Wednesday, 26 August 2009

CfP: The Philosophy of Computer Science (special issue of Minds & Machines)

Special issue of Minds and Machines (Fall 2010)

Important dates:

  • Submission deadline: 1 Dec. 2009 extended to: 1 Jan. 2010
  • Notification: 1 May 2010
  • Appearance (tentative): Dec. 2010

Submission page:

Size limit: fifteen thousand words. More submission guidelines: See Springer' Instructions to Authors

Two special editions of Minds and Machines (2007) and the Journal of Applied Logic (2008) dedicated to the philosophy of computer science have already appeared in print. Another special edition of Minds and Machines is planned for 2010. We invite submissions concerned with philosophical issues that arise from reflection upon the nature and practice of the academic discipline of computer science. In particular we welcome submissions concerned with questions such as the following (Turner & Eden 2008):

  1. What kinds of things are programs? Are they abstract or concrete? (Moor 1978; Colburn 2004)
  2. What are the differences between programs and algorithms? (Rapaport 2005a)
  3. What is a specification? And what is being specified? (Smith 1985; Turner 2005)
  4. Are specifications fundamentally different from programs? (Smith 1985)
  5. What is an implementation? (Rapaport 2005b)
  6. What distinguishes hardware from software? Do programs exist in both physical and symbolic forms? (Moor 1978; Colburn 2004)
  7. What kinds of things are digital objects? Do we need a new ontological category to house them? (Allison et al. 2005)
  8. What are the objectives of the various semantic theories of programming languages? (White 2004; Turner 2007)
  9. How do questions in the philosophy of programming languages relate to parallel ones in the philosophy of language? (White 2004)
  10. Does the principle of modularity (e.g., Dijkstra 1968) relate to the conceptual issues of full-abstraction and compositionality?
  11. What are the underlying conceptual differences between the following programming paradigms: structured, functional, logic, and object-oriented programming?
  12. What are the roles of types in Computer Science? (Barandregt 1992; Pierce 2002)
  13. What is the difference between operational and denotational semantics? (Turner 2007)
  14. What does it mean for a program to be correct? What is the epistemological status of correctness proofs? Are they fundamentally different from proofs in mathematics? (DeMillo et al. 1979; Smith 1985)
  15. What do correctness proofs establish? (Fetzer 1988; Fetzer 1999; Colburn 2004)
  16. What is abstraction in computer science? How is it related to abstraction in mathematics? (Colburn & Shute 2007; Fine 2008; Hale & Wright 2001)
  17. What are formal methods? What is formal about formal methods? What is the difference between a formal method and informal one? (Bowen & Hinchey 2005; Bowen & Hinchey 1995)
  18. What kind of discipline is computer science? What are the roles of mathematical modelling and experimentation? (Minsky 1970; Denning 1980; Denning 1981; Denning et al. 1989; Denning 1985; Denning 1980b; Hartmanis 1994; Hartmanis1993; Hartmanis 1981; Colburn 2004; Eden 2007)
  19. Should programs be considered as scientific theories? (Rapaport 2005a)
  20. How is mathematics used in computer science? Are mathematical models used in a descriptive or normative way? (White 2004; Turner 2007)
  21. Does the Church-Turing thesis capture the mathematical notion of an effective or mechanical method in logic and mathematics? Does it capture the computations that can be performed by a human? Does its scope apply to physical machines? (Copeland 2004; Copeland 2007; Hodges 2006)
  22. Can the notion of computational thinking withstand philosophical scrutiny? (Wing 2006)
  23. What is the appropriate logic with which to reason about program correctness and termination? (Hoare 1969; Feferman 1992) How is the logic dependent upon the underlying programming language?
  24. What is information? (Floridi 2004; Floridi 2005) does this notion throw light on some of the questions listed here?
  25. Why are there so many programming languages and programming paradigms? (Krishnamurthi 2003; Eden & Turner 2007)
  26. Do programming languages (and paradigms) have the nature of scientific theories? What causes a programming paradigm shift? (Kuhn 1970)
  27. Does software engineering raise any philosophical issues? (Eden 2007)

Raymond Turner, Amnon H. Eden
School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex


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Future Shock: 30 years on

Alvin Toffler's Future Shock has won so many recommendations that I was afraid it will prove to be pop pulp. Finally I got over my prejudice and read the book. I was wrong.

30 years on, the book's numerous predictions are more accurate than any other I've ever come across (but please do enlighten me if you know better). He is right about the present. Consider this for example:

In the three short decades between now and the twenty-first century, millions of ordinary, psychologically normal people will face an abrupt collision with the future. Citizen’s of the world’s richest and most technologically advanced nations, will find it increasingly painful to keep up with the incessant demand for change that characterizes our time. For them, the future will have arrived too soon. (p.11)

For the acceleration of change ... is a concrete force that reaches deep into our personal lives, compels us to act out new roles, and confronts us with with the danger of a new and powerfully upsetting psychological disease. (p.12)

Future shock is a time phenomenon, a product of the greatly accelerated rate of change in society. It arises from the superimposition of a new culture on the old one[:] a culture shock in one's own society. ....

Take an individual out of his own culture and set him down suddenly in an environment sharply different from his own, with a different set of cues to react to—different conceptions of time, space, work, love, religion, sex, and everything else—then cut him off from any hope of retreat to a more familiar social landscape, and the dislocation he suffers is doubly severe. Moreover, if this new culture is itself in constant turmoil, and if—worse yet—its values are incessantly changing, the sense of disorientation will be still further intensified. ... The victim may become a hazard to himself and others.

Now imagine not merely an individual but an entire society, an entire generation—including its weakest ... members—suddenly transported into this new world. The result is mass disorientation, future shock on a grand scale.

This is the prospect that man now faces. (p. 14)

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The truth about Amsterdam...

Someone in Fox News has apparently decided that Amsterdam is a sink of iniquity which should be used as an warning against legalizing marijuana. As a rebuttal, a diligent Dutch has prepared this hilarious clip titled "The truth about Amsterdam"