Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
Who owns information? That will be the question posed at the sixth annual J. Herbert Hollomon Memorial Symposium presented by the Technology and Culture Forum at MIT (TCF) on Tuesday, April 30, at 4pm in Rm 6-120.
The Rev. Jane Soyster Gould, Episcopal chaplain at MIT and coordinator of the TCF, said that as the courts struggle with cases dealing with software copyrights, gene patents, on-line publishing and access to health and credit records, the core question remains the ownership of information.
Dr. Hollomon was not a man to content himself "with resolving the particular situation before him," Rev. Gould said. "Rather, he moved beyond disciplinary and institutional boundaries to reflect on the fundamental issues and questions." If he were alive today, she said, "he wouldn't be worrying about the outcome of any one court case. He would be asking who owns information and how do we make our institutions and legal structures reflect our beliefs. These are the questions with which his memory challenges us to contend."
Speakers at the event will include Ann Wells Branscomb, legal scholar-in-residence at Harvard's Program on Information Resource Policy, and author of Who Owns Information? From Privacy to Access; and Richard Stallman, the computer pioneer who founded the Free Software Foundation. He is a MacArthur Fellow.
The moderator will be George Heaton, a legal consultant specializing in public policy and technology development for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the World Bank, the World Resources Institute and the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Hollomon, who died in 1985 at the age of 66, held leadership positions in academe, industry and the federal government during a career in which he was president of the University of Oklahoma (1968-70), assistant secretary of commerce for science and technology (1962-67), head of GE's General Engineering Laboratory (1960-67), and adjunct professor (1950-62) at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute.
In 1970 he returned to MIT where he founded the Center for Policy Alternatives, which identified major socio-technical issues and the policies and practices surrounding them. In 1985 the center became part of the Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial Development.