Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On the algorithmization of science

The latest issue of ACM's tree-killer has a Viewpoint by Thomas Easton on how algorithmic thinking pervades all areas of science (and soft science), and all I can say is, 'Hallelujah !':

Mathematics and algorithms are so essential to computational thinking that computer science will retain its historical emphases on these topics. Other fields that, like biology, have sought to mathematize their content will find that, because mathematics has incorporated algorithmic thinking, they might get closer to the queen by emphasizing algorithms over equations. Resistance is likely to be strong in the humanities, but even there algorithmic thinking is becoming essential. For example, it has found a niche through the way computers are used to verify that classic texts and artwork are properly attributed to their creators, to detect plagiarism, and even to aid the creative process.

More and more educators will have to grapple with the need for courses that inculcate algorithmic, or process-oriented, thinking. This might mean students will take more computer science courses. If this happens, computer science educators may need to redesign those courses to emphasize algorithmic thinking in ways that satisfy the needs of students in other fields, including those with only a distant relationship with mathematics.



(via Daniel Lemire)

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