Vinton Gray Cerf, PhD in computer science and global Vice President of Google, considered one of the fathers of the Internet, has been sworn this June as Doctor Honoris Causa by the Ramon Llull University (URL), a proposal from the Higher Technical School of Electronic and Computer Engineering La Salle-URL on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first Telecommunications studies in Catalonia. Cerf, who now joins the faculty of La Salle Campus Barcelona-URL, is considered one of the greatest inventors still alive. His contributions to the development of the Internet and the World Wide Web put him at the head of a whole digital revolution that has transformed commerce, communication and entertainment on the world scene.
Cerf has made a speech in which he set Internet value as a design example, noting that “virtualization of almost everything gives entrepreneurs the freedom to try new ideas with few fixed costs, to advance the vanguard of technology and encourage experimentation that before would have represented an unthinkable investment of time and money”. In this regard, Cerf has advised that “in Silicon Valley failures are a sign of experience and I hope that in Spain it will also be like that, where innovation and entrepreneurship should become the key to improve the economy of all citizens”.
Google’s Vice President also explained that “design has an established purpose and objectives, seeks to satisfy a utility and, in many cases, some aesthetic aspirations to delight senses, but also adapt to restrictions”. Cerf recalled that, at the time along with Robert Kahn, worked in the “network of networks”, and applied already some of these restrictions and principles that significantly influenced the design of protocols and architecture that today make up the Internet. One of these was the option of stratification and concealment of information “which has enabled Internet expansion in scale, incorporating new transmission technologies and supporting an abundance of new applications and protocols, one of which is the World Wide Web, which has become a crucial component of the Internet infrastructure“.
Cerf also talked about issues such as WiFi network which was very important at the time and wondered if we could say the same of other initiatives around the world such as smart cities. “So far it indicates that much remains to exhaust all possibilities offered by the Internet to find new ways of implementation of networks. As we explore the named Internet of Things, we will open new prospects for applications based on groups of programmable and interconnected devices that we will have at home, at work, in the car or on top of us”.
And on other developments, Vinton Cerf has made clear that “although it is abused, the term large data or Big Data is important, but not only in the field of serial large temporary measure amounts, but also data on our DNA, and on bacteria and viruses that live within our body”. This type of information can be analysed and extracted to reflect on health, resource consumption, global warming response, etc. “The most important of continuous data collection is that we can establish baseline parameters and, from here, detect deviations from the norm”.
Andreu Veà, Digital Champion for Spain (European Commission), made the gloss of Vinton Cerf’s merits, reviewing his personal and professional history and stressing that “Cerf has been dedicated to work and to solve problems that most of us peers hadn’t even raised”. Veà has also highlighted some phrases uttered by Cerf, like “I think the most important feature of the Internet is that it is agnostic in terms of transportation”, allowing anyone’s to try anything, so permission is not needed. Veà concluded that “extraordinary things happen, and clearly having persuaded everyone with passion and diplomacy to connect all incompatible computers in the world using TCP/IP is really extraordinary and unprecedented”.
In his speech, the rector of the URL, Josep M Garrell, stated that “it is now indisputable that thanks to new technologies, our life has been transformed. Now it is necessary to devote efforts to reflect on the uses and abuses”. Internet, Garrell said, is a “system in which we all must contribute to its future. And in this work, figures such as Cerf should generate us a sense of tranquillity” In this sense, the rector added that when “visionaries like him in his field continue to provide reflection on the evolution of technology and revolution in its use is when we can be sure we are in good hands, and that the future will take us towards a society educated in new technologies that will put the individual and, thus, humanism, at the centre of development“.