Not very many issues ago, I wrote in an editorial that I could foresee a time when flying across the country or around the world to attend an academic meeting would be frowned upon, or unaffordable, to the extent that most such meetings would have to be held online. I have to admit that I did not expect to see anything like that happening quite this quickly. But, as you probably read back in August, this winter’s CMS meeting will be held not in Montreal but online.
While the coronavirus, not carbon emission, is to blame for this change, the result is similar. We shall be using technology as best we can to take the place of the face-to-face meetings where we have traditionally shared our ideas and generated new ones. Will it work? Certainly it won’t be the same. Instead of talking in the hotel corridors and dining together in the fine restaurants of Montreal, we will create the illusion of proximity through computer-generated images, mere tricks of the light. But, to quote the late Douglas Adams, “It is possible to be comfortable with tricks of the light, though, if that is all you have.”
Maybe by next summer, or next winter, the coronavirus will be under control. I hope so — I have already sat through enough Zoom meetings to last me a long time, and I look forward to the morning when I can stand up in front of a classroom full of real live students and write formulas on a real board, as is the custom of our people. Maybe this will be the only online CMS meeting, at least for a little while. But on the bright side, I should actually be able to attend, even though it’s scheduled before the end of classes. And we may learn things about running and attending online meetings that will be valuable to us — or to those who come after us — in other, perhaps longer-lasting, times of trouble.
Stay well, and maybe I’ll see you there!