[Humanist] 24.592 what is computation? (continued)

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Dec 15 07:40:42 CET 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 592.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2010 15:00:16 +0000
        From: ubiquity <ubiquity at HQ.ACM.ORG>
        Subject: New on ACM's Ubiquity: Debate Over What is Computation Continues;An Interview with Erol Gelenbe

New on ACM’s Ubiquity:

Debate Over What is Computation Continues

An Interview with Erol Gelenbe

December 14, 2010

Debate Over ‘What is Computation’ Continues

In its first symposium, Ubiquity has asked top leaders in the computing world to discuss this one big question: “What is computation?”<http://ubiquity.acm.org/symposia.cfm>

Two new positions about the question have been posted:

First, Paul S. Rosenbloom, a professor of computer science at the University of Southern California and a project leader at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, contends that computing is the fourth great scientific domain, on par with the physical, life, and social sciences.<http://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=1897729> Writes Rosenbloom:

“Exploring the consequences of this way of thinking about scientific domains, in conjunction with the conclusion that computing is the fourth such domain, has led in a variety of directions, many with implications for computing and the other scientific domains. This article explores three implications of particular relevance to computing and computation: 1) building on the notion that great scientific domains are about structures and processes to define computation in terms of information transformation; 2) leveraging the combination of understanding and shaping at the heart of great scientific domains to see computing's inherent intertwining of science and engineering as a strength rather than a weakness, and as a model for the future of the other domains; and 3) subsuming mathematics within computing.” [continue reading]<http://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=1897729>

Second, Ruzena Bajcsy of the director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, and professor in the EECS department at University of California-Berkeley, shares her thoughts about computation and information http://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=1899473 :

“Computation is a transformation/function applied to information. In order to answer the question, ‘What is computation?’, I will rephrase it to ‘What is information?’ Information is not only a reflection of reality, such as physical measurements and/or observations, but it can also be synthetic concepts invented by humans as they occur for example, in mathematics.” [continue reading]<http://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=1899473>

Other contributors who have attempted to answer the question, “What is computation?” include Peter Wegner, Emeritus Professor at Brown University, whose essay discusses the evolution of computation<http://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=1883611>, and John S. Conery of University of Oregon, who believes computation is the manipulation of symbols<http://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=1889839>. For the complete list of articles and authors who will be contributing to this weekly series, please see the table of contents on Ubiquity.acm.org http://ubiquity.acm.org/symposia.cfm .

Interview with Erol Gelenbe

In another new article on Ubiquity, Erol Gelenbe is interviewed by Cristian Calude http://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=1899474  about a wide range of topics close to his hear, from his research on optimum checkpointing in databases, to random neural networks, to the sometimes painful experiences of teaching in foreign countries. Gelenbe, who holds the Dennis Gabor Chair Professorship in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department at Imperial College London, says:

“[B]eing a foreigner almost everywhere, I can group countries and institutions into two broad categories: those that are open to ‘allogens’ and are willing to be inclusive, and those which have (sometimes in subtle ways) set up significant barriers to ‘foreign’ penetration. It is quite different if you are a visiting professor: You are there temporarily and do not constitute a threat to established ways. If you arrive as a potential permanent addition, matters are different, more challenging and more interesting. I have held chairs in Belgium, France, the U.S. and U.K. In some countries foreigners are discriminated against illegally, including in matters of promotions, awards, etc., and have to bear with derogatory comments. ... One hears about illegal immigrants, but seldom does one talk about illegal barriers imposed on lawful immigrants.” [continue reading]<http://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=1899474>

For more information on Ubiquity and its editors, content and features, visit http://ubiquity.acm.org.

Ubiquity welcomes the submissions of articles from everyone interested in the future of computing and the people creating it.

Everything published in Ubiquity is copyrighted (c)2010 by the ACM and the individual authors. See the submissions guidelines at


To send feedback about Ubiquity, email editors at ubiquity.acm.org<mailto:editors at ubiquity.acm.org>.

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