Event Details

Thursday, February 1,2007

10:15 am – 12:45 pm

Bartos Theater
(Wiesner Building, E15)

For info please

Annie Abbondante

Sponsored by
Program on Emerging Technologies

View a video of this event. (Video will open in another window. Depending on your player and browser speeds, videos make take a few minutes to load.)


Protocols and Standards for Emerging Technologies:
Issues in Synthetic Biology and the Future Internet

Many emerging technologies present a challenging set of potential applications and technical design choices that call for broadly applied standards and usage protocols, whether for regulatory purposes or in order to optimize the interoperability of technology-driven products. This seminar includes three coordinated talks and a discussion period that will explore these issues. Speakers will focus on two current technologies (Internet II and Synthetic Biology) as well as a retrospective examination of examples from the past. Some specific issues the speakers will address include:

  • What is being standardized and protocol-ized, with attention to the technical substance and material consequences of choices. (Internet II – IP addressing conventions, packet header content, BGP and alternatives. SynBio - Standards for couplings of parts, measures of performance, metrics for interaction effects, typologies for classification of biological parts).
  • Standards for both the internet and biological engineering are being redesigned / designed in bits and pieces. What institutions and processes are and should be involved in the selection of standards and protocols? How do perceptions of uncertainty and implications affect the standard-setting process?

Participants are asked to read selected papers in advance of the seminar so that the speakers can assume a common base of knowledge in the audience. These will be posted on the PoET website in early January.

10:15 am Welcome and Introductory Remarks
  Kenneth Oye, Professor of Political Science and Engineering Systems
  Click here to view video (1.1mb)
10:30 am Application of Standards and Protocols: A Retrospective Look
  Merritt Roe Smith, Cutten Professor of the History of Technology
10:55 am Some History: Getting Computers to Talk Reliably (The Story of TCP)
  Dave Clark, Senior Research Scientist, Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
11:15 am Synthetic Biology: Technical Standards and Classification for Biological Parts
  Tom Knight, Senior Research Scientist, Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
11:55 am Protocols and Standards: Design Choices for a Future Internet
  Dave Clark, Senior Research Scientist, Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
12:20 pm Discussion

Dave Clark
Since the mid 70s, Dr. Clark has been leading the development of the Internet; from 1981-1989 he acted as Chief Protocol Architect in this development, and chaired the Internet Activities Board. Recent activities include extensions to the Internet to support real-time traffic, explicit allocation of service, pricing and related economic issues, and policy issues surrounding local loop employment. New activities focus on the architecture of the Internet in the post-PC era.

Tom Knight
Tom Knight’s lab is developing an engineering technology based on biology. Engineering biological systems requires a fundamentally different viewpoint from the science of biology. Key engineering principles of modularity, simplicity, separation of concerns, abstraction, flexibility, hierarchical design, isolation, and standardization are of critical importance.

Ken Oye
Ken Oye is Associate Professor of Political Science at MIT. As a Principal Investigator in the Program on Emerging Technologies, his research cuts across fields, using theory and methods from the field of political economy to address issues in the field of science, technology and environmental policy.

Merritt Roe Smith
Professor Smith is Professor and former director of the Program in Science, Technology and Society. His research focuses on the history of technological innovation and social change. As a Principal Investigator in the Program on Emerging Technologies, his research has involved retrospective studies of societal issues related to past emerging technologies.

The Program on Emerging Technologies at MIT seeks to improve responses to emerging technologies by engaging early and explicitly with the pervasive uncertainty that is often under-recognized in technology assessment exercises. PoET is a collaborative effort between the School of Engineering and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) at MIT, involving the Technology and Policy Program within the Engineering Systems Division, the Center for International Studies, the Department of Political Science, and the Program in Science, Technology and Society. PoET was recently awarded a 5-year grant by the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Program.

Advance Readings

"Setting Compatibility Standards: Cooperation or Collusion?" (.pdf)
Carl Shapiro, University of California at Berkeley
Revision: 8 June 2000

This paper describes the process by which firms cooperate to establish product compatibility and interface standards, and studies the impact such standards have on market competition. Special emphasis is given to the treatment of intellectual property rights in the standard-setting context. Based on this economic analysis, the paper offers some general suggestions for the proper antitrust treatment of cooperation to set standards, including the use of cross-licenses and patent pools to promote new product standards. By and large, U.S. antitrust law has not stood in the way of beneficial standard setting or cross-licensing.

"Why Standards Matter" (.html)
Issues in Science and Technnology, Winter 1998
Robert L. Mallett, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce

"Foundations for Engineering Biology" (.pdf)
Nature Magazine

"Addressing Reality" (.pdf)
David Clark et al. (read through section 2; the rest is optional)

Additional Optional Readings

Adventures in Synthetic Biology
This comic book provides an amusing introduction to synthetic biology.

Synthetic Biology Overview on Encyclopedia of Earth

Synthetic Biology Overview on Wikipedia

Jay Keasling article from /Discover/ (Dec.06)