Hi Reddit! Steve Ballmer (former CEO of Microsoft) and David Parkes (professor and Computer Science Area Dean at Harvard) here at Harvard to talk about the future of computer science. Thanks for taking time to ask your questions.

Proof: http://i.imgur.com/vbM6717.jpg

Steve is in Cambridge to talk with students and faculty about the future of computer science at Harvard.

More at: http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2014/11/ballmer-to-support-computer-science-expansion

David's computer science research interests lie in artificial intelligence (Computational Linguistics, Machine Learning, Multi-agent Systems, Robotics) and Economics and Computation.

More at: http://www.seas.harvard.edu/directory/parkes We’ll be answering your questions today starting at 2:15pm EST. Ask away!

EDIT: Thank you all for your great questions! We both have to sign off but appreciate your time today in joining our AMA.

Comments: 303 • Responses: 17  • Date: 

dimplejuice38 karma

Steve- what financial metrics/valuation did you use to value the Clippers? Anything more than I want it at any price?

RealSteveBallmer29 karma

The clippers are a great team in the best market in the world and with a great future. The team can succeed and be profitable and build value. And I love hoops and going to Clippers games. We will be relentless and hard core in being the best team we can be. Go Clips

coooolbeans42 karma

Way to not answer the question!

RealSteveBallmer96 karma

It will be a good investment financially but not awesome and not bad. Go Clips!!!!!

xonk22 karma

Were you involved with the decision to make .NET open source? What were the motivations behind the change in strategy?

RealSteveBallmer25 karma

No I was not involved. I love that Microsoft keeps pushing forward in new ways under my successor. I believe in those guys and hold my shares dearly.

lilkhobs18 karma

What is something that surprised you being the CEO of Microsoft?

RealSteveBallmer18 karma

Steve here. I never imagined how many people would be willing to educate me and help me understand the world and its possibilities for innovation based on the position I had. Also, I had been deputy to the CEO for years and yet did not understand the full weight of responsibility in the job until I took it.

LeetHotSauce13 karma

Steve - What do you think is the most common frustration that CEO's of large companies face that the average person is unaware of?

David - Machine learning is a foreign concept to me, what are some everyday examples of machine learning in use that I might not know about?

RealSteveBallmer17 karma

David here. We're at a very exciting moment for the field of computer science and Harvard is at the forefront. Computer science today is about much more than the design of computers and is about how computing and computational thinking is affecting the world. One of the most active areas is machine learning. Machine learning is about automatically predicting and understanding structure from data. The data can be of many kinds. Some everyday examples include predicting the search results you are looking for, predicting which molecules will be effective for a particular drug pathway, and identifying structure in the way information spreads over social networks.

Steve Here. Machine learning and artificial intelligence more broadly has the potential to let machines understand the world and the people in the world and help people get insights on the world and get things done. There is so much potential in this to make people, researchers, doctors, etc etc more productive..

r10i8 karma

Hi Steve! 1) I was wondering what you feel the future is for technology in basketball? 2) What are somethings that you have implemented into the Clipper's organization since becoming the new owner, that most teams have yet to adopt? Thanks for doing this! You should give a talk at Berkeley, we would love that

RealSteveBallmer14 karma

Steve here. There is a lot more tech than I knew changing basketball and the sports fan experience broadly.. My favorite is the use of machine learning technology to process game videos from the celling to understand, categorize and analyze game play. One of the ML experts at second spectrum was a 6"9" Hooper from MIT so so cool ML rocks! The tech can help understand almost anything. Harvard CS will use it and other technologies to transform so many fields and maybe even more for sports.

David here: Harvard researchers in the school of engineering and applied sciences and statistics are working on probabilistic models to predict the outcome of a particular matchup of two players on the court. Just this week in my class we discussed the use of Markov chains to predict the outcome of NCAA games. Harvard rocks!

iD_Goomba7 karma


First off, thanks for coming to Harvard and meeting with a bunch of different groups (I was lucky enough to see you three times: in CS 50, in your meeting with the Sports Statistics group last night, and earlier today in Allston). Just some questions:

1) What are you thinking before you go out and give a talk in front of a bunch of people? You’re always so hyped up and energetic throughout, and I’ve always wanted to know what’s going on through your mind (if anything at all).

2) I know a good amount of people that compare you to Mark Cuban. What’s your take on this comparison?

3) What do you think of basketball’s player efficiency rating?

4) Do you know Chris Paul’s twin brother Cliff?

5) Why didn’t you pick my name in the raffle for the Xbox Ones?

RealSteveBallmer8 karma

In all aspects of life, as Colin Powell has written, optimism is a force multiplier. That is true in sports, that is true in business, that is true in innovation, and that is true in research. I am naturally optimistic but also want to multiply the energy and good works of others. Growing computer science at Harvard by 50% should give Harvard people in all fields of study a boost.

David here. Not only are we optimistic about what we can achieve with this growth but we're excited about the outward facing opportunities for computer science. Computer science is the key to answering many of the most difficult questions in other fields, be they biology, economics, in regard to personalized health, or the new digital humanities. Harvard is a unique place for this.

wafersmewafers7 karma

What are elements of Harvard student culture that you like and dislike?

RealSteveBallmer15 karma

David here. I like that Harvard students are so open minded to new ideas. I like that Harvard students are from diverse backgrounds and respect each other. As a professor, sometimes I dislike that there is so much competition for students' time that I don't see as much of them in the classroom as I would like.

Steve here. Harvard students are amazing in the breadth and depth of their interests. Getting to Harvard is a great achievement but it is just a start in life. Enduring impact depends on hard years of hard work, tenacity and even some good luck. I hope Harvard students stay patient to make that impact.

iBleeedorange6 karma

Steve - if you could play H-O-R-S-E against any 3 people in the world, who would you play against?

RealSteveBallmer17 karma

Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Dave Bing as a native Detroiter!!

shivan215 karma

Do you prefer SCRUM or another type of SW development?

RealSteveBallmer9 karma

Steve Here Software development methodology is constantly changing and improving. You should have seen how our industry did things in the 80's :) Scrum is great for many types of development particularly cloud services. For firmware and hardware development, it has drawbacks. The move of software to define devices on the one hand and cloud services on the other means even more changes and developments in methodologies. We need the devt tools to keep up with methodology improvement.

David here: the other big opportunity here is to continue to develop formal methods with which to prove the soundness and correctness of software, including properties in regard to security and information flow.

window55 karma

Do you think you are violating the spirit of the AMA by not answering each question, one after the next? Otherwise it is just a PR exercise, where you answer the questions that you would pose to yourself.

RealSteveBallmer7 karma

trying to mix up the topics otherwise it would have been a lot of hoop and not much tech or harvard

DonCarlitos4 karma

Thanks for the awesome gift to the U of O. Will there be more like this in the future?

RealSteveBallmer13 karma

thanks. The university of Oregon is a fundamental and important institution in the Northwest. My wife is an alum and Board member and we are psyched to support.

bernaferrari4 karma

How important do you think are MOOCs (or MOOCs providers like EDX) to the future of CS education and making the world better, since more than 99.9% of people can't go to Harvard?

As a personal example, I am, for now, still intellectually unable to go to Harvard (or MIT), but after completing Introduction to CS from MIT part 1, part 2 and (almost) finishing CS50 (from Harvard), I changed in my local university from Electric Engineering to CS. Unfortunately they still have the old thinking like "you put an input and get a specific output" from programs, but, hey, better than engineering.

Thanks :)))

RealSteveBallmer6 karma

David here: MOOCs such as EdX are opening up education and at the same time provide a profound opportunity for rethinking the way we use classrooms in universities. I like to think of the MOOC as the new textbook. With that view point, then how do professors in classrooms work with MOOCs. I think we begin to use the classroom in a much more interactive way. At Harvard CS we're very lucky to have CS 50, both for its impact on our campus and for the global impact as a MOOC. Other universities may also find ways to benefit from Harvard's excellence in CS education going forward.

Steve here. The cool thing about this is that it shows how CS and technology are transforming other fields like education. I may be biased as a Harvard alum, but I think Harvard is uniquely positioned to lead in the next generation of CS that really affects other areas like health, education, science and commerce in new ways. Mooc's show the promise in education.

Otterism3 karma

Moores law.

How long do you think it will last (and/or be relevant)?

What will be the biggest benefit of more available computing power in the next ~10 years or so? And where will it be utilized (home/data centers/cloud/science/skynet)?

RealSteveBallmer5 karma

Steve and David together:) Moore's law is used in different ways by different people. If the question is, for how long can we expect massive improvements in computing power and storage to serve us better as humans, I think the answer is at least a decade. The old form of Moore's law where processors get faster and cheaper runs into some power dissipation limits as we now see.

We will need new programming models and tools to let software keep up with the new ways in which processor performance increases including multi core etc.

serbat3 karma

To Steve, what advice would you give a young entrepreneur. I want to give my friend some advice but why not ask the best?

RealSteveBallmer5 karma

Steve here

Ideas Matter Get the best people Have a great products and story for the product Hold yourself accountable Be tenacious and long term and keep up with what technology will allow you to do next

That is why David and I are here today Making sure Harvard CS and Harvard University stay up with changes in the uses of CS

David here: Computer science is the operating system for innovation, at Harvard and in the world. We're going to lead by hiring the very best people, people who are both advancing the fundamental questions of computer science and are looking out at all the opportunities for advancing society and answering important questions. Go Harvard!

LAD_Dodgers2 karma


RealSteveBallmer10 karma

David here: The future of AI is notoriously hard to predict and many people have been wrong. But I believe that within 20 years we will see human-level intelligence, in fact, I believe we will see this within 15 years. This will mean solving some big, outstanding problems related to natural language understanding, amongst other topics. But it is within reach. Not only will AI be used for automated decision making, but AI will be used to promote new ways of collaboration and coordination, and will transform our economy in ways that are hard to predict. The future of AI will be tremendously exciting and will also call for careful contextualization and understanding of societal impact.

Steve Here. I dream of wearing some device that recognizes everything and everybody I see and reminds me of people's names, places we have met and much much more.