Interview with the IEEE President Candidates

The IEEE R10 Web Blog team was recently in conversation with the 2018 IEEE President Candidates, Vincenzo Piuri and Jacek M. Zurada. Read on to know more about what they had to say...

What drove you to run for presidency?

Vincenzo:

I am motivated by the passion for serving and giving back to IEEE members and our scientific and professional community. I believe that a true leader is someone who, having a vision of the future, is able to catalyze the volunteer’s desires and aspirations, excite the minds and warm the hearts, promote holistic cooperation, and work in a collegial way through consensus.

Jacek:

Volunteering gives me an opportunity to return to the profession that has given me so much.  Now to be a leader of a large organization such as the IEEE, I do believe I have the experience, energy and knowledge of IEEE that are necessary for me to be a great leader.

You have cited the encouragement of industry practitioner as one of your topmost priorities. How do you propose to elevate that from the existing scenario?

Vincenzo:

Specifically, I will work with all Boards and organizational units catalyzing our efforts in four main areas – industry professionals, young professionals, entrepreneurs, and women in engineering. Different IEEE groups are involved so that many activities can be addressed in parallel and synergies exploited in coordinated collaborative efforts across the entire IEEE.

Jacek:

The issue demands a special attention from the future IEEE leadership since we don’t want to serve academics without offering a full palette of products and services to IEEE industrial members.

Artificial Intelligence. Road to revolution or a road to human annihilation?

Vincenzo:

I have been personally working in this area for three decades, with innovative research results for which I have been awarded the IEEE Fellow grade. I believe that these technologies will continue to help significantly in improving the human life, but will neither replace nor take control of humans. They will contribute in alleviating some heavy or repetitive jobs, like industrial automation did in the past. Humans will have the opportunity of focusing on morerewarding jobs and activities, even though this will require training and continuing education.

Jacek:

I don’t agree with Elon Musk’s opinion that AI represents a “fundamental risk to the existence of civilization”.  I’m also convinced that IEEE will continue to be one of the main players in shaping up an active public discourse on AI.

You have held executive positions in various IEEE societies. What failures did you face? How do you plan to draw lessons and avoid them as a president?

Vincenzo:

Reinforcing the common vision and goal and reinvigorating cooperation among all group as One IEEE will allow all of us for better serving our scientific and professional community as well as the entire humanity. People are willing to cooperate, even though sometimes is difficult to see the possible connections and the opportunities across the entire IEEE and thus to act accordingly. It is our responsibility to make these connections more visible and reinvigorate the opportunity for fruitful cooperation.

Jacek

I think the key to success in an organizational setting is to have a plan, and then discuss this plan with key stakeholders and listen to their opinions. Once the plan has gathered support, we proceed with the implementation on a proper timeline and with the finances secured ahead of time as well as with participation by people who are doers and are eager and enthusiastically act in support of the cause. I personally work very well with people, see the picture below:

You have championed the cause of one IEEE. How do you envision uniting such a diverse, multi-faceted society?

Vincenzo:

Mutual understanding and cooperation have been shown an essential way to ensure effective and efficient action as One IEEE.

A few years ago, I started to promote cooperation among the Major Boards with visits to Region meetings and other informal gatherings. This initiative contributed in increasing the reciprocal understanding of the needs, problems, and aspirations, establishing a more open dialogue, and looking for opportunities for collaboration. This atmosphere already produced some results and is continuing improving the positive relationships among Major Boards,reflecting also on the relationships among Sections and Societies.

I also created an AdHoc Committee on Standards Activities in TAB to facilitate and promote cooperation among Societies, Technical Councils and the Standards Association. This committee has been successful in collecting and disseminating the best practices among Societies and Technical Councils, as well as improving and expanding the cooperation with Standards Association.

Finally, I started the IEEE Environmental Engineering Initiative to nurture this specific interdisciplinary field with the cooperation of 23 Societies and Technical Council, Standards Association, Members and Geographic Activities Board, IEEE-USA, Educational Activities Board, as well as various IEEE standing committees.

Jacek:

My transition from Europe to the US in the 80’s demonstrated that there is ONE engineering and ONE profession. Since we all are speaking the same language of the profession, my move from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich to the University of Louisville, Kentucky was rather smooth.  Further, having worked for three years in Asia exposed me to different cultures and taught me that the international diversity of IEEE is one of its powerful assets. IEEE offers a common platform to contribute to the profession and share our advancements regardless of a members’ address.

Having said this, I will strive to provide equal opportunity to present and future members who are underprivileged or under-represented. This includes women, aspiring young professionals, those who need retraining in their careers, and those professionals who come from emerging or depressed economies.

Thoughts on the recent Facebook AI shutdown?

Vincenzo:

The continuously growing number of users makes in fact not feasible to hire human assistants to answers users’ questions and provide assistance. Artificial Intelligence is an enabling technology that can allow for understanding the users’ questions and answering properly. In this type of study adaptivity and ability of understanding the human questions are essential aspects. Bots have been programmed to behave and evolve the learnt behavior by optimizing an objective function so as to be able to adapt themselves to each user and her evolving needs. Facebook did not shut down the use of artificial intelligence in fear of computers’ rebellion, but simply modified the configuration of the adopted approach in order to allow humans to interact with computers through chat bots.

Jacek:

The danger that software and bots become so intelligent that they would overwhelm the existing and regulated framework is similar to the train that falls of the track being a victim of its own speed, momentum and inertia since the train has to follow the laws of physics. In both cases human have to control the process parameters as both the social bots and the trains need be constrained in some ways.

What is your vision for IEEE?

Vincenzo:

I envision a holistic view for One IEEE, recognizing diversity as a fundamental richness for synergic cooperation, encouraging participation, galvanizing enthusiasm, and catalyzing the rich and diverse competences and aspirations of members and volunteers. An IEEE in which everybody feels proud to be. An IEEE by people for people.

Jacek:

I envisage IEEE as a community building organization that advances technology and serves aspirations of their members