I generally try to avoid self congratulatory posts on this blog, so forgive me this time. It’s not every day that your company is awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from the President of the United States. And considering the connection between the work for which the award is being given and its importance in delivering many of the promises of building a smarter planet, I think it’s worth noting here.
On October 7, President Barack Obama will award IBM the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for its work on the Blue Gene family of supercomputers. The award is the most prestigious of its kind in the United States, and IBM is the only company recognized this year.
I know I’m not the only IBMer who feels supercomputing is a big part of IBM’s identity. The continued excellence of achievements in this area are a testament to our engineers and scientists who constantly push the envelope in computing.
Based on the description of the award, it’s safe to say the importance of identity and pride extend beyond IBM to the nation as a whole:
The Medal is awarded annually to individuals, teams (up to four individuals), companies or divisions of companies for their outstanding contributions to the Nation’s economic, environmental and social well-being through the development and commercialization of technological products, processes and concepts; technological innovation; and development of the Nation’s technological manpower.
Supercomputing is rife with symbolic achievements – whether it be Olympic-style wordwide rankings or televised matches with world chess champions. And the theatrical competitions continue. But the drama is merely an animated back drop to the far more serious scientific and societal advances supercomputing is enabling. Consider this from the press release:
Blue Gene’s speed and expandability have enabled business and science to address a wide range of complex problems and make more informed decisions — not just in the life sciences, but also in astronomy, climate, simulations, modeling and many other areas. Blue Gene systems have helped map the human genome, investigated medical therapies, safeguarded nuclear arsenals, simulated radioactive decay, replicated brain power, flown airplanes, pinpointed tumors, predicted climate trends, and identified fossil fuels – all without the time and money that would have been required to physically complete these tasks.
And THAT is why all of this matters. I offer my hearty congratulations to the IBM scientists and engineers responsible for Blue Gene. Their work extends far beyond their hundreds of people working on these projects to millions of people who are the beneficiaries.