Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

The human body could soon be connected to the web, says 'father of the internet' Vint Cerf

The human body itself could soon be connected to the web, “father of the internet” Vint Cerf has predicted.

Speaking in a live, online Q&A, Cerf said that work was already underway to make the plan a reality after he was inspired to come up with a way of hooking medical implants up to the internet by his wife, who has cochlear implants to help her hearing.

The implants work by deciphering sounds and identifying them to the brain. Cerf said: “I’ve been thinking: ‘well why don’t I just programme TCP/IP into the speech processor so she can interact directly with the internet and get the answers back in her head’?”

Talking about the future of the internet, he said: “[It] is beginning to adopt other media and other forms of interaction than just keyboards and mice, so voice is becoming and important input and output medium, we’re beginning to see gestural kinds of interfaces happening.

“We’re starting to see this augmented reality notion, if you see in the Google Glasses: the idea is that the computer shares with you a view of the world, not only what it can see but also what it can hear and becomes a participant in your interactions with the real world.



During the half-hour interview, in which readers of the Independent also participated, Cerf also talked about Alan Turing, for whom the award he won in 2005 – often referred to as the Nobel Prize in Computing – was named. He said: “Those of us who have degrees in computer science learn very, very early on that Alan Turing was one of the eminences grises in the whole story of computing. He had very fundamental propositions for how computing works.



“The most important one, of course, is the universal Turing machine, which laid out a framework for assessing, for example, the computational cost of doing any particular calculation.” He added that, besides sharing a birthday with Turing, he felt a connection to him because the first computer he ever programmed was derived from one of the former Bletchley Park codebreaker’s designs.



Cerf predicted that Turing would be “impressed, pleased and maybe not even too surprised given the depth of his appreciation of what this kind of engine could do. His understanding of what computing actually means would give him almost instant with the cloud computing environment we see today.”



Asked about how difficult it was to defend a company like Google, which has recently been mired in controversies around users’ privacy online, he said: “We have established a pretty solid track record of offering a substantial array of things that are open and free: the software of Chrome; the software of Android; the software of the Chrome operating system, all of the products and services that are available to users are essentially free of charge to them and it’s a consequence of our very good business model related to advertising.



“I don’t think anyone is forced to use the Google products and we’ve gone out of our way to do what we can to allow people to take anything that they put into the Google system and get it back out again; the freedom and the ability to move information around.



“So, I would challenge anyone who argues that Google has abused its rapid growth. And, of course, there have been some reactions, and you know in Europe the EU has asked questions about our position in the marketplace and that negotiation and discussion continues.”

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