Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Computer Science is not dead

Directed graph of a web siteIn "Is computer science dead?" (The Sydney Morning Herald, March 13, 2007), Lia Timson wrote:
IT professionals are too good at their jobs and now no one needs them. ... some say computer science as a vocation is dying. In a recent article on the British Computer Society's website, computer science lecturer Neil McBride from De Montfort University in Leicester says there's a crisis in university computer science departments (see related story).

Dr McBride says the arrival of high-level tools means vastly complex applications for business, science and leisure can be created without the coding, logic or discrete mathematics skills taught at universities. ...
Someone has to invent and apply the coding, logic, discrete mathematics and the like, to create new easy to use software tools. Modern software is easy to use, because it uses very hard to understand concepts invented by computer scientists.

As an example, Google software is not made easy to use by magic, but because they recruit the best and brightest computer scientists, who write very technical papers, to work on the software.

As the number of software engineers, information systems analysts, web site designers, knowledge engineers and the like increase, we have proportionally fewer real "computer scientists". But we still need them to do some of the hard bits.

As an example, to prevent web sites becoming a rat's nest of web pages, I suggest web tool designers think of a web site as a "Trimmed directed graph". The average web designer hasn't a clue what I am talking about, but I am not teaching people to design web pages by hand, but to write software to create web pages. The users of the software need never know what a directed graph is, just marvel at what neat web sites the software creates.

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