Daniel Lemire's blog

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Is Computer Science a Science? A challenge for you!

Is Computer Science a science? My mind is set on this debate and I’m not interested in debating it.

Most of my papers have an experimental section, but does it follow I do science? Actually, I spend a lot of time crafting my experiments so it is an integral part of my research. However, most of these experiments follow the reverse scientific method: I seek experimental evidence to support my claims or to quantify more precisely my theoretical results. I’m not alone since I very rarely see papers in Computer Science whose point is to falsify a theory someone promoted. You just don’t see these types of paper. Other times, when I’m not publishing papers, I simply hack: I use technology in beautiful ways. It used to say on this blog that I am a hacker. It still says so in my RSS feeds and it is still true. But I think I’m a hacker in the noble sense of the word since I’ve never hacked into someone’s system. I think the Semantic Web, if it succeeds, will be a giant and beautiful hack. But I don’t think it will be part of a scientific theory.

However, I’m interested in issuing a challenge. Let’s assume that the Semantic Web is a scientific theory or, at least, a set of scientific hypothesis. By the virtues of the scientific method, these hypothesis must be falsifiable. Hence, it must be possible to falsify the Semantic Web. Can you describe a set of experiments testing whether the scientific hypothesis underlying the Semantic Web hold? Once you are done, repeat with related topics like Learning Objects .

Note: Among other things, I’m helping to organize the 2006 Canadian Symposium on Semantic Web and I recently wrote a paper on learning objects so don’t come blasting through my door yet if you are working on these topics and think they are worthy of consideration.