Reflecting on an exciting year

01 November 2023
By Bernard Kress

As my Presidential year comes to an end, it is a good time to reflect on the past year and learn from it, to anticipate and prepare for the next.

In January, SPIE Photonics West, along with AR|VR|MR, kicked off a terrific year with attendance and energy that surpassed all of our expectations. This confirms that SPIE’s bet on in-person events was the correct path for our Members in industry, research, government, and academia. On the same hand, providing a strong online presence between in-person events, such as the AR|VR|MR fireside chats I host monthly, helps to build and consolidate communities around specific topics and interests.

In August, Optics + Photonics began with an unexpected hurricane warning in San Diego that closed the convention center. Fortunately, SPIE staff worked around the clock to provide a smooth event despite the delayed start.

It was also a year that began with a relatively gloomy outlook for high tech, with multinational companies with large investments in optical engineering (Meta,  Microsoft, Google, etc.) laying off thousands of engineers. While the optics and photonics community was not spared, engineers in our very resilient industry managed to navigate these difficult times with the help of SPIE, which, throughout the year, provided numerous opportunities for job fairs and professional networking. The industry has not completely recovered, but the outlook is better, including robust hiring and job prospects in our field.

Another awakening for our industry this year: Although remote work was the only option available throughout the pandemic, and many anticipated a remote post-pandemic world, employees are returning to fully on-site work. It is simply true that many positions, for example, hardware engineers, require more time in the lab and with vendors to develop products that help us live better and more productive lives.

Finally, a 2023 wrap-up must include how AI is changing every aspect of our private and professional lives. The optics and photonics field, be it industry, academia, or research, will not be spared in this transition. While the promises of AI in optimizing and boosting optical design, optical fabrication, and more are exciting, many questions remain about a time when people are no longer the center of technology development. The use of generative AI in scientific publications is also a concern.  In the past few years, we have experienced various ethical and privacy concerns that have led to the development of caucuses and related governmental policies in fields such as AR/VR. These concerns are dwarfed by the advancement of generative AI infiltrating every aspect of technology development.

The ethical issues related to generative AI, for me, remain among the main challenges moving forward. However, I am confident that all technology sectors, especially optics and photonics, will use the potential of AI with a deep respect for humanity and apply developments in this field with a human-centric obsession.

It has been a great pleasure serving as your President throughout this exciting year, and I very much thank all of the Members for making SPIE the wonderful Society it is.



Bernard Kress

2023 SPIE President


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