On Computing: The Fourth Great Scientific Domain
Paul S. Rosenbloom
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Computing is not simply about hardware or software, or calculation or applications. Computing, writes Paul Rosenbloom, is an exciting and diverse, yet remarkably coherent, scientific enterprise that is highly multidisciplinary yet maintains a unique core of its own. In On Computing, Rosenbloom proposes that computing is a great scientific domain on a par with the physical, life, and social sciences.
Rosenbloom introduces a relational approach for understanding computing, conceptualizing it in terms of forms of interaction and implementation, to reveal the hidden structures and connections among its disciplines. He argues for the continuing vitality of computing, surveying the leading edge in computing's combination with other domains, from biocomputing and brain-computer interfaces to crowdsourcing and virtual humans to robots and the intermingling of the real and the virtual. He explores forms of higher order coherence, or macrostructures, over complex computing topics and organizations. Finally, he examines the very notion of a great scientific domain in philosophical terms, honing his argument that computing should be considered the fourth great scientific domain.
With On Computing, Rosenbloom, a key architect of the founding of University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies and former Deputy Director of USC's Information Sciences Institute, offers a broader perspective on what computing is and what it can become.
We can also talk about transformation at its lowest level, in terms of a single bit or a Implementation 71 small number of bits. Just as more complex forms of information are built up from the primitive notion of a bit, more complex forms of transformation can be built up from primitive transformations defined on a few bits. Consider a light switch. If there is power to the switch and the switch is in the on position, then power will flow through the switch. The switch performs a computation/transformation known in Boolean logic—a system for elementary logic developed by the nineteenth-century mathematician and philosopher George Boole—as AND.
12. 34 Implementation builds one domain on top of another, where combinations of structures and processes in the lower domain define the basic elements and processes in the upper domain. For example, the molecules and reactions studied by chemists (P) combine to yield the cellular components and processes studied by biologists (L). From chemistry to biology, this relationship is studied across such subdisciplines as organic chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, and cellular biology. Beyond the implementation of individual objects, we can also talk about a whole domain or discipline implementing another domain or discipline.
Here, we start with the individual domains, then combine them in all possible pairwise manners, and then generate all possible combinations of three of them, and finally bring all four together. For each such domain combination, we can determine which topics in the hierarchy it covers and thus generate a systematic 28 Chapter 2 P+S Physical Social P+S+L P+L S+L Life Figure 2. 2 The overlaps among the traditional great scientific domains yield new disciplines at the forefront of today’s research enterprise.
The monitored computer could be active in this 136 Chapter 4 relationship, but nominally it can be thought of as passive. When there are bidirectional interactions between passive and active forms of computing, we see the combination of automatic programming and self-monitoring in areas such as automatic debugging: C↔C. We can also conceive of autonomic computing as fitting here as well. In chapter 3, the discussion of autonomic computing focused on the role of a computational simulation of life (l/C) in an interaction with computing (C↔l/C).
When programmers are involved in this act of creation, as is most often the case, interaction is added between people (S) and computational implementation, yielding a form of construction that is appropriately characterized via the compound relationship S↔Δ/C. This expression obviously also covers software engineering as well. Although it 102 Chapter 3 is important to recognize that these topics do fall fully within the scope of this section, as discussed in the preface we will not spend much time on them here.