computer science has been transformed by the emergence of surprisingly successful data-driven machine learning methods, which present foundational questions to theoretical computer science relating to issues of data privacy and security, biased data sets, algorithmic fairness, transparency of algorithms, and legal governance, to name a few. These are emerging as central themes in many Simons Institute programs.

To address these questions from an interdisciplinary perspective, the Simons Institute launched an initiative last year devoted to Algorithms, Society, and the Law, which includes our Law and Society Fellowships, as well as workshops, policy-and-practice white papers, newsletter articles, video content, public lectures, and panels. One such event will be a panel discussion on the documentary film Coded Bias, as part of our Theoretically Speaking series. The film explores the impacts of algorithms on society, including issues of bias in machine learning algorithms. We hope you will join us on May 7 for this discussion with the filmmaker and researchers in the emerging field of algorithmic fairness. 

In our SimonsTV corner this month, we’re pleased to share an episode of Polylogues devoted to the topic of data privacy, hosted by former Simons Institute Science Communicator in Residence Konstantin Kakaes, and featuring Adam Smith (Boston University), Frauke Kreuter (University of Maryland, LMU Munich, and the Institute for Employment Research in Nuremberg, Germany), and Helen Nissenbaum (Cornell Tech).

And on behalf of the Simons Institute, I’d like to congratulate our colleague Oded Goldreich for his selection as the winner of the 2021 Israel Prize in mathematics and computer science. 

May we meet in person soon.

Best wishes,

Shafi Goldwasser
Director, Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing