Vint Cerf Lessons from the Internet

Vint Cerf, a Father of the Internet, shares “Lessons from the Internet”

The Internet’s origins lie in the 1960s and it has been evolving since it was first turned on in 1983. We’ve learned a lot about the design of distributed systems, about layered architectures and about deliberate incompleteness to maintain flexibility to adapt to new technologies and applications. Internet and its applications have proliferated, especially with the advent of smartphones and wireless access (e.g. 4G, 5G, Wi-Fi). Access is being enhanced with massive numbers of low earth orbiting satellites even to the remote regions of the poles and rural areas. Social networking has alerted us to the potential harmful effects of misinformation and disinformation, inflated by the megaphone of the world wide web. In the longer term, interplanetary exploration is creating the need for an interplanetary Internet. Finally, our increased reliance on software and machine learning have put a premium on machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Vinton G. Cerf has served as vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google since October 2005. In this role, he contributes to global policy development, cloud services in the public sector and continued standardization and spread of the Internet. Cerf has previously served in executive positions at MCI and the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. He also served on the faculty of Stanford University and as Principal Scientist of the Information Processing Techniques Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency where he ran the Internet project and associated Packet Radio, Packet Satellite and Packet Security programs. Widely known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet,” Cerf is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet. In December 1997, President Clinton presented the U.S. National Medal of Technology to Vint Cerf and his colleague, Robert E. Kahn, for founding and developing the Internet. Kahn and Cerf were named the recipients of the ACM Alan M. Turing award in 2004 for their work on the Internet protocols. The Turing award is sometimes called the “Nobel Prize of Computer Science.” In November 2005, President George Bush awarded Cerf and Kahn the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their work. The medal is the highest civilian award given by the United States to its citizens. In April 2008, Cerf and Kahn received the prestigious Japan Prize and in 2013 Cerf, Kahn and three others received the Queen Elizabeth Prize in Engineering. Cerf was made an officer of the French Legion d’Honneur in December 2014 and Foreign Member of the British Royal Society in July 2016. In 2018 together with Robert Kahn, he received the Franklin Medal. He received the Catalunya International Prize in March 2019 and the PeaceTech International Award in January 2020. Vint Cerf received numerous other awards, and is a member of the National Academies of Engineering and Science. In addition to his work on behalf of Google and the Internet, Cerf has served as a technical advisor to production for “Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: The Final Conflict” and made a special guest appearance on the program in May 1998. Cerf has appeared on television programs such as NextWave with Leonard Nimoy and often co-hosted World Business Review with Alexander Haig (brother of Father Haig, Washington Academy of Sciences benefactor) and Caspar Weinberger. In July 2014, he appeared on the Colbert Report television show. Cerf also holds an appointment as distinguished visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he is working on the design and implementation of an interplanetary Internet. In December, 1994, People magazine identified Cerf as one of that year’s “25 Most Intriguing People.”

First presented: Online, Mar. 26, 2021

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