We were shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of MIT’s Roger Hurwitz, a close friend and colleague of the Citizen Lab and a senior scholar of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto.
I first met Roger many years ago when he invited me to give a talk to the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT, where Roger was a research scientist. From the moment he greeted me at the hotel lobby, I knew that Roger and I would be friends. We talked for hours over coffee — the first of many such extended conversations sometimes in person, many times over lengthy phone calls.
Roger Hurwitz was a unique scholar — a true polymath. He was as conversant in artificial intelligence and computer science as he was in social science and philosophy. He was a voracious consumer of information and scholarship, and kept on top of technological and policy developments equally with an astounding, almost encyclopedic knowledge.
Roger was deeply committed to the process of norm building in global cyberspace, which for him had as its goal mitigating the possibility that government uncertainty and self-interested behavior could lead to violent conflict. He worked tirelessly to bring stakeholders together to discuss norms, from informal practices to international law and everything in-between.
His commitment to this process was most evident in the Cyber Security Norms workshops he, Joe Nye, and I organized together at MIT for three years consecutively. While Joe Nye, Roger, and I were, technically speaking, “co-chairs,” both Joe and I remarked that it was really “Roger’s show.” Only Roger could bring together the high level participants who attended these workshops, and only he could fashion a framework for discussion that by everyone’s agreement was extraordinarily rich and rewarding. In my last conversation with Roger shortly before he left for The Hague and another Cyber Conference, he was glowing with pride at having finished his monograph summary of those workshops, appropriately labeled “A Call to Cyber Norms” [PDF]. The morning after I learned Roger passed away, a box arrived at my office containing 50 copies of his monograph, which Roger had apparently organized as a gift for the Citizen Lab before leaving for Europe.
Roger attended every one of our Cyber Dialogues here at the University of Toronto, and was a eager contributor to all of them. I have a private barometer I use to judge a person’s character, and that is how well they treat our staff. My staff always remarked that Roger was keen to help, and went out of his way to thank people who others unfortunately often overlook. He got to know them all personally, and was always gracious and warm to them. It was because of Roger’s genuine warmth and kindness that we considered him to be part of the “Citizen Lab family.” I will never forget the moment he told me how much our saying that meant to him, to be part of our “family.”
What also struck me most about Roger is the way he mentored younger scholars, and showed a keen interest in their work, their ideas, their methods, and the topics that drove them to do research. He had endless time for junior scholars, for colleagues, for policymakers, and a professional commitment to the discipline of scholarly inquiry, in ways that should be a model to all of us. Above all else, though, I feel lucky to have known Roger for his strong sense of ethics, his sense of right and wrong, not merely as a topic of inquiry but as a code of professional conduct. I will always cherish the many times he offered guidance when I felt uncertain or faced difficult professional choices. His encouragement to us all at the Citizen Lab was inspiring.
We will miss you, Roger. Rest in peace.
Citizen Lab and Canada Centre for Global Security Studies
Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto