Monday, June 29th, 2020

Letter from the Director, June 2020

Dear friends,

I hope this message finds you doing well, during this unprecedented time.

At the Simons Institute this summer, we are hosting a variety of online events, including research talks and public lectures. Looking ahead to the fall, we hope to open our doors to a limited number of on-site participants for our fall programs on Theory of Reinforcement Learning and Probability, Geometry, and Computation in High Dimensions, with robust online offerings for remote participants. We are working with the university administration to finalize plans and will be sharing specific information with you in the coming weeks.

One of the unique expressions of our research community during the coronavirus closures has been the spontaneous arising of a Zoom cooking club, which we’ve dubbed “Cooks, in Theory.” You can learn about our culinary adventures and even join us at the next gathering.

This issue of the newsletter features From the Inside articles about our Spring 2020 programs on Lattices: Algorithms, Complexity, and Cryptography and The Quantum Wave in Computing. It includes a research vignette from our 2019 summer cluster on Error-Correcting Codes and High-Dimensional Expansion. And we’re pleased to share with you a white paper on differential privacy for policymakers, prepared by participants in our Spring 2019 program on Data Privacy: Foundations and Applications, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Recent events remind us to closely examine our contributions to institutionalized racism and what we can do to combat it. We recognize that given the centrality of the Simons Institute in the worldwide theoretical computer science ecosystem, we have a responsibility to address systemic inequities in our institute and in the field. The path is a long one, but we are committed to the serious examination of these questions in the months to come.

Connected with this initiative, we are rereleasing in this issue of the newsletter an interview on algorithms and race, from our Simons Institute Polylogues web series. Research has shown that algorithms can propagate and possibly even amplify existing biases unless measures are taken to prevent this from happening. At the Simons Institute, we are addressing these important societal questions through a series of summer clusters and other activities on the emerging field of algorithmic fairness.

Also in our SimonsTV corner this month, we have a new interview with Manuel Blum in our Berkeley in the 80s web series. And finally, we are pleased to share a panel discussion on computational and statistical tools for addressing COVID-19, from our Theoretically Speaking series of public lectures.

Thank you for being a part of our community.

Best wishes,


Shafi Goldwasser
Director, Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing




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