Montag, 22. Juni 2009

Physophy: The computer science paradox - negative view and less interest, more important

Computer science (I prefer the European term "Informatics") has a strange position in science and society: Everybody agrees that IT is ubiquitous -
but Informatics is less and less visible in the society:

Where are big inventions of computer science visible? Internet and computers are no real computer science results (maybe Google's search is ?).

And Informatics is less and less appreciated: See also the decreasing number of students!
Just saw a note by a scientific colleague working on history and future of science: Computer science is not on his radar - "it is just some auxiliary tool".

Indeed, for many practical purposes, the current IT progress and the professional work done by IT people for business is commodity:

the same ideas as 30 years ago, new trials, and cost reduction is the main driver!
There are people stating that computers anyhow have only two hand full of ideas which are repeated over and over since 30 - 40 years, e.g.

  • virtualization,
  • caches and working sets,
  • hierarchies,
  • distribution of control and work (local - remote),
  • componentization and integration,
  • simple structures (no goto's, today no threads) .

Three more negative arguments:

Informatics builds large systems - in order to do this, it must be strictly and simply structured; this implies a lot of repetitive work (it does not help that this is automated - automation is just lifting the level, the simplicity at the human interface has to remain by definition).

For many applications, IT is under the surface, and the applications are in the foreground (and are visible, and in a company will earn the career).

IT is so popular and fast progressing, that a large part of the pragmatic progress is known to almost everybody who wants or needs to, computer scientists or laymen, - with a relatively low entry level (cp. this to quantum physics, for example!): the professional advantage is often small.

But apart from this unappreciative economic and social role, Informatics and IT become more and more fundamentally important: Informatics and IT are the science and the engineering discipline to organize every work done in society, and because all changes in nature can be described as ongoing work, all nature.

The scientific importance of Informatics cannot be exaggerated:

  • basic infrastructure of economy and society (wait for personal robots!),

  • new pillar of science and engineering (repeating nature in the computer)

  • continuation of the biological evolution:
    Don't forget - life is software, evolution was and will be informatics.

Even the connection between information and physics is not satisfactorily understood - and no limits of IT systems are visible: Informatics builds ultra-large-systems and larger.
But the science behind this is just in status nasciendi!

Therefore in daily life, IT is just infrastructure - but it is also the infrastructure of the human future!

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