The Keynote Address
15 August 01
By Hal Newnan
As I flew to
LA from Detroit I read the Christian Science Monitor's 9 August
2001 issue. It might have been the article "Cloak and dagger
and a #2 pencil" that caught my eye (because I am in the role
of being a reporter) and kept coming to mind as I attended SIGGRAPH
2001, or it could have been the one about '"Star Wars' lasting
impact on a village far, far away," but it was actually the
article "Artificial humanity" by Julia Gorin on p. 11.
Her thesis is that "...it is not machines that are becoming
more like us, but we who are becoming more like machines."
I am heartened that both Lance Williams and our keynote speaker,
Danny Hillis, spoke to our responsibility as Computer Graphic Artists
during these proceedings. I see us as using our tools to bring not
only our productions to life, but also to animate ourselves and
our communities into action on important issues.
Lynn Pocock, this
year's SIGGRAPH Chairperson led off this morning's speakers; followed
by Judy Brown, President of ACM SIGGRAPH. Ms. Brown stated that
the five values of the ACM SIGGRAPH Organization are Excellence
in all we do, Integrity, Volunteerism, Passion for the Field, and
(wonderful) Cross Disciplinary Interaction. Dr. Edwin Catmull, President
of Pixar Animation Studios and, graduate of NYIT, presented the
The awards were:
The Significant New Researcher Award goes to Paul Debevec for his
work in Image Based Modeling and Rendering. This involves real-world
illumination theory, and the use of high dynamic range photography
to study the sub-surface scattering of light. Mr. Debevec credited
the next a ward winner, Lance Williams, for having introduced us
to much of what makes SIGGRAPH truly great.
The Computer Graphics Achievement Award went to Andrew Witkin. His
work includes that on Snakes, Action Contours, Image Analysis, Modeling
and Animation, Reaction Fusion Equation, and Clothing Simulation
Problems. This last is used with Maya Cloth and incorporated into
Monsters, Inc by Pixar. Witkin points out that most of the papers
he has ever been involved with were collaborations, and he listed
off many. He cites Al Barr for getting him started in CG with a
graphics document concerning the optimization of swimming speed
for spermatozoa. Witkin says that "Computer Graphics is more
fun than Computer Science, and it is very, very, cool!"
The Steven Anson Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions
to Computer Graphics to Lance Williams. This awarded is considered
the highest award given for computer graphic. Of Lance , Dr. Catmull
stated "He has been a friend and colleague of mine for about
thirty years. Mr. Williams is a leading thinker who has a very interesting
way of looking at things and discussing them . He is unforgettably
creative."A few of his contributions to CG stem from his work
(starting in 1974 at NYIT - New York Institute of Technology) in
MIP Mapping, Shadow Buffers, and a new anti-aliasing algorithim.
Lance has made significant contributions to institutions he works
(or has worked) for, including: Apple, Dream works, and Disney Animation
Studios. Yet his contributions go much deeper as he is also famous
for his artistry, humanity, vision and teaching. He is a (previously)
unsung hero of the CG community.
Mr. Williams response started with: "I'm so fortunate to be
standing here. I am so grateful." His parting comment was "The
big picture is behind the eyes." He mentions his love for Science
Fiction, pointing out: "Often the inspiration proceeds the
Science." He also notes that computers today run 10,000 times
faster than they did when "The Works" was produced. And
he invites us to consider where this (CG) is going in its social
and political context, because scientists have social responsibility.
Advances in our CG tools are leading to a tremendous expansion of
derivative work; but it is also leading to the visual mapping of
brain activity for an artificial eye network, and for visual mapping
and display of spatial descriptions and other mental events.
After the last "Paper" session of s2001, Eugene Fiume
(Papers Chair) stated that he re-reads some papers every year one
of them is the one Lance wrote on Pyramidal Parametrics.
Keynote Address: The Big Picture
Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Applied Minds, Inc., And Co-Chair
of the Long Now Foundation
This talk is all
about the key role Computer Graphics can play in this pivotal time.
During this talk Mr. Hillis gives us a compelling view of Computer
Graphics (CG) at this inflection point in the evolution of our species.
He is fascinated with the longer-term contexts in which we live.
He introduces us to some charts about the expanding number of Internet
Service providers and Population Growth. He then states that soon
after the formation of our planet, organisms developed DNA as a
trick to write down their structure in a separate system, and evolution
sped up with the stability of change that DNA provided.
This is part of a pattern he observes in the development of human
evolution. This involves there being key inflection points in the
development of human life in the context of all life on this planet.
In these inflection points there is a period of tremendous creativity
before new standards take hold and apply until the next inflection
point. An inflection point is a period of tremendous creativity
before the new standards take hold. These then apply until the next
inflection point. We are living in an inflection point time, and
that is an exciting time when the rules of evolution change.
One such inflection point was about 65 million years ago when life
developed new ways of handling information - sensory organs and
brains; a time in which basic body plans (like starfish and chordates)
also became established. This was a new phase transition and there
was again an explosion in the diversity of life including the advent
of eyeballs, tongues and limbs.
Going forward another few million years and animals are on land
- including early apes that look like man. Some develop a trick
they worked out for expressing ideas. This is amazing because as
soon as we move the information out of the physical system and into
a symbolic system good things happen. Individuals do not have to
relearn basic things. Ideas got transmitted forward, and then about
4,000 years ago we started to write things down - and civilization
Also noteworthy is that these phases are speeding up. This brings
us to the present day, when another one of those magical moments
is occurring - we've developed another magic way to express ideas
and we can now have computers work them through for us. Our thoughts
can now take on a life of their own. We are beginning to create
what never could have been created. It is inevitable that we will
design ourselves as we become more and more able to read and modify
our own DNA we can create our own biological evolution. This means
that we are the last of the old kind of humans, but also the first
of the new.
Hillis verbally recaps the development of computer graphics as he
is able to do because he has been coming to SIGGRAPH for a long
time. But he also gives a compelling view on how CG is changing
the world (literally effecting how we shape products and architecture)
until today we can almost see the "wireframes" under the
surfaces of buildings and other objects we are creating. He states
that: "Our world view is constructed of CG images. ... What
you all (CG people) are constructing is our future reality. It is
a very important job. I hope you take it seriously, and do a good
job at it."
to the keynote and who does not?
with some acknowledgement of the people who made the conference
happen, then the awards and then the keynote.
more about Danny Hillis's 10,000 year clock at the Long
On the way
to the technical session was some techno art with a NAFTA