This may come across as sentimental but every now and then you come across a group of people that makes you realise Groucho’s famous quote on clubs (“I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”) gets it so right that is scary. The Camabridge Ring is a group of scientists who actually think about the real problems that the computing world faces. Note that these are not necessarily computer scientists- instead they come from a wide range of backgrounds and are far more concerned with the underlying and fundamental issues that need to be solved to move computing forward.
In some ways the vision in your mind of this group is probably correct- they are largely male, a cross section of ages from mid-20’s bright eyed things to 90 year old duffers and generally graduates of Cambridge University. But the humour is gentle, self deprecating and largely doesn’t translate outside the group.
The work that I do is far removed from the theoretical thoughts that the Cambridge Ring discuss, but that doesn’t mean that I would love to sit down and simply be in the presence of these great minds. So how does Groucho apply here? Well, any society that I can join is far less interesting than the Cambridge Ring- so I wouldn’t want to be a member, but there is no way that I could ever contribute to the Cambridge Ring, thus excluding me from ever being a member of the group I wish to join.
Oh, and if you think that the Cambridge Ring is entirely removed from the commercial world- a recent estimate on the combined net worth of the 100 or so members: $5billion. OK it is not Bill Gates, but that is not bad for a bunch of academic dons. And if you want to read another appreciation of them PC Pro has published and article