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Communications of the ACM

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The opinion archive provides access to past opinion stories from Communications of the ACM and other sources by date.

March 2011


From ACM Opinion

Have Computers Made Architects Less Disciplined?

Have Computers Made Architects Less Disciplined?

We generally assume that technological advances save time, boost efficiency, increase productivity, and so on. Once we get used to the latest conveniences, we can't imagine life without them. I've been writing a book chronicling…


From ACM Opinion

The Anti-Predictor: A Chat with Mathematical Sociologist Duncan Watts

The Anti-Predictor: A Chat with Mathematical Sociologist Duncan Watts

The Yahoo! Labs scientist and author explains why the "law of the few" is bunk, why history is full of failed hedgehogs, and why we can't make good predictions about just those things we most want to predict.


From ACM Opinion

Why the Basis of the Universe Isn't Matter or Energy

Why the Basis of the Universe Isn't Matter or Energy

Information flows everywhere, through wires and genes, through brain cells and quarks. But while it may appear ubiquitous to us now, until recently we had no awareness of what information was or how it worked.


From ACM Opinion

Three Cheers for the Judge Who Smacked Down Google Books

Three Cheers for the Judge Who Smacked Down Google Books

For a company with the audacity to make "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible" its mission statement, it takes a lot to take Google down a peg.


From ACM News

How Did a British Polytechnic Graduate Become the Design Genius Behind

How Did a British Polytechnic Graduate Become the Design Genius Behind

Few Westerners have ever seen the forging of a Japanese samurai sword. It's considered a sacred practice in Japan; one of the few traditional arts that has yet to be bettered by modern science. Japanese smiths work through…


From ACM Opinion

Teaching to the Text Message

I've been teaching college freshmen to write the five-paragraph essay and its bully of a cousin, the research paper, for years. But these forms invite font-size manipulation, plagiarism and clichés. We need to set our sights…


From ACM Opinion

Berners-Lee Warns ISPs on Net Neutrality

Berners-Lee Warns ISPs on Net Neutrality

The inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has warned internet service providers (ISPs) that plans for a "two-speed" Internet go against the principles that have let the net grow so rapidly in the past two decades…


From ACM Opinion

The Future of Mobile Gadgets

The Future of Mobile Gadgets

I got my first cell phone a little more than a decade ago, just as I was finishing college and looking for my first job. I didn't need a mobile phone; none of my friends had them, and I was pretty sure they'd all mock me for…


From ACM News

Japan Has Shifted 13 Feet!

Japan Has Shifted 13 Feet!

What does Japan's earthquake mean for GPS? Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake was so powerful that it actually widened Japan. While parts of the country barely moved, other regions are now 13 feet closer to the United States…


From ACM Opinion

Cell phones Are 'Stalin's Dream,' Says Free Software Movement Founder

Cell phones Are 'Stalin's Dream,' Says Free Software Movement Founder

Nearly three decades into his quest to rid the world of proprietary software, Richard Stallman sees a new threat to user freedom: smartphones.


From ACM Opinion

The Future of Things "Cyber"

The Future of Things "Cyber"

Years ago, when I was an ROTC instructor, the first unit of instruction for rising juniors dealt with communication skills. Near the beginning of the unit, I would quote Confucius to my new students: "The rectification of…


From ACM Opinion

Al Franken: 'They're Coming After the Internet'

Al Franken: 'They're Coming After the Internet'

Sen. Al Franken claimed Monday that big corporations are "hoping to destroy" the Internet and issued a call to arms to several hundred tech-savvy South by Southwest attendees to preserve net neutrality.


From ACM Opinion

New CEO Wants Faster, More Relevant W3C

New CEO Wants Faster, More Relevant W3C

Jeff Jaffe's job requires both patience and impatience. Patience, because the World Wide Web Consortium—of which he's been chief executive for nearly a year—is an unwieldy standards group trying to encompass the disparate agendas…


From ACM News

Search Undergoing Biggest Disruption Since the Dawn of Google

Facing criticism over the quality of search results, Google recently tweaked its famously secretive algorithm to weed out spam sites and so-called "content farms." For all the attention this issue got, however, it's only one…


From ACM Opinion

Is It Better to Buy Apple Products or Apple Stock?

Sometimes, people have the most wonderful ideas. And not merely people at Apple. A software-engineering intern at Twilio (who also happens to be a computer science student at UC Berkeley) got it into his head to work out what…


From ACM Opinion

No Moammar, No Fly: How to Stop Gadhafi

No Moammar, No Fly: How to Stop Gadhafi

Keep the surveillance planes flying. Fry the radar. While the sun hangs in the sky, let Libya’s pilots know they’re on borrowed time if they take off.


From ACM Opinion

Another Win for Artificial Intelligence: The Turing Award

Another Win for Artificial Intelligence: The Turing Award

It's been a banner year or so for artificial intelligence, from the recent triumph of I.B.M.'s Jeopardy-winning supercomputer to a wave of news coverage of the field, like the “Smarter Than You Think” series in The Times, but…


From ACM Opinion

FactCheck.org's Brooks Jackson on Overcoming Motivated Skepticism

Once upon a time, before the age of the Internet, we lived in a world of "many economists." If a newspaper reporter was writing a story on inflation, for instance, he or she would call up a number of experts and relay their…


From ACM Opinion

Troll, Reveal Thyself

Troll, Reveal Thyself

Why we need to get rid of anonymous comments.


From ACM Opinion

Social Media: 'Essential Tool' In U.S. Foreign Policy

What role do social media and other non-state actors play in foreign policy? James Lewis, director of technology and public policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells Ari Shapiro that websites like…


From ACM Opinion

The Internet Is a Tyrant's Friend

The Internet Is a Tyrant's Friend

As recent events in Egypt and Tunisia so aptly demonstrate, technology is a double-edged sword: while pro-democracy protesters used sites like Facebook to organise, their governments used the same sites to suppress dissent…


From ACM Opinion

Reply All: The Button Everyone Loves to Hate

Reply All: The Button Everyone Loves to Hate

I answered my phone recently to hear a friend shrieking in my ear. "Check your inbox for the email I just sent you," he wailed. "And please, please tell me I didn't hit Reply All."


From ACM Opinion

Eric Schmidt: What I Read

Eric Schmidt: What I Read

What I read varies widely based on what kind of information I’m looking for at the time.


From ACM Opinion

Google Schools Its Algorithm

To humans, computer intelligence is a puzzle, as if the machines have split personalities. They can be so remarkably smart at times, yet so bafflingly dumb at others.


From ACM News

The 'Panda' That Hates Farms: A Q&A With Google

Google's new update to its search engine addressed the growing complaint that low-quality content sites (derisively referred to as content farms) were ranked higher than higher-quality sites that seemed to be more important…


From ACM News

Is the Navy Trying to Start the Robot Apocalypse?

Whenever the military rolls out a new robot program, folks like to joke about SkyNet or the Rise of the Machines. But this time, the military really is starting to venture into robot-apocalypse territory: swarms of little…


From ACM Opinion

Keep the Internet Fair

Keep the Internet Fair

The government's net neutrality compromise fell flat. Here's a simple fix.


From ACM News

10 Questions for David Ferrucci

10 Questions for David Ferrucci

Why aren't you letting Watson speak for himself today?

Watson is trained to answer questions for Jeopardy! It's not an interactive dialogue system, so it can't conduct its own interviews. You can imagine giving it information…


From ACM Opinion

Psych-Out Sexism

Psych-Out Sexism

The innocent, unconscious bias that discourages girls from math and science.


From ACM News

Wiring in a Wireless Age

Is Intel's Thunderbolt cable a brilliant innovation or a worthless grasp at the past?

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