SC09, the HPC community’s largest technical conference, trade show, and annual homecoming, has announced that Al Gore (yes, the Nobel Prize winning, Academy Award winning, US Vice President-ing, Albert A. Gore, Jr.) will keynote the conference this fall. And you thought that Michael Dell drew a big crowd last year. I talked with SC09’s General Chair, Dr. Wilfred Pinfold, about the selection of Gore and how he fits into this year’s conference.
“We try to pick speakers every year that will stimulate people’s thinking in a number of areas,” explains Pinfold. Previous keynote speakers have included entrepreneurs Bill Gates and Michael Dell, biologist J. Craig Venter, and inventor Ray Kurzweil.
This year the conference is focused around the theme of Computing for a Changing World, with program elements that highlight the supercomputing community’s contribution to the search for new forms of energy, understanding weather and climate change, and the technologies that will help our society build a more sustainable future. The conference has even adopted a sustainable philosophy for its own operations this year, and is looking for ways to make the event more eco-friendly.
Gore is a long time advocate of the power of technology and its transformative effects on our society. During his time in Congress (he served as both a Representative and Senator from 1977 through 1993) Gore was one of the Atari Democrats, a group of legislators focused on technological issues. Internet pioneers Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf have written of Gore that, “he was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship.” Gore also sponsored the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, a bill that created the National Information Infrastructure, and held the first congressional hearings on global warming.
Pinfold explains that the SC09 Committee’s goal in selecting Gore to keynote this year’s conference was not to push a particular technological or political agenda, but to find the person best-suited to ignite a global conversation about the role that supercomputing will play in addressing the many climate, energy, and social challenges facing our society. Gore will address the conference on Thursday morning, not on Tuesday as regular attendees might have expected. “The schedule was driven by the vice president’s availability, but ultimately we think it is a great move for the conference.”
The committee is anticipating a record crowd for the talk, and is making plans to address the heightened interest in the keynote. “We considered holding it in a larger venue, like the Rose Garden,” says Pinfold, “but ultimately we felt that would be too disruptive for conference attendees.” In addition to the 4,000 or so attendees who will be able to squeeze into the auditorium, Gore’s remarks will be streamed live throughout the convention center.
SC09 will be held November 14-20, 2009 in Portland, Oregon. Sponsored by the ACM and the IEEE Computer Society, SC09 offers a complete technical education program and exhibition to showcase the many ways high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis lead to advances in scientific discovery, research, education and commerce. Recognized as one of TradeShow Week’s Top 200 conferences, SC09 will be the 22nd annual SC conference, with an expected 11,000 attendees. For more information on SC09, click over to http://sc09.supercomputing.org/.