Vice President Al Gore will be delivering MIT's Commencement address on June 7, and he's looking for ideas from graduating students to use in his speech.
"The metaphor of distributed intelligence and its application in both technology and society will be a central theme in my address," Mr. Gore said in a message sent to the September, February and June degree candidates expected to march in the ceremony. He plans to discuss "the historical, current and future relationship between science and technology on the one hand and humankind and society on the other.
To that end, he asks graduating students to "consider answering the following questions: (1) What aspects of the technological changes occurring today are the most exciting/threatening to you personally? (2) How can I best demonstrate the concept of distributed intelligence during the speech itself?"
The Vice President has long been interested in the ways computer networks bring different people's thinking together across geographic boundaries, and how they change social structures. He has visited MIT several times to see the Athena Computing Environment, the Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS), the Media Lab and similar resources. His query to graduating students grew out of an April 20 visit.
Graduating students have been asked to respond to Mr. Gore by May 9, keeping responses under one page if possible. Greg Jackson, director of academic computing, sent a message to each of the 2,869 graduating students with Mr. Gore's query and instructions how to respond. The responses go to a special mailing list and archive overseen by Mr. Jackson, who will verify that replies come from graduating students, remove senders' names, and then forward them in batches to Mr. Gore's staff.
The initiative came about through conversations among Mr. Gore, President Charles Vest and Michael Dertouzos, professor of computer science and electrical engineering and director of the LCS. The quick mailing to graduating students was coordinated by Dr. Jackson, and involved a collaboration between Ri Romano, assistant to the registrar, and Jeff Schiller, network manager in Information Systems.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 8, 1996.