Friday, July 31st, 2020

Letter from the Director, July 2020

Dear friends,

Greetings from Berkeley, where we are looking forward to fall programs on Probability, Geometry, and Computation in High Dimensions and Theory of Reinforcement Learning. Because of the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, our fall programs will open in a fully remote environment. The resilience of our research community since the beginning of the pandemic assures us that we will be able to hold dynamic, collaborative programs conducted through Zoom and other supportive platforms. Nonetheless, we look forward to convening again in person as soon as it is safe to do so, and will invite participants to join us in Calvin Lab whenever the university announces that this is permitted.

Meanwhile this summer, we are hosting a number of online events: a six-week series of technical lectures on Advances in Boolean Function Analysis, our Theoretically Speaking public lecture series, and workshops on Algorithm Design, Law, and Policy and Decoding Communication in Nonhuman Species

In our SimonsTV corner, we're highlighting a couple of talks from the workshop on Algorithm Design, Law, and Policy this month: one by Rediet Abebe on Roles for Computing in Social Justice and another by Hal Varian on Nowcasting COVID-19. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Turing Award-winning cryptographer and complexity theorist Silvio Micali for Episode 3 of Berkeley in the 80s, which is featured in this issue of the newsletter. Incidentally, some of Silvio's other talents are showcased in our Cooks, in Theory corner this month.

We're delighted to announce that the Simons Institute will be participating in a new multi-institution quantum computing consortium funded by NSF. The aesthetics of quantum computation offer a new perspective on many aspects of theoretical computer science, from efficient algorithms to new complexity classes, and in particular on the strength of the existing cryptographic infrastructure in light of the race among companies and government agencies around the world to build mid-scale quantum computers. You can read more about that initiative here. Check out also a feature article by Journalist in Residence Siobhan Roberts, about an important result that emerged in quantum computing research this year.

Finally, our senior scientist, Prasad Raghavendra, has expanded the scope of his column to include some research highlights in theory from beyond the Institute walls.

We hope to see you at an online event in the weeks and months to come, and back in Berkeley soon. In the meantime, connect with us on YouTube and Facebook, and let us know how you're doing.

Best wishes,

Shafi Goldwasser
Director, Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing