8Profile: Gary McGraw

When I called up Gary McGraw for an interview, he told me he just got through talking to a Catholic monk who was walking near his Shenandoah River property in Virginia. Within seconds he was talking about the intricacies of computer security. These sorts of otherwise unnatural paradoxes have been with McGraw his whole life. He started programming on his first computer, an Apple II+, in 1981, at age 16. He ended up going to college for an undergraduate degree in philosophy, and along the way became a classically trained musician. He even played twice at Carnegie Hall. Today, along with being one of the world’s best computer security experts, he loves to cook, garden, and mix new cocktails.

I asked McGraw how he went from being a philosophy undergraduate at University of Virginia to being interested in the field of computer security. He told me that he had gotten interested in the philosophy of the mind, which led him to taking a course called “Computers, Minds, and the Brain” at UVA being taught by Paul Humphreys. He thought the ideas that Professor Humphreys was teaching were wrong, but it started him thinking more deeply about the philosophy of the mind and AI. He ended up bringing industry luminary and American Pulitzer Prize–winner Dr. Douglas Hofstadter’s ideas into play during the class, and that changed his whole career path. He had not taken a computer science class until graduate school, but he had been in love with programming since 1981 as a ...

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