Is CS or Computing a discipline?

October 14, 2009 at 4:05 pm 2 comments

Andy Bernat writes:  “A recurring theme at this meeting was the concern that the European scientific research community still does not fully appreciate computing as an intellectually vibrant research discipline in its own right; instead the field is often viewed as an enabler of research in other disciplines.”

via Computing Community Consortium, “A View from the 2009 European Computer Science Summit

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alan Kay  |  October 16, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Ditto to the comment on the previous blog entry.



    • 2. Alan Kay  |  October 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

      Oops Sorry, I meant the comment to the blog post “Computer Science is not Engineering (and it is, too)”.

      Here it is for convenience:
      If “*science* is not engineering” (and it isn’t) then what is it?

      And when answering this question we have to decide on the old definition of science (scientia) which has to do with gathering knowledge, and the modern definition (which found its center in the 17th century) that takes science to be the “understanding of phenomena via making models that help to look further into the phenomena to make better models”.

      Don’t worry about inserting “computer” in there until you answer this question. Then we have to decide whether to be tough about “science” or just to use it as a meaningless “designer jeans” label to try to garner more respect.

      I like the modern definition, and I like the tough use of it. So I think there can be a real “computer science” and that it makes sense to delineate it from the many forms of engineering (again, let’s use “engineering” in its tough and real sense), and from the even more design-centered areas of our large field.

      I say this realizing that pretty much all the STEM disciplines are used in each other, so that breaking out e.g. “science” means “this is the primary epistemological point of view” but will use the others as aids.

      So I think
      (a) that there are specific aspects of computing that should use the modern tough meanings of the STEM terms, and
      (b) that computing is a STEM discipline that is and should be used to help the many other disciplines in the STEM categories

      To me the biggest problem in computing is that a real computer science didn’t quite get established, especially in academia, and that it seems to have backslid almost to non-existence.

      I’ve commented on this before and won’t beat the dead horse again. Basically, the explosion in the late 70s and early 80s — where we went from a few pretty good places (with deep efforts towards inventing a real computer science) to thousands of universities and colleges — did not preserve much of what had been accomplished up through the 60s and 70s.

      To return more directly to your central question, it does not hurt to preserve what the field of Physics means *and* also to have many ancillary “physics related” fields.

      The main deal is that we just have to preserve and create a real computer science, and not let all the other ways of looking at the elephant loose this special perspective on computing.

      Best wishes,



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