Technical Reports (CIS)

Document Type

Technical Report

Date of this Version

October 1989


University of Pennsylvania Department of Computer and Information Science Technical Report No. MS-CIS-89-61.


Although I am not an engineer who adapted himself to computer science but a mathematician who did so, I am familiar enough with the development, concepts, and activities of this new discipline to venture an opinion of what must be adapted to in it.

"Computer and Information Science" is known as "Informatics" on the European continent. It was born as a distinct discipline barely a generation ago. As a fresh young discipline, it is an effervescent mixture of formal theory, empirical applications, and pragmatic design. Mathematics was just such an effervescent mixture in western culture from the renaissance to the middle of the twentieth century. It was then that the dynamic effect of high speed, electronic, general purpose computers accelerated the generalization of the meaning of the word "computation" This caused the early computer science to recruit not only mathematicians but also philosophers (especially logicians), linguists, psychologists, even economists, as well as physicists, and a variety of engineers.

Thus we are, perforce, discussing the changes and adaptations of individuals to disciplines, and especially of people in one discipline to another. As we all know, the very word "discipline" indicates that there is an initial special effort by an individual to force himself or herself to change. The change involves adaptation of one's perceptions to a special way of viewing certain aspects of the - world, and also one's behavior in order to produce special results. For example we are familiar with the enormous prosthetic devices that physicists have added to their natural sensors and perceptors in order to perceive minute particles and to smash atoms in order to do so (at, we might add, enormous expense, and enormous stretching of computational activity). We are also familiar with the enormously intricate prosthetic devices mathematicians added to their computational effectors, the general symbol manipulators, called computers.



Date Posted: 25 January 2008