Christine Corbett Moran, Caltech | Open Source Summit 2017


>>[Voiceover] Live, from Los Angeles, it’s
theCUBE. Covering Open Source Summit, North America
2017. Brought to you by the Linux Foundation, and
Red Hat.>>Hello everyone, welcome back to our special
Cube live coverage of Linux Foundation’s Open Source Summit North America here in LA, I’m
John Furrier your co-host with Stu Mitiman. Our next guest is Christine Corbett Moran,
Ph.D. at astronomy, astrophysics post-doctoral fellow at Caltech.>>That’s right, it’s a mouthful.>>Welcome to theCUBE, a mouthful but you’re
also keynoting, gave one of the talks opening day today after Jim Zemlin, on tech and culture
and politics.>>That’s right, yeah.>>Which I thought was fantastic. A lot of great notes there. Connect the dots for us metaphorically speaking,
between Caltech and tech and culture. Why did you take that theme?>>Sure. So I’ve been involved in programming since
I was an undergraduate in college. I studied computer science and always attending
more and more conferences. hacker cons, security conferences, that sort
of stuff. Very early on what attracted me to technology
was not just the nitty gritty nuts and bolts of being able to solve a hard technical problem
That was a lot of fun, but also the impact that it could have. So even as I went on a very academic track,
I continued to make open source contributions. Really seeking that kind of cultural impact. And it wasn’t something that I was real vocal
about. Talking about. More talking about the technology side of
things than the politics side of things. But in the past few years, I think with the
rise of fake news, with the rise of various sorts of societal problems that we’re seeing
as a consequence of technology, I decided I was going to try to speak more to that end
of things. So that we can focus on that as a technology
community on what are we going to do with this enormous power that we have.>>And looking at that, a couple of direct questions
for you, it was awesome talk. You get a lot in there. You were riffing some good stuff there with
Jim as well. But you had made a comment that you originally
wanted to be lawyer, you went to MIT, and you sort of got pulled in to the dark side>>
That’s right, yeah.>>In programming. As a former computer scientist myself, what
got the bug take us through that moment. Was it you just started coding and said damn
I love coding? What was the moment?>>Sure, so I was always talented in math and
science. That was part of the reason why I was admitted
to MIT and chose to go there. My late father was a lawyer. I didn’t really have an example of a technologist
in my life. So, to me, career wise I was going to be a
lawyer, but I was interested in technology. What kind of lawyer is that? Patent attorney. So that was my career path. MIT, some sort of engineering, then a patent
attorney. I got to MIT and realized I didn’t have to
be a attorney. I could just do the fun stuff. For some people that’s the fun part. For me it ended up being when I took my first
computer science class. Something that was fun, that I was good at,
and that I really got addicted to kind of the feedback loop of you always have a problem
you’re trying to solve. It doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Then you get it to work and then it’s great
for a minute and then there’s a new problem to solve.>>That’s a great story. I think it was very inspirational. A lot of folks of watching will be inspired
by that. The other thing that inspired me in the key
note was your comment about code and culture.>>[Christine] Yeah.>>I love this notion that code is now at a point
where open source is a global phenomenon. You mentioned Earth and space.>>[Christine] Yeah.>>You know and all this sort of space is now
Linux based now. But coding can shape culture. Explain what you mean by that, because I think
it’s one of those things that people might not see happening right now, but it is happening. You starting to see the more inclusionary
roles and the communities are changing. Code is not just a tech thing. Explain what you mean by code-shaping culture.>>Well we can already that in terms of changing
corporate culture. So, for example, 10 or 15, 20 years ago it
might be inconceivable to make contributions that might benefit your corporate competitor. And we all have corporate competitors whether
that’s a nation, the US having competitors. Whether that’s your local sports rivalry. We all have competitors, but open source has
really shown that you’re relying on things that you as a group, no matter what entity
you are, you can’t do as much as you can if you share your contributions and benefit from
people around the globe. So that’s one big way I’ve seen corporate
culture in just every day culture change that people have recognized. Whether it’s science, or corporate success,
you can’t do it alone. There’s no lone genius. You really have to do it as a community.>>As a collective too you mentioned some of
the ruling class and you kind of referring to not ruling class and open source, but also
politics. In that gerrymandering was a word you used. We don’t hear that often at conferences, but
the idea of having more people exposed creates more data. Talk about what you mean by that because this
is interesting. This truly is a democratization opportunity.>>[Christine] Absolutely.>>If not handled properly could go away.>>Yeah, I think am a little, I don’t know if
there’s any Game of Thrones fans out there, but you know at some point this season and
previous seasons you know Daenerys Targaryen is there and they’re like well if you do this
you’re going to be the same evil person just new face. I think there’s a risk of that in the open
source community that if it ends up just being a few people it’s the same oligarchy. The same sort of corruption just a different
face to it. I don’t think open source will go that way
just based on the people that I’ve met in the community. It is something that we actively have to guard
against and make sure that that we have as many people contributing to open source so
that it’s not just a few people who are capable of changing the world and have the power to
decide whether it’s going to be A or B, but as many people as possible.>>Christine, the kind of monetization of open
source is always an interesting topic at these kind of shows. You had an interesting piece talking about
young people contributing. You know contributing to open source. It’s not just oh yeah do it for free and expect
them to do it. Same thing in academia a lot of times. Like oh hey, you’re going to do that research
and participate and write papers and you know money is got to come somewhere to help fund
this. How does kind of the money fit into this whole
discussion of open source?>>So I think that’s been one of the big successes
of open source and we heard that from Jim as well today. It isn’t you know some sort of unattainable
in terms of achieving value for society. When you do something of value, money is a
reward for that. The only question is how to distribute that
award effectively to the community. What I see sometimes in the community is there’s
this myth of everyone in open source getting involved for just the fun of it and there’s
a huge amount of that. I have done a bunch of contributions for free
on the side, but I’ve always in the end gotten some sort monetary reward for that down the
line. And someone talked today about that makes
you more employable, et cetera. That has left me with the time and freedom
to continue that development. I think it’s a risk that as a young person
who is going into debt for college to not realize that that monetary reward will come
or have it be so out of sync with their current life situation that they’re unable to get
the time to develop the skills. So, I don’t think that money is a primary
motivating factor for most people in the community, but certainly as Linus said today as well. When you don’t have to worry about money that’s
when you do the really cool nitty-gritty things that might be a risk that then grow to be
that next big project.>>It’s an interesting comment you made about
the US how they couldn’t do potentially Linux if it wasn’t in the US. It opens up your eyes and you say hmm we got
to do better.>>Yeah.>>And so that brings up the whole notion of
the radical comment of open source has always been kind of radical and then you know when
I was growing up it was a tier two alternative to the big guys. Now it’s tier one. I think the stakes are higher and the thing
I’d like you to get your comment or reaction to is how does the community take it to the
next level when it’s bigger than the United States. You have China saying no more ICOs, no more
virtual currencies. That’s a potential issue there’s a data point
of many other things that can be on the global scale. Security, the Equifax hack, identity theft,
truth in communities is now an issue, and there’s more projects more than ever. So I made a comment on Twitter. Whose shoulders do we stand on in the expression
of standing on the shoulders before you.>>[Christine] Yeah, you’re standing on a sea.>>So it’s a discovery challenge of what do we
do and how do we get to the truth. What’s your thoughts on that?>>That is a large question. I don’t know if I can answer it in the short
amount of time. So to break it down a little bit. One of the issues is that we’re in this global
society and we have different portions trying to regulate what’s next in technology. For example, China with the ICOs, et cetera. One of the phrases I used in my talk was that
the math was on the people’s side and I think it is the case still with a lot of the technologies
that are distributed. It’s very hard for one particular government,
or nation state, to say hey we’re going to put this back in the box. It’s Pandora’s box. It’s out in the open. So that’s a challenge as well for China and
other people, the US. If you have some harmful scenario, how to
actually regulate that. I don’t know how that’s going to work out
moving forward. I think it is the case in our community how
to go to the next level, which is another point that you brought up. One thing that Linus also brought up today,
is one of the reasons why it’s great to collaborate with corporations is that often they put kind
of the finishing touches on a product to really make it to the level that people can engage
with it easily. That kind of on ramping to new technology
is very easy and that’s because of corporations is very incentivized monetarily to do that,
whereas the open source community isn’t necessarily incentivized to do that. Moreover, a lot of that work that final 1%
of a project for the polish is so much more difficult. It’s not the fun technical element. So a lot of the open source contributors,
myself included, aren’t necessarily very excited about that. However, what we saw in Signal, which is a
product that it is a non-profit it is something that isn’t necessarily for corporate gain,
but that final polish and making it very usable did mean that a lot more people are using
the product. So in terms of we as a community I think we
have to figure out how keeping our radical governance structure, how to get more and
more projects to have that final polish. And that’ll really take the whole community.>>Let them benefit from it in a way that they’re
comfortable with now it’s not a proprietary lock and it’s more of only 10% of most of
the applications are uniquely differentiated with open source. Question kind of philosophic thought experiment,
or just philosophical question, I’ll say astronomy and astrophysics is an interesting background. You’ve got a world of connected devices, the
IoT, Internet of Things, includes people. So, you know I’m sitting there looking at
the stars, oh that’s the Apache Project, lots of stars in that one. You have these constellations of communities,
if you will out there to kind of use the metaphor. And then you got astrophysics, the Milky Way,
a lot of gravity around me. You almost take a metaphor talks to how communities
work. So let’s get your thoughts. How does astrophysics and astronomy relate
to some of the dynamics in how self-governing things work?>>I’d love to see that visualization by the
way, of the Apache Project and the Milky Way,>>[John] Which one’s the Big Dipper?>>That sounds gorgeous, you guys should definitely
pursue that.>>John you’re going to find something at Caltech,
you know our next fellowship.>>Argued who always did the Big Dipper or not,
but you know.>>I think some of the challenges are similar
in the sciences in that people initially get into it because it’s something they’re curious
about. It’s something they love and that’s an innate
human instinct. People have always gazed up at the stars. People have always wondered how things work. How your computer works? You know let me figure that out. That said, ultimately, they need to eat and
feed their families and that sort of stuff. And we often see in the astrophysics community
incredibly talented people at some stage in their career leaving for some sort of corporate
job. And retaining talent is difficult because
a lot of people are forced to move around the globe, to different centers in academia,
and that lifestyle can be difficult. The pay often isn’t as rewarding as it could
be. So to make some sort of parallel between that
community and the open source community, retaining talent in open source, if you want people
to not necessarily work in open source under Microsoft, under a certain corporation only,
but to kind of work more generally. That is something that ultimately, we have
to distribute the rewards from that to the community.>>It’s kind of interesting. The way I always thought the role of the corporation
and open source was always trying to change the game. You know, you mentioned gerrymandering. The old model was we got to influence a slow
that down so that we can control it.>>So John we’ve had people around the globe
and even that have made it to space on theCUBE before. I don’t know that we’ve ever had anybody that’s
been to the South Pole before on theCUBE. So Christine, maybe tell us a little about
how’s technology you know working in the South Pole and what can you tell our audience about
it?>>Sure. So I spent 10 and half months at the South
Pole. Not just Antarctica, but literally the middle
of the continent, the geographic South Pole. There the US has a research base that houses
up to about 200 people during the austral summer months when it’s warm that is maybe
minus 20 degrees or so. During the cold winter months, it gets completely
dark and planes have a very difficult time coming in and out so they close off the station
to a skeleton crew to keep the science experiments down there running. There are several astrophysical experiments,
several telescopes, as well as many research projects, and that skeleton crew was what
I was a part of. 46 people and I was tasked with running the
telescope down there and looking at some of the echoes of the Big Bang. And I was basically a telescope doctor. So I was on call much like a sys-admin might
be. I was responsible for the kind of IT support
for the telescope, but also just physical, something physically broke, kind of replacing
that. And that meant I could be woken up in the
middle of night because of some kind of package update issue or anything like that and I’d
have to hike out in minus a 100 degrees to fix this, sometimes. Oftentimes, there was IT support on the station
so we did have internet running to the telescope which was about a kilometer away. It took me anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes
to walk out there. So if it didn’t require on-site support sometimes
I could do the work in my pajamas to kind of fix that. So it was a kind of traditional computer support
role in a very untraditional environment.>>That’s an IoT device isn’t it.>>Yeah.>>Stu and I are always interested in the younger
generation as we both have kids who are growing up in this new digital culture. What’s your feeling in terms of the younger
generation that are coming up because people going to school now, digital natives, courseware,
online isn’t always the answer, people learn differently. Your thoughts on onboarding the younger generation
and for the inclusion piece which is super important whether it’s women in tech and/or
just people just getting more people into computer science. What are some of things that you see happening
that excite you and what are some of the things that get you concerned?>>Yeah, so I had the chance I mentioned a little
in my talk to teach 12 high school students how to computer program this summer. Some of them have been through computer programming
classes at their colleges, or at their high schools, some not. What I saw when I was in high school was a
huge variety of competence in the high school teachers that I had. Some were amazing and inspiring. Others because in the US you need a degree
in education, but not necessarily a degree in the field that you’re teaching. I think that there’s a huge lack of people
capable of teaching the next generation who are working at the high school level. It’s not that there’s a huge lack of people
who are capable, kind of anyone at this conference could sit down and help a high schooler get
motivated and self-study. So I think teacher training is something that
I’m concerned about. In terms of things I’m very excited about,
we’re not quite there yet with the online courses, but the ability to acquire that knowledge
online is very, very exciting. In addition, I think we’re waking up as a
society to the fact that four year college isn’t necessarily the best preparation for
every single field. For some fields it’s very useful. For other fields, particularly engineering,
maybe even computer science engineering, apprenticeships or practical experience could be as valuable
if not more valuable for less expense. So I’m excited about new initiatives, these
coding bootcamps. I think there’s a difficulty in regulation
in that you don’t know for a new coding bootcamp. Is it just trying to get people’s money? Is it really going to help their careers? So we’re in a very frothy time there, but
I think ultimately how it will shake out is it’s going to help people enter technology
jobs quicker.>>You know there’s a percentage of jobs that
aren’t even invented yet. So there’s AI. You see self-driving cars. These things are easy indicators that hey
society’s changing.>>Yeah. And it’s also good to be helpful for a professionals
like us, older professionals who want to keep up in this ever growing field and I don’t
necessarily want to go back for a second Ph.D, but I’ll absolutely take an online course
in something I didn’t see in my undergrad.>>I mean you can get immersed in anything these
days online. It’s great, there’s a lot of community behind
it. Christine thanks so much for sharing. Congratulations on a great keynote. Thanks for spending some time with us.>>[Christine] Yeah, thanks for having me.>>It’s theCUBE live coverage here in LA for
Open Source Summit in North America. I’m John Furrier, Stu Miniman, and we’ll be
right back with more live coverage after this short break.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *