Meet Keith Miller
Louise Hartman Schewe and Karl Schewe Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences; also, Professor,
- B.S. School of Education, Concordia Teachers College (1973)
- M.S. Dept. of Mathematics, The College of William & Mary (1976)
- Ph.D. Dept. of Computer Science, The University of Iowa (1983)
- Both my parents were teachers (now retired), and my first degree was in education. That’s one of the reasons I like working at UIS – the teacher/scholar model is honored here, and that’s not true at all universities. I love computer science, but my research now is largely interdisciplinary, in computer ethics. For example, as a computer scientist, I study how to test software better; as a computer ethicist, I study the human consequences of releasing software with more or less testing. Since we can’t, in general, test software enough to guarantee that it is correct, both the technical aspects and the ethical aspects are challenging.
- My wife teaches law and ethics at SIU Medical School in Springfield. I have one son who lives in Tokyo and a son who lives in Clinton, IL.
- I got my masters degree in mathematics at the College of William and Mary. Years later (after I earned my Ph.D. at the Univ. of Iowa), I came back to William and Mary as a faculty member. It was fascinating to see the same institution from “both sides of the desk.” Being a student was easier, but being a faculty member paid WAY better.
- When I played football in high school, I had two nicknames: the Beast and the Preacher.
- People learn best by doing. I like to set up situations that challenge students to struggle with ideas and produce useful artifacts. I have always enjoyed learning new things, so I try to get students started on something, and then get out of the way. I strive to make my classes fun, tough and fair.
- Software testing, especially how to estimate the probability of failure.
- Computer ethics, especially “how good is good enough” for software, and the ethical issues surrounding computers, webbots, and robots that challenge human performance in applications we used to think required human intelligence.
Major project underway:
- I edit a quarterly publication, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine. I am working on a book (as yet untitled), about the ethics of so called “intelligent” machines. I am trying to craft a “manifesto” about the accountability of humans who design, develop and deploy machines capable of “learning after launch.” Once I finish writing it, I’m going to try to get other scholars in computer ethics to sign the manifesto, and then distribute it to scientists and companies building these machines.
Advice to prospective students:
- Since I’m a professor, I can say strange things. Here’s my advice: “Specialize with a vengeance, but be open to other fields.” In college, don’t focus on anything too much too early. Look around, and delight in your curiosity when you can – college is a great place to explore. Eventually, though, I think you should pick one or two things that especially interest you, and then dedicate yourself to becoming one of the best in those one or two things. Don’t settle for mediocrity, but don’t get tunnel vision. I realize that advice isn’t simple – there is a tension between focusing enough to become really good at something, and still being open to new ideas. But life is like that: things are often in tension.
Best thing about UIS:
- As a faculty member, I particularly enjoy the dual emphasis on scholarship and teaching. Both are encouraged and rewarded here, and I think most faculty members at UIS make an honest effort to balance the demands of pedagogy and research. It’s not an easy balance to strike, but I like being at a university that tries to do both well.
More abstractly, I love being paid to think, write, and talk. Being a university professor is a fantastic job, and I am grateful for it. In return, I spend a good bit of time and energy trying to meet the challenges inherent in simultaneously being a scholar and a teacher.