books: January 2009 Archives

"Computer Science is not a science," proclaims a professor at MIT, drawing an X over the word. He's introducing an introductory course on Programming called » 'Structure & Interpretation of Computer Programs' .. aka SICP. (Watch the video yourself » HERE.)

The Wizard Book » Structure & Interpretation of Computer Programs, by Abelson & Sussman

Less than a minute into the lecture and already I'm curious. "If it's not a science," I wonder, "then...??"

"It might be engineering," he continues, as if reading my mind, "Or it might be art. We'll actually see that computer so-called 'science' actually has a lot in common with magic."

I smile at this point, having gained insight into the graphic displayed on the book's cover, understanding why some refer to it as » The Wizard Book.

Then he draws an X over the word 'Computer' and says, "It's not really about computers either." (Okay, now I'm really interested.)

"The reason we think Computer Science is about computers," he continues, "is for the same reason the ancient Egyptians thought geometry was about surveying instruments ..

.. » because, when a particular field is just getting started, and you don't really understand it very well, it's easy to confuse what you're doing with the tools you use."

So-called Computer Science (he explains) is really about formalizing intuitions & knowledge about » Process (a word he writes on the board .. he's a lefty, btw). He then clarifies himself by saying, "How to *do* things."

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