GT Computing Distinguished Lecture: Mark Wegman

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The Interaction of Changes in Society and Information technology
Speaker: Mark Wegman, CTO Software Technology, IBM 

Work With: Daniel Sabbah

New technology can change businesses and society.   In turn, changes in business and society determine the shape and relevance of technical innovation.

For example, technology can change the way firms organize themselves.  In 1994 Erik Brynjolfsson et al. observed that firms were becoming smaller because information technology made the cost of buying from an external source cheaper than from of internal supply.  The underlying theory behind the size of firms originated with Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase, who argued in 1937 that the thing that made firms big was that transaction costs between firms, consisting of the cost of finding a supplier, negotiating a deal, and monitoring that deal were larger between firms than between elements of the same firm.  Smaller firms tend to be more agile.  Search technology and internet commerce principally available after 1995 dramatically lowered costs of finding suppliers.  

In the other direction, we’d argue that a major reason that Moore’s law was so predictive for many decades was that it was enforced by societal pressures.  Companies had huge economic incentives to achieve not much more and not much less than Moore’s law predicted.  Because there were many avenues to achieve it enough of those avenues were explored to ensure it happened.

We’re in the process of trying to formulate hypotheses for the way in which technology and society interact with enough precision for economists and others to test them.  Moreover, we believe that some of what we’ve done explains why a number of newer technologies are likely to become more important.

This work points out the importance of certain technologies.  For example to support ecologies or communicating systems from different suppliers we need new programming models, new ways to debug the results and security.


Mark Wegman is the CTO for software technology and a fellow at IBM. His research focuses on optimizing software development and compilers. During his 40-plus-year career, Wegman helped invent the Static Single Assignment form used in analysis of most modern optimizing compilers, for which he won SIGPLAN’s Programming Languages Achievement Award in 2006. He has also contributed work in data compression and algorithm and information theory, such as the influential randomized algorithm Universal Hash Functions. A member of the National Academy of Engineering since 2010, he is also a fellow of ACM and IEEE. He joined IBM Research in 1975 and has published nearly 60 papers and developed more than 40 patents. Wegman holds a Ph.D. in computer science from University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. in mathematics and philosophy from New York University.



  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Birney Robert
  • Created: 08/23/2017
  • Modified By: Birney Robert
  • Modified: 08/23/2017