February 27, 2020

Computer Science is NOT science & is NOT about computers (VLOG #3)

Computer science is a terrible name for this field. It’s not a science, it is close to engineering or art. The computer science has a lot in common with magic. It is not really about computers, the same way as physics is not about particle accelerator and biology is not about microscopes and petri dishes.

Science is about observing the world around us. It’s about testing our assumptions. It’s about doing experiments to verify our theses. In short, science requires an empirical method.

We think that Computer Science is about computers because when a new field emerges, we don’t fully understand it. It is easy to confuse the essence of what you are doing with the tools you use.

This happened before with geometry as well. Geometry is not really about surveying or measuring tools. The important stuff about geometry was to begin to formalize the notions about space and time so that we can talk about some universal truths related to space and time formally. This led to axiomatic method in geometry.

In computer science we formalize intuitions about process, in other words: how to do things. What’s process ? It is like a magical spirit that lives in the computer and does something. A thing that directs process is a pattern of rules called procedure. Procedures are the spells that control magical sprits that are processes.

We need a magical language to control our spirits. Lisp is an example, but there is also JavaScript, Haskell or Nim. A programming language is used for casting the spells that are procedures that control the processes i.e. the spirits that live in our computers.

Computer Science is magic. Your are not programmers but magicians or rather sorcerers and it is all about the nature of computing.

The Book: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Harold Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman with Julie Sussman from MIT.

The Video Course: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Op3QLzMgSY by MIT OpenCourseWare. This course is now offered under a Creative Commons license: BY-NC-SA. Details at http://ocw.mit.edu/terms

#computerscience #programming #vlog


3 thoughts on “Computer Science is NOT science & is NOT about computers (VLOG #3)

  1. In France, computer science is called "informatique" as you know, and I quite like this interpretation, as processes can be seen as data as well. Interesting vlog!

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