Monday, July 09, 2007

How to sum up my field

Slashdot post:

Coryoth writes

"A new book is trying to claim that computer science is better off without maths. The author claims that early computing pioneers such as Von Neumann and Alan Turing imposed their pure mathematics background on the field, and that this has hobbled computer science ever since. He rejects the idea of algorithms as a good way to think about software. Can you really do computer science well without mathematics? And would you want to?"

Someone Responds:

"... Mathematics as a base for CS was great in the 50's and 60's, but the real problems in computer software are people problems, not algorithmic ones. Once you program a calculation correctly, it generally stays that way.

But determining the optimal layout of a form to benefit the users of the system requires observing people and their needs. Understanding what parts of a program are going to be changed because of changing user needs is more important in program design than deciding whether you need a heap sort or insertion sort. Yes, you should know the difference, but you seldom need to program it, just choose the correct one from the system library.

CS graduates tend to design programs for machine efficiency, not human efficiency. But it is humans that are expensive, not machines."

Someone else retorts:

"That's like a mechanic who is better at replacing a tie rod than the engineer that designed it.

You are a programmer, not a computer scientist. I'd hire you to write code based on a specification. I wouldn't hire you to design rendering algorithms. It is too bad they didn't teach you the difference between compsci and programming during day one of your CS program."


Ruben Llibre said...

i wonder what you think,
me imagino que ves math como inescapable verdad?
tambien yo creo que el del asunto generaliza un poco, pq hay muuuuuchas subareas en nuestro campo, y muchas diferentes necesidades

Rodolfo Hansen said...

The analogy says it all...

As you say: their are many sub areas; and as in all of life, their boundaries overlap. Never the less, Computer Science as general a field, and as wide scoped as it is, requires mathematics.

As the boundary's gradient fades of, and the math used because less stringent, one main factor which must continue to define the area 'Computer Science' and not 'Computer Programming' is precisely mathematics.

NOTE: read everything again, carefully, notice how the second commenter misnames his subject: Computer Programming without even noticing, the immense difference, and how he completely changed what he was arguing about.


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