Yesterday saw a set of three news that are likely to mark giant leaps for humanity: the first image of a black hole (or more exactly the event horizon around the black hole), the announcement of the discovery of the remains of homo luzonensis (a cousin to homo sapiens who lived in the Philippines 50,000 years ago) and the birth of the first baby created with three sets of DNA.
Each in its own right marks leaps in the fields of astrophysics, archaeology and medicine. But the black hole image is so interesting in relation to several topical angles.
Algorithms have had bad press recently. But the image of the black hole is another example of the amazing achievements that can be done with the advancement of computer science and related algorithms. Without shying away from a wider debate it is refreshing being reminded of other more positive potentials too. The All Parties Parliamentary Group on AI in relation to which CMS is a member of the advisory board has been considering for the last two years all aspects of AI including the positive aspects to decide whether and how best to regulate (if at all).
That the computer algorithmic program that led to this was done by a young woman and that her role in this process is openly recognised is also fantastic news. It brings an additional angle to the story in this gender pay gap reporting period and what we can do to improve the situation. There are obviously many angles to the gender pay gap but one of the aspects, at least in the digital industry, is that there is a lack of women programmers (and programmers tend to have better paid jobs). This is partly due to the fact that there are disproportionately fewer women studying science and computer engineering.
At the Telecom Infra Project Conference which I attended in October last year, there was a meeting organised in relation to the lack of women representation in the industry and some companies have actually taken to run programs with primary schools to motivate girls at the youngest age to pursue science. This works. My young daughter, inspired by this term’s subject about the solar system at school, has decided that she wants to be an astronaut. I hope that news like this will continue to make her and other young girls not just dream but also know the universe of the possibilities open to them.
And finally the fact that the young lady is British is worthy of a note. We are desperately needing more scientists and engineers in Britain and if we want to lead in the finding of solutions for the future, we need to make sure that our younger generations are encouraged to choose to study those subjects and in particular computer sciences. As someone who works a lot with high growth businesses in the telecoms sector I know how this is one of the major concerns for my clients. So here is hoping again that this will be inspiring.
A 29-year-old computer scientist has earned plaudits worldwide for helping develop the algorithm that created the first-ever image of a black hole.