Leonard Kleinrock, de vader van het internet

Nieuws | de redactie
17 maart 2009 | In een exclusief interview met ScienceGuide schildert hij een onzichtbaar internet dat overal beschikbaar is en waar hij met een bedrijfje voor wat hij 'nomadisch web' noemt nog altijd aan werkt. De ‘Father of the Internet’, prof Leonard Kleinrock (75), maakte mogelijk dat deze week het WWW 20 jaar oud is. Hij viert in oktober dat zijn uitvinding, het internet zelf, 40 jaar oud is.

De ‘Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science’ aan UCLA in Californië vierde op 29 oktober 2004 met een bijzonder congres dat op die dag in 1969 binnen haar muren een eerste berichtje verzonden werd over het Arpanet, waaruit het WorldWideWeb ontstond. Kleinrock, sprak daar, evenals zijn toenmalige assistent, Vinton Cerf, en andere pioniers van toen. Hij nodigde ScienceGuide uit voor dit evenement naar aanleiding van ons eerdere interview met hem en de presentatie van zijn werk en denken op de site.

UCLA-hoogleraar Kleinrock vertelde ons bij die gelegenheid over het historische moment destijds: “When we sent that first message, there weren’t any reporters, cameras, tape recorders or scribes to document that major event. We knew we were creating an important new technology that we expected would be of use to a segment of the population, but we had no idea how truly momentous an event it was. Computer networks were still in their infancy at that time, and though I predicted the spread of ‘computer utilities’ servicing homes and offices across the country, even I am surprised at how pervasive the Internet has become. What I missed was that my 97- year old mother would be using the Internet today, and she is!”

Een gefilmd gesprek van UCLA met hun wetenschapsicoon ziet u hier. Zijn ScienceGuide-interview over zijn uitvinding en ambities van vandaag, alsook zijn advies aan Balkenende en het Innovatieplatform -dat toen net gestart was- leest u hieronder.

You have been called “the inventor of the internet”, but is that also what you are most proud of?
“Actually, I am referred to as ‘A Father of the Internet’, having invented the technology that runs the Internet. Yes, I am most proud of that achievement.”

The Dutch government has a desire that the Netherlands is going to lead the way to make Europe the most competitive knowledge economy in the world in 2010. The key word when it comes to realizing this ambitious objective is innovation. At the moment the Netherlands is certainly not the European leader when it comes to innovation. Therefore the Prime-Minister, Mr Balkenende, has founded an Innovation Platform. In what way are investments in new technologies – r&d and supplying facilities – necessary for this objective? Should a government make these investments or only encourage companies to be able to innovate, for example: tax-rebates on investments like broadband networks?

“Those investments are absolutely key to achieve this objective. One must motivate the bright minds of your students and your professionals to push back the frontier and investigate bold new ideas. For this, they must be encouraged with funds, facilities, leaders, and, in general, a very positive and supportive environment.  The government can help dramatically by providing direct funding for these activities, but the key is to do so with very few constraints on the researchers and innovators.”

“The example of ARPA in the early days of what became the Internet was one of “high risk, high payoff” projects with trust in the researchers. This trust was manifested by not requiring constant reporting, by not overmanaging and by encouraging bold ideas. Of course, supporting industry with tax rebates, etc, definitely helps, and will hopefully start a self-sustaining effort on the part of industry.”

The use of internet for educational purposes is increasing every year in the Netherlands. Instead of using it complementary it’s more often used as a replacement for lectures. Some members of board of directors think it’s an ideal way of coping with cut-downs. This way the personal contact between teachers and students get less every year. What do think of this? How do you manage to share your knowledge not only with students, but also with the society?

“I think that there is no substitute for direct interaction with faculty who are good researchers and good research supervisors. And it is also critical that the students interact among themselves, sharing ideas, evaluating each others’ work, exciting each other, forming long-lasting relationships. For myself, I lecture outside my own university at other universities, at industry events, at seminars, by writing papers not only in the professional journals, but also in lay publications at a level that the average person can understand, and by interviews with all forms of media.”

The word ‘netizen’ is even in the Dutch dictionary today. People spend more and more time behind their computer, surfing the internet and chatting. For some it’s a delight that they don’t have to face people to have contact with them. What is your view on how the internet should be used and in what way it could play a role in someone’s life?

“The access to people via the Internet is of great importance: it allows people to interact who in the past had no access to each other. This is a great gain. But it is also important that this be done in moderation. Face to face interaction is extremely valuable, and whenever possible, direct interaction is very helpful. Often the two can be synergistic, by bringing some folks in a face-to-face discussion with others participating over the net.”

One of the things that wouldn’t be possible without the internet is the open-source cult. Linux, php, perl, and phyton are just a few of the computer languages people from all around the world work on as a community. Do you think that the big break through still has to come or that this already is the maximum level of knowledge sharing?

“It is always dangerous, and usually wrong, to say that we have reached the maximum of interaction or innovation or impact when one talks about the Internet. I feel we are at the early stages of new modes of interaction and sharing. I am not in a position to predict long range, but in the shorter range, I do believe that the Internet will contain highly personalized profiles of each of us that will serve to provide customized access and information as we move around our physical space and access deeper kinds of information sources.”

Which dream, as a scientist, has still not yet come true for you?

“An Internet that is available to anyone with any device at any location at anytime. Moreover, the concept of an invisible Internet, in the same wonderful sense that electricity is invisible: easy to use, dependable, and hidden in the infrastructure so that I never concern myself about it.”

Dr. Kleinrock received his Ph.D. from MIT in 1963 and has served as a professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles since then, serving as chairman of the department from 1991- 1995. He was first President and Co- founder of Linkabit. He is also Founder and Chairman of Nomadix, Inc., a high-tech firm located in Southern California. He is also Founder and Chairman of TTI/Vanguard , an advanced technology forum organization based in Santa Monica, California.

Met dank aan Sebastiaan ter Burg, die dit interview mogelijk maakte.

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