because it represents creative opportunities for future generations of researchers. I think it would be interesting to study retroactively why certain
applications (for example, Twitter,
Facebook) grew so popular while others failed so that we can try to be better at prediction. Perhaps a lens based
on behavioral economics of the sort
pioneered by (Nobel Prize winning
economist) Daniel Kahneman and his
colleague, Amos Tversky may help.
What concerns you about the Internet?
I am concerned about the Bal-kanization of the Internet as nation-states cut off and censor Internet
traffic and corporations create closed
enclaves. I fear the power of the Internet is being lost. I realize this is partly
because of security concerns but am
confident about advanced technology developments that can ameliorate
You have had a remarkable career of
academic excellence (network performance evaluation clearly begun with
your thesis and your later work with
your UCLA students), real-world impact
(you were heavily involved in the evolution of the Internet including helping
write the famous Gore proposal), and
entrepreneurship (you have started several companies including Linkabit
(with Jacobs and Viterbi, which later
led to Qualcomm) and Nomadix (an
early mobile wireless company). What
advice do you have for ACM members?
First, think deeply about the results
of your work. It is not enough to evaluate your ideas. You need to keep thinking about them to distill principles before moving on to the next big thing.
Second, try to bounce ideas among
brilliant people. I have had the fortune
of doing so with folks like Shannon,
Sutherland, and colleagues like Gerald
Estrin at UCLA. Third, aspire like Shannon to combine physical intuition with
mathematical analysis. While I have
done a fair amount of mathematical
work, I am an engineer at heart. My
early building of a crystal radio remains a watershed event in my life.
George Varghese ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is Chancellor’s
Professor, Computer Science, at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA,
Copyright held by author.
asynchronous updates, something
we take for granted today. Mario Gerla provided optimal routing design
and provided an effective protocol.
Parviz Kermani’s thesis introduced
the idea of cut-through routing, that
is, starting to forward a packet as
soon as the router read the destination address, thereby reducing latency, which is pervasive today in Local
Area Networks. Farouk Kamoun’s
thesis introduced and showed the
enormous benefits of hierarchical
routing, which we see in OSPF areas
today. Simon Lam and Fouad Tobagi
initiated the analysis and design of
wireless networking and provided the
early analysis of Slotted Aloha (Lam)
and CSMA (Tobagi). And so on.
And the triumvirate: Gerla, Tobagi,
Lam—all full professors at UCLA, Stanford, and Texas (Austin) respectively—
and winners of major networking lifetime awards.
Mario and I worked on network design techniques that went beyond my
thesis while Howie Frank and Ivan
Frisch were concurrently working on
different techniques at Network Analysis corporation. Mario went to work for
Howie Frank but we later hired him
back at UCLA. Simon’s thesis came out
of the satellite packet switching meetings we had where he was my right-hand man. Out of that came his dissertation on the analysis of the instability
of Aloha that Abramson had created in
Hawaii. Then ARPA started moving to
packet radio on a metropolitan area
networking basis. The application was
to foot soldiers or possibly tanks moving across a battlefield; that led to the
SURAN survival radio network, and the
whole packet-radio project. Tobagi
and I started studying CSMA—carrier
sense multiple access—which eventually contributed to Ethernet.
Their theses led to a cottage industry in both network design (
popular in the 1970s) and to media access schemes (which continue to be
popular today because of 802.11
That early work caught the attention of researchers and industry as we
continued studying the behavior of
networking at large. We were fortunate to be working on these problems
at an early stage.
Let’s wind up by asking you about the
future. In the old days, they would say
“Young man, go West.” You did that
literally (Los Angeles) and metaphorically (the Internet was the new frontier, the Wild West of communication). Is networking now merely
boring infrastructure like plumbing.
What advice do you have for young researchers?
I think there is an enormous
amount of exciting work to be done in
networking and distributed systems
in general. For example, areas that are
in need of innovation, research, and
development include Io T, distributed
ledgers, the introduction of biologically inspired principles to networking (and engineering in general), distributed intelligent systems, advanced
network architectures, network security, and much more. The space is
awash with great problems to dive
into. In the case of distributed ledgers, the technology that underlies
bitcoin, I am excited on the one hand,
but concerned on the other hand.
What concerns me is that billions of
dollars were poured into blockchain
technologies soon after its birth, thus
distorting its path to proper maturity;
this is because profit-seeking companies and speculators jumped on the
bandwagon right away, which may
lead to brittle designs. By contrast, we
had 20 years without commercial interruptions in designing the Internet
and those years of careful curation
helped, I believe, to make the Internet
What about future applications?
As I said before, it is hard to predict. We missed the social networking
revolution completely. So, in some
sense, we have created an Internet
that is destined to continually surprise us with new, exciting, and explosive applications; that is a good thing
I fear the power
of the Internet
is being lost.