The Great Principles of Computing

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on September 25, 2010

The Great Principles of Computing: “Computing may be the fourth great domain of science along with the physical, life and social sciences.” by Peter J. Denning

  • “Computing is integral to science—not just as a tool for analyzing data, but as an agent of thought and discovery. It has not always been this way. Computing is a relatively young discipline. It started as an academic field of study in the 1930s with a cluster of remarkable papers by Kurt Gödel, Alonzo Church, Emil Post and Alan Turing. The papers laid the mathematical foundations that would answer the question “what is computation?” and discussed schemes for its implementation. These men saw the importance of automatic computation and sought its precise mathematical foundation. The various schemes they each proposed for implementing computation were quickly found to be equivalent, as a computation in any one could be realized in any other. It is all the more remarkable that their models all led to the same conclusion that certain functions of practical interest—such as whether a computational algorithm (a method of evaluating a function) will ever come to completion instead of being stuck in an infinite loop—cannot be answered computationally…The maturing of our interpretation of computing has given us a new view of the content of the field. Until the 1990s, most computing scientists would have said that it is about algorithms, data structures, numerical methods, programming languages, operating systems, networks, databases, graphics, artificial intelligence and software engineering. This definition is a technological interpretation of the field. A scientific interpretation would emphasize the fundamental principles that empower and constrain the technologies.”
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