[Humanist] 25.769 computer science --> computing

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Mar 1 09:18:29 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 769.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 29 Feb 2012 06:44:30 -0600 (CST)
        From: Alan Corre <corre at uwm.edu>
        Subject: 25.768 Relations
        In-Reply-To: <1955431154.1495965.1330518408626.JavaMail.root at mail12.pantherlink.uwm.edu>

The first century Jewish sage Hillel, asked by a heathen to explain the whole Torah while standing on one foot replied: "What is hateful to you, do not do to others. This is the whole Torah, the rest is but commentary. Go study." Peter Denning did us a favour by giving the term 'computer science' a haircut. We have watched biology become biological sciences, physical training become motion sciences without any real addition to the sum of knowledge. The fact that computing stands on the tripod: sequence--iteration--condition was recognized moons ago by such minds as Babbidge, Ada, Turing, not to mention simple weavers. My friend and iconoclast George Davida, the cryptologist, whom government wonks once tried to muffle, commented to me that he wished his students would study the humanities and learn computing on the job, because the *details* change constantly. There is wisdom there.

Alan Corre
Emeritus professor of Hebrew Studies, UW-Milwaukee

In re:
Peter Denning, who has spent considerable energies on explaining computer
science to others, published an article, "The Great Principles of Computing"
in The American Scientist for September-October 2010 that is decorated with
an interesting cartoon. I attach it here (see below, with apologies for the
poor quality of the image). Apart from the amusing assignment of the
disciplines of the humanities and interpretative social sciences to (I
presume) "natural history", which has nothing better to do than to eat
grapes, note the position of computing (his name for computer science).

How much consensus would you suppose that such positioning of CS would have
among practitioners in that discipline?

I find it interesting that in 2010 the organizing principles of computer science
remain a topic for debate. Not a bad thing to be anxious about one's
discipline, apparently.

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