As the BCS begins its 50th anniversary year, members have been told that new approaches will be required from the IT community to meet a range of global and national challenges.
In his incoming president's message Nigel Shadbolt said, "We should stand in awe at the way our technology has evolved in the past 50 years. In just half that time I have seen a millionfold increase in the power of computing devices. What also holds my attention is our changing relationship with the rest of society.
"It was not until the early 1970s that a computer first appeared at the London Hospital in Whitechapel. To most staff and patients it was an oddity. Today, health informatics is huge, employing 25,000 people in the NHS. It is the subject of great debate among IT practitioners, healthcare practitioners and the media. Our domain has become a part of the fabric of our society beyond anyone's expectations, and the rate of change continues apace."
The BCS president also spoke about the future of IT and the society's involvement in shaping it.
"In 2007, those taking their GCSE exams will have been born when Tim Berners-Lee published the specification for the world wide web. They have grown up in a web-enabled world. Today's children, living in a connected world, are integrating this technology into their lives. When the BCS reaches 100 years of age, the world will have changed around them as much as it has changed around us," he said.
"By then, the promise of artificial intelligence, agent software, pervasive computing and the other technologies I research may not have delivered a HAL or met Asimov's expectations, but they will have changed the world again. We can be sure of little other than constant and surprising change.
"For the next 50 years, the global challenges of climate change, security, ageing populations and scarce resources will all require innovative contributions from us. We will also be an essential part of maintaining this country's economic and social well-being.
"Our mission in 2007 is to be leaders in solving these global and national challenges. That requires a new approach from us within the IT community, and a new relationship with those outside it."
Shadbolt concluded by stressing that this year the BCS will continue its professionalism programme and will seek to engage more with the wider public.
To celebrate its anniversary, the BCS is holding a year-long programme of events, details of which can be found online
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