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CACM Reports: Computing's Critical Role in Controlling Epidemics

July Issue Reports on Technological Unemployment, Weighing Certification for Software Engineers, Cake Cutting Algorithms, and 3D Printing Pros and Cons

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK – June 26, 2013 – Recent advances in computing, big data and computational thinking can support public efforts to control communicable diseases, say researchers at Virginia Tech.  In the July issue of Communications of the ACM  Madhav Marathe and Anil Kumar Vullikanti outline how computational models help in understanding the space-time dynamics of epidemics, and how algorithms can be used to evaluate interventions such as vaccinations, anti-viral approaches, social distancing and school closures.

Also in this issue Communications Editor-in-Chief Moshe Y. Vardi addresses technological unemployment, which economists are debating as they assess the impact of robots and automation on jobs.  He cites economists on both sides of the issue, but observes that the debate has recently moved from economics to computer science.  In response, he announces the launch of this debate in the pages of Communications, starting with his editorial and an article in this issue by Martin Ford on the influence of artificial intelligence on economic systems.

ACM President Vint Cerf delves into the controversy over certification for software engineers.  Once firmly opposed to the idea of professional licensing for liability consideration, he now questions whether the software profession will escape some kind of deep accountability in light of our dependency on increasing numbers of programs, large and small, and asks readers to comment.

Communications, the flagship publication of ACM, offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format.

Other Communications highlights:

·  Software developer and entrepreneur Martin Ford surveys the arc of disruptive innovations in society and is concerned that artificial intelligence and robotics have more broad-based implications than previous technologies.  He predicts both the high and low ends of the job market are likely to come under attack as technology advances unless our economic system is adapted to the new reality.

·  Researchers from INRIA and Adobe Systems introduce a new way to create smooth-shaded images used in geometry-based editing, keyframe animation, and ready stylization among other operations.  Their vector-based approach, called the diffusion curve, produces a representation that is compact and inherently resolution-independent.

·  Ariel Procaccia of Carnegie Mellon University adopts the metaphor of cake cutting to describe the task of fairly allocating divisible goods among multiple players with different preferences.  She examines variations of cake-cutting algorithms to convince computer scientists, theoreticians and practitioners alike that this approach gives rise to challenges and opportunities for all of them.

·  3D printing has come of age, says writer Samuel Greengard.  He reviews the origins of this technology back to the mid-1980s and the current wave of innovation that is sweeping through research labs and into the workplace and home.  The technology, he notes, is not without disruptive concerns surrounding the illicit use of printers and the power to bypass conventional distribution channels.

·  IBM’s Paul McKenney introduces structured deferral, an approach utilized by developers of software design, which takes the form of synchronization via procrastination.  He illustrates this debate in the context of counting to demonstrate some of the less-familiar properties of structured deferral, and reveals some of the consequences along the way.

·  BLOG @CACM blogger Jason Hong considers how students working on their doctorates in computer science must adapt and evolve to succeed.

For more information on Communications of the ACM, click on

About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.