LC: I wanted to get into one more big concern with the advancement of technology, which is that it causes and sustains wealth inequality. At some global forum in November of 2017 Bill Gates said that technology has a massive ability to accentuate the divide between the rich and the poor if we let it, and I was sort of shocked—hasn’t it done that already? How big is that man’s bank account? So what do you think is the key? What is tech’s role in wealth disparity and how do we tackle this cycle?
EL: We explained to Mark Emert when he became the UW president that there was this new form of computational science coming along, which was data science, and if UW is going to continue to excel we had to be good at that. To Mark’s enormous credit, he got this totally, and he managed to get us some seed funding from the legislature to bootstrap what became the eSciences institute. Because of the way we got that funding, we had a commitment to environmental oceanography, and here’s the story there...
LC: Do you think that data science and computer science have an image issue in popular culture—that they’re not portrayed as passionate and engaging endeavors?
EL: For sure, for sure.
How does one tackle that? The army has TV and radio ads all the time with people jumping out of planes saying “We need people who can do this.” How can the computational sciences compete with that, short of an overly-dramatic ad campaign?
LC: I want to talk a little bit about the kind of caution that’s necessary here. You’ve been pretty openly critical, as have many, of Facebook’s lack of responsibility regarding what’s on their platform and their inability to sufficiently monitor or control it. Do you think this is something that can be self-governed, that a community of computer scientists can decide to be more careful, or do you think it requires regulation of some sort?