Is supercomputing personal? Could it become personal?

While most of us are carrying around phones, ultrabooks and maybe the occasional mammoth laptop, these only represent a fraction of the computing capabilities found in today’s supercomputers. For those who don’t know, supercomputers (or High Performance Computing—aka HPC systems) are the giant, powerful computers that solve our world’s most complex problems and make this world a better place to live in—like weather forecasting, disaster simulations, climate simulations, gene mapping, pharmaceutical drug interactions, crash simulation, and many, many more.

For a quarter of a century, the Supercomputing Conference (SC) has served as the crossroads for the entire HPC community. From users and program managers to colleagues and vendors…from government to private industry to academia…SC has provided unparalleled cooperation, unequaled collaboration, and unmatched exposure. And each year, the SC Conference General Chair’s prerogative is to outdo themselves in choosing a keynote speaker. The past years have shown that they don’t just choose an industry or mainstream big names— the likes of Bill Gates, Michael Dell, or Jen-Hsun Huang. They’ve moved to others who are “outsiders” but influential speakers, such as Al Gore or Clayton Christensen—folks who make you think.

And this year, they wanted a fresh perspective on the whole HPC community & what it does—so the SC General Chair chose Dr. Genevieve Bell from Intel Labs—an (dare I say it?) Anthropologist (here’s where everyone gasps). The selection committee not only wanted a fresh perspective, but one that would make conference attendees think differently, one that brings a novel way to look at things, one that makes something click in your mind when you hear them speak and say to yourself, “wow.” One that is disruptive, in a good way.

And Dr. Bell is just that person. When she speaks, she shares her anthropological social studies and deep knowledge of history to tell how technology used to be, how that technology relates to today’s technology, and how to practically think about applying that to today’s problems, both personal and global—like disaster simulations— to bring a thrill of hope to hopeless hearts.

In 2010 Dr. Bell was named “one of the top 25 women in technology to watch” by AlwaysOn and as “one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company. In 2012, she was inducted into the Women In Technology International Hall of Fame. Many of Dr. Bell’s fascinating talks on human interaction with technology can be found online, including her TedXSydney talk, The Value of Boredom. You won’t want to miss Dr. Bell’s gripping keynote talk at Supercomputing 2013. Did I mention that she has a witty sense of humor?

Richard Libby

About Richard Libby

Richard Libby (richard.m.libby at is a Technology Evangelist for Intel Corporation’s Intel Labs Group, focused primarily on evangelizing sustainability, big data and cloud computing. Previously he held the positions of Power Technologist for Intel’s Eco-Technology Program Office, Technical Marketing Engineer for Intel Corporation's Digital Enterprise Group supporting independent hardware vendors (IHV) geared toward High Performance Computing (HPC) Cluster solutions and applications along with Tier 1 (Fortune 500-1000 companies) HPC deployments, HPC technical training and products for since 1999. Richard has been at Intel since 1994 and has held several positions in Systems Mechanical Engineering, Hardware Engineering, Technology Initiatives Enabling, Power Technologist and Technical Marketing Engineer.

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