Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Art of Naming

I am wondering, why "Computer Science" ? It makes sense to be a "software engineer" (you engineer = write software) or "computer engineer" (you engineer = design computer hardware), but what does computer science mean? Science that explores computers? But computers are artificial creations, you don't explore them, you design, build, program, and use them. After all, nobody calls biology "microscope science", astronomy "telescope science", or physics "particle accelerator science". It's just silly. Not to mention that computers are no longer the only devices around that perform computation. I think the neatest thing would be simply call your science "science", but, damn, mathematicians already got away with it (mathematics is "science" in Greek) and will fight for the turf.

So, what are we, the bastard children of mathematics to do? The name is incorrect to the point of hordes of casual computer users being tricked into thinking that a "computer scientist" should know something about computers. Not so. What computer science studies is computation. As a result, we get chased around by people with broken computers, people with broken computers get upset because nothing gets fixed, and all this while people that should be doing the fixing are hiding behind some obscure "software developer in test" title.

Should "computing science" be used instead? Not really, since mathematicians are no less involved in the study of computation. The difference is that if mathematicians study the mountain, computer scientists study how to climb it, and then sometimes climb it, just to prove the point in practice (to extend the metaphor, programmers are "professional mountain climbers" who mostly climb on charted territory).

My personal favorites would be "Algorithm Science" or "Dynamic Mathematics". But then again, who is asking me?


Irina Tsukerman said...


But then again, nobody's asking me either, and I have *nothing* to do with this kerfuffle, believe me... but still have to put my two cents (bytes?) in.

My interpretation is not exactly scientific... but it works for me:

Because "My Inner Programmer" sounds so much better than "My Inner Software Engeneer". ; ) The last sounds SO politically correct... like "domestic engineer" for a common housewife. Where's the thrill, the passion, the hatred arising in some people at the sound of a certain combination... no, software engineer sounds toothless... and it has to go!

Yury Puzis said...

However, you don't call it "inner computer scientist" do you?

Irina Tsukerman said...

NO! I call it my inner "programmer". To be honest with you, I don't know a single person who calls you-know-whom "computer scientists". Hmm... I think the problem is people simply don't care enough to know the difference... A campaign of disinformation?

Yury Puzis said...

lol, probably.