Cloudwalkers: ISI and the Inventors of the Future

by Julia Cohen

DNS inventor Paul Mockepetris narrates the documentary.

Fifty years ago, USC’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI) was created to solve the world’s most difficult technical problems. Cloudwalkers: ISI and the Inventors of the Future, written and directed by Daniel Druhora, covers the breadth of ISI’s storied history – from its founding following the release of the Pentagon Papers, which prompted increased government attention on computer networking; to its role designing, developing and running the Internet, which led to one of the greatest explosions of information in human history; to the astonishing and varied work being done by ISI researchers in recent years through today. The Cloudwalkers trailer is now available:

With insights and commentary from Internet co-inventor Vint Cerf; one of the first ISI employees, Bob Balzer; and current day ISI faculty, researchers and executive staff, Cloudwalkers is filled with personal anecdotes and never-before-heard tales of ISI. A throughline narration is provided by Paul Mockapetris, a former ISI researcher, Internet Hall of Famer, and inventor of the Domain Name System (DNS), who walks viewers through some of ISI’s most impressive and long-lasting contributions to the Internet, including his very own DNS.   

With the explosion of information and connectivity brought by the rapid success and ubiquity of the Internet, came a need to keep it a safe space. Cloudwalkers delves into the developments in cybersecurity and cyber defense made by researchers at ISI. Bringing world-class experts in the cyber space from both inside and outside the walls of ISI, viewers get a look at how cybersecurity has advanced since those early internet years, and how ISI has played a role in that advancement.  

Finally, the documentary shows glimpses of some of the surprising work being done at ISI in recent years up until today. Studying memory formation using big data from zebrafish; fighting against human trafficking; mitigating bias in artificial intelligence; applying machine learning to professional sports – the examples are interesting, impressive, and an indication of what is possible when smart and creative people come together to solve the world’s most difficult technical problems. 

Published on November 21st, 2022

Last updated on November 29th, 2022