El Tour de Verano
September/October 2009 (Vol. 24, No. 5) pp. 2-4
1541-1672/09/$31.00 © 2009 IEEE

Published by the IEEE Computer Society
El Tour de Verano
Fei-Yue Wang, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Intelligent Readers,
During my frigid winters in upstate New York, I was always surprised by the warm weather reports from Tucson, Arizona. Now that I've lived 20 years in Tucson, I've come to really enjoy the nice desert winters—especially because every November, the city hosts "El Tour de Tucson," one of the largest road bicycle events in the United States, boasting as many as 7,000 to 10,000 participants.
However, I have always thought the Tour should be held in the summer, any time from May to September, when Tucson is at its hottest. This timing would really challenge the bikers. But I can't change the event. Instead, I decided to try my own Tour—not by bicycling around Tucson, but by flying around the world. Here is my report.
I started my Tour from Tucson on May 22 and arrived two days later (due to the time difference) in Beijing, where I participated in a seminar on the R&D roadmap for China's information science and technology all the way to 2050. Then I flew to central China to the city of Wuhan, an ancient and modern port at the confluence of the Yangtze and Han Rivers. In the revolution to overthrow China's last Qing dynasty, the first shot was fired in this city, in 1911. I had been invited as a keynote speaker for the 2009 International Symposium on Neural Networks held there; on the morning of May 28, I delivered my talk, "A New Mechanism for Intelligent Control of Complex Systems: Parallel Control and Management." Happily, I met several old friends from the US at the conference, including Paul Werbos and his family.
I spent the last few days of May in Beijing, participating in four MS and three PhD defenses.
My flight to Shanghai was late, and it was already 1 a.m. on June 3 when I arrived at Hongqiao Airport. Many years ago, I left China for the US from this airport. After a three-hour meeting in the morning and then a photo session with representatives of the national conference of provisional general secretaries of the Chinese Association of Automation, I went to the East China Normal University to present a lecture on social computing to students in computer science and information engineering. By 3 p.m., I was in Pudong International Airport and ready for the flight to my next destination, Xi'an, the ancient capital of China.
For the next three days, I chaired the 18th IEEE Intelligent Vehicles Symposium (IV 09) in Xi'an, along with IV Demon: Future Challenge: Intelligent Vehicles and Beyond. The symposium was originally scheduled to come to China in 2006, but in 2004 its governing board decided to move IV 06 to Japan instead, because at that time there was no real automotive industry and little IV-related R&D in China. Fortunately, after nearly two hours of heated debate, the board agreed to my suggestion to launch a new conference in Xi'an in 2005, the IEEE International Conference on Vehicular Electronics and Safety (VES), with a focus on real-world applications. Both IV and VES are now doing quite well.
Two days before IV 09, General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection. Just before going onstage to announce the symposium's opening, I was caught by a news report that GM's stock price had risen from 20 cents to 70 cents on the news that sales by its Chinese division had grown more than 30 percent in the first five months of 2009 and 70 percent in May, and that China is likely to become the world's largest automotive market and manufacturer by year's end. Unfortunately, the good news is too little, too late for GM, but what a change in just five years! In my opening remarks, I told some 500 people attending the symposium, "This is a perfect time to have IV in China."
After the symposium, I had a full schedule of meetings in Beijing, including a planning workshop for AI research in China from 2011 to 2015, organized by China's National Natural Science Foundation (NNSF); a panel on drafting the Innovation 2050 roadmap by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS); and a public lecture on parallel control to students at the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (GUCAS).
Next, I headed to the IEEE Technical Activities Board's summer meeting in Los Angeles, where we worked with five IEEE societies to form an action group for organizing the IEEE Forum on Integrated and Sustainable Transportation Systems (IEEE FISTS) to be held in Vienna, Austria, in 2011. We all agreed that intelligent systems will be the focus at IEEE FISTS.
Flying across the Pacific again, I landed in Beijing on the morning of June 29, then took a transfer flight to Guangzhou, followed immediately by a five-hour drive to Maoming, an industrial city in southern China where Sinopec's Maoming Petrochemical is located. This trip was extremely important to me: after five years of intensive R&D by my research team in China, our parallel management system for ethylene production (PyMS), which incorporates both behavioral and psychological computing for process control and management, would finally be put into use in one of the largest petrochemical plants in the world. On June 30, the company hosted a workshop and ceremony marking the launch of PyMS in its production lines.
As chair of GUCAS's Degree Review Committee for computer, information, and automation, I spent the first few days of July reviewing MS and PhD theses and then attended the GUCAS commencement in Beijing. GUCAS awards about 3,000 MS and 4,000 PhD degrees annually; it is perhaps the largest post-graduate degree-granting institution in the world.
From July 8 to 10, I participated in a panel evaluation to select proposals for a nontraditional emergency management program using intelligent systems to deal with unexpected crises and disasters. This is a major research initiative by China's NNSF with a six-year budget of 80 million RMB. The panel members stayed at Beijing's Fragrance Mountain, where we enjoyed cool weather and beautiful scenery.
On July 11, I headed to Pasadena, California, for the 2009 International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI). Actually, by the time I got to my hotel room, it was already July 12. I made two presentations to the IJCAI Board, on July 12 and 15, proposing to host IJCAI 2013 in Beijing. Five teams were bidding for IJCAI 2013, but ours was selected; it will be the first time IJCAI will be held in China. Between my two presentations, I visited the Huntington Library for its exhibition of Chinese painting and calligraphy and met with Intelligent Systems staff members Dale Strok and Robin Baldwin.
The next leg of my journey, on July 18, took me to Suntec, Singapore. My flight was delayed by 10 hours, and I arrived at 7:30 a.m., July 19, for a morning meeting with board members of the Omega Alpha Association. There, I accepted OAA honorary membership on behalf of H.S. Tsien, cofounder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and founding father of the space program and systems engineering in China. In the afternoon, I attended the annual symposium and the executive board meeting of the International Council of Systems Engineering and then returned to the airport after a quick dinner with a few colleagues of the Fellows Committee.
I next traveled, on July 22, to Chicago, where I had been invited by the IEEE International Conference on Services, Operations, Logistics, and Informatics (SOLI) to give a keynote speech on parallel management for complex systems. Five years ago, I helped create this conference in Beijing, and it was nice to meet old and new friends in Chicago. During my flight home, I finally finished my article on IJCAI 2013 and released it to my blog column for Science & Technology Review, the flagship publication of the China Association for Science and Technology. I am happy to know that the blog article has to date received more than 5,000 hits.
Before my trip to India, I had a few meetings scheduled in China. In Beijing, I met with a delegate from Thailand's Ministry of Science and Technology, the president of the International Federation of Robotics, and representatives from Germany, Austria, and Singapore to discuss AI and automation. Outside of Beijing, I hopped around between four cities—Xi'an, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, and Hong Kong—one day at each city.
On August 24, at 1:20 a.m., I arrived at Hindustan airport in Bangalore. This was my first visit to India, and I was very impressed by strict security measures at both the airport and the hotel. I didn't expect to find it so difficult to travel to Bangalore from China—there is no direct flight! Before my presentation at the IEEE Conference on Automation Science and Engineering (CASE), I was able to tour the city for two hours with a motorcycle taxi. After the conference banquet, I headed back to the airport and left India at 11:20 p.m., returning to Beijing via Singapore and Xiaman—a trip that took 17 hours.
A few days later, on August 29, I traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, one of my favorite cities in the world. My keynote presentation to the first IEEE International Conference on Social Computing was on my approach to social computing based on artificial societies, computational experiments, and parallel execution (ACP). I was glad to see so many people in the audience and hope this is another verification of my prediction that social computing will be the leading trend in computing R&D after scientific and bio-computing.
This month marks the last leg of my Tour de Verano, but it still involves a hop across the Pacific!
After my keynote address on parallel traffic control for urban transportation systems at the 12th IFAC Symposium on Control in Transportation Systems (CTS 09) on September 4 in Redondo Beach, California, my next stop will be China again. First, I will attend two workshops: one on supercomputing for social computing, sponsored by the CAS; the other on ACP-based e-commerce research, sponsored by the NNSF. At the University of Science and Technology of China, I will present a lecture to students titled "Parallel Control: A Control 2.0 Mechanism for Agent-Based and Data-Driven Decision Making." Then I will head back to Seal Beach, California, for the fall IEEE Computer Society Magazine Operations Committee Workshop, from September 16 to 18.
I am sure this will be my first and last tour of such intensity. Next time I visit El Tour de Tucson, as a spectator, my feeling will definitely be different.
Back to real business. For their great service to Intelligent Systems, I thank retiring Editorial Board members Kathleen McCoy, Nina Mishra, and Robin Murphy. I also welcome our new Editorial Board members: Ashok Goel, Ee-Peng Lim, David Skillicorn, Junping Zhang, and Chengqing Zong. In addition, Daniel Zeng has resigned as editor of the magazine's Intelligent Transportation Systems department; Lefei Li from Tsinghua University of China will take his place. Daniel will be the editor for our new Cyber-Social-Physical Systems department, slated for launch in the January/February 2010 issue. Daniel, thanks for your continued effort and dedication to our magazine.