URI invites Harvard computer science professor to discuss “Privacy and Knowledge”, March 15

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KINGSTON, R.I. — March 10, 2010 — “Privacy and Knowledge” is the topic of a lecture by Harry Lewis, the Gordon McKay professor of computer science in Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Sponsored by the URI Honors Program and the Department of Computer Science and Statistics, the lecture will be held Monday, March 15 at 2 p.m. in Lippitt Hall, 5 Lippitt Road on the Kingston Campus. The talk is free and open to the public.

Lewis’ lecture will explore: “A central tension of the digital explosion is that privacy decreases as knowledge expands. New technologies capture behavior, personal information is monetized, and people voluntarily shed their privacy in exchange for small rewards. Even the Enlightenment dream of ubiquitous learning seems likely to be fulfilled as a commercial project insulting to privacy. We are not indifferent to privacy, merely thoughtless, and uncertain about trading it for other benefits. Computer scientists can improve the engineering of privacy, but the field should also assume a cultural, normative role.”

Lewis is the author of six books and numerous articles on various aspects of computer science. He is coauthor with Hal Abelson and Ken Ledeen of Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion (2008), which explains for the general reader the origins and public consequences of the explosion of digital information. His book about higher education, Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future? was The Boston Globe best-seller and the subject of favorable reviews in both The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal.

Lewis served from 1995-2003 as dean of Harvard College. In this capacity he oversaw the undergraduate experience, including residential life, career services, public service, academic and personal advising, athletic policy, and intercultural and race relations.

For more information contact Edmund Lamagna, professor Computer Science & Statistics, eal@cs.uri.edu, 874-4501