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ACM at 75

By Vicki L. Hanson, Jennifer T. Chayes

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 65 No. 5, Pages 6-7
10.1145/3527143

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"As its name suggests, the Association for Computing Machinery has been around since the days when computers really were machines that filled entire rooms …".
    New York Times, March 11, 1997a

In January of 1947, the Symposium on Large-Scale Digital Calculating Machinery on the Harvard campus attracted 300 attendees. At that meeting, participants expressed the desire for a professional association that would address the need for communication among those interested in computing machinery. In September of that year, our association was launched with 52 dues-paying members. That number rapidly increased, such that four years later there were 1,113 members, 43 of whom resided outside of the U.S. Today, the ACM is an organization with more than 100,000 members, from 190 countries, serving a community of nearly four million individuals annually.

In the 75 years since that first symposium, ACM has been a major force in advancing computing as a science and profession. ACM sponsors computing's most prestigious gatherings, including nearly 200 conferences each year. From its initial efforts in creating a channel for printed computer science information in 1952, ACM has become a publisher of much of computing's most important literature. ACM also serves as archivist for this literature through the ACM Digital Library. ACM's Awards have further spotlighted many of the most impactful innovations in computing through their recognition of outstanding technical achievements in the field.

Throughout 2022, in both social media and publications, we will be highlighting ACM's 75-year role in promoting technical excellence and fostering professional growth. We will shine the spotlight on ACM publications that have shaped computing, revisit milestones in ACM history, and have fun by encouraging community members to share their stories about ACM.

As stated in the introduction to ACM's Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, "Computing professionals' actions change the world."b While this impact may not have been foreseen by our first members in 1947, we understand today that computing reaches into most aspects of our lives. Nowhere was this more visible than in the past two years of the pandemic in which untold numbers relied on computing to work, receive health services, and reduce at least some of the effects of social isolation. But this very pervasiveness forces us to grapple with a range of ethical issues.c

On June 10, 2022, ACM will host a 75th Anniversary Celebration to review our history, reflect on changes in the profession as well as in ACM, and invite those who are shaping our future to comment on where we are heading.

  • One panel will consider the intentional and unintentional incentives implicit in computing platforms/AI. What can we as computer scientists do to address these technically, and what must be addressed normatively or with regulation?
  • A second panel will consider how computing and computer scientists are addressing the world's most urgent societal challenges from biomedicine and health to climate change and beyond.
  • Another panel will take up the question of autonomy and to what extent it is desirable in AI. How are we building AI so that it is human-centered?
  • Reflecting on the impact of massively scaled computing technologies, another panel will consider the computational and societal opportunities and challenges posed by tera-scale networks of people, services, devices, and data as the world's population and infrastructure become more fully connected.
  • To explore the balancing of trust and risk in using technology, a further panel will address the question: As computing becomes increasingly integral to society—for public service platforms, financial systems and decisions, resource allocations, policy formulations, and more—how do we foster trust and manage risk?

We invite you to join us in June for our livestreamed and recorded 75th Anniversary event as ACM celebrates our achievements and looks to the future. Watch for more information about this on social media and the ACM website.

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Jennifer T. Chayes discusses this event in an exclusive Communications video: https://cacm.acm.org/videos/acm-75th-anniversary-celebration

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Authors

Vicki L. Hanson is the Chief Executive Officer of ACM. She also served as ACM President 2016-2018.

Jennifer T. Chayes is Associate Provost of the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society, and Dean of the School of Information, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA.

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Footnotes

a. https://nyti.ms/34rJwMp

b. https://www.acm.org/code-of-ethics

c. https://bit.ly/3GER8bB


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