Daniel Lemire's blog

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The death of computing

Just read this fascinating article by Neil McBride: The death of computing. (Disclaimer: I would describe Neil as an IT professor, not as a Computer Science professor.) He tells us about the upcoming death of Computer Science, mostly due to the lack of interest from students.

It’s easy to think that the problem is that people (read potential students) just don’t understand how exciting computing is and that this can be fixed by a bit of sharp marketing, slick videos and some school visits. But the students are not that gullible. The real nature of the problem lies at the roots of the discipline.


Interrupts, loops, algorithms, formal methods are not on the agenda.

Perhaps this represents an early move towards a new kind of computing discipline. As the roots rot and the tree falls a vast array of new saplings appear. Those saplings may be the start of a new inter-discipline: new computing for the 21st century.

I was immediately reminded of Web Science. I think it is easy to think that Neil has it all wrong, and Computer Science will not go away, but considering what happened to Physics and Chemistry, considering that Communications of the ACM has turned into an IT (not CS) publication, there is no doubt in my mind that hardcore Computer Science has become less relevant. It was very important to find good algorithms to sort numbers, but these days, most new algorithms solve problems of minor importance for the software hackers out there (there are exceptions though… there will always be). Yes, Computer Science is not just an applied science. Yes, we still have not solved many important conceptual problems (and so does Physics!), but I am not sure the rest of the world cares.

But I am an optimist. We live in a great world!