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Computers Are Just Tools; Computer Science Is About People

Computer science is not about computers, but all about people

Fundamental to the field of systemics, the science of systems, is that it regards companies as being nothing more than syntactic sugar for societies. They even go further and institutionalizes all objects as holistic systems, including humans, enterprise wide architecture, and also biological phenomena like ant-hills. After all, each of the above systems can, amongst others, be expressed in terms of power distribution of its inhabitants, societal objectives, legal system, and political control hierarchies. Each systems internal arrangement has evolved to address its specific means and needs. Nowadays, I think that such generic and symmetrical way of thinking is correct. This means that, under some assumptions, the rules and properties that can be shown to apply to companies also apply to societies, and vice versa. This symmetry property is also the reason why computer science enjoys knowledge acquisition from the other well established sciences.

And so re-defining computer science in strict societal terms, it is about (the art, knowledge, and study of) how individuals organize and collaborate in ever-changing, multi-cultural, multi-linguistic, heterogeneous, political societies to effectively and efficiently produce some desired goods.

The implication of such an argument is immense. To see why, allow me to elaborate with a greatly simplified example. It, the example, is not intended to represent the group of solutions, but merely to illustrate my point nicely.

A company owns a lot of fully independent factories and is itself a constituent in a larger holding company. It has recently expressed an unusual problem, which has at least one beautiful solution (by western truism, the one I present, naturally). The company has a strategic need to rationalize their use of technology over its mesh of culturally disparate factories, without disrupting their respective autonomy (i.e., one property of the solution domain entails moving the donkey forward using only carrots – no stick).

Well, if we begin by modeling each factory as a kingdom with its own totalitarian monarch and self-determination, we see that what the aforementioned company really wishes to achieve, is to organize its constituent factories according to some notion of libertarian anarchism. An interesting property of libertarian anarchy includes a completely decentralized power distribution in which everyone can collaborate freely. Further to this, the company also wishes to herd its constituents forward in some collective manner, to satisfy investors’ perogatory. All in all, it almost sounds like a contradiction in terms.

But, as these kingdoms are all subject to our everyday greedy local optimization algorithm, hence capitalism, we only need to present the rationalized technology as the better choice without disturbing each kingdoms self-identity. Thus, we introduce cloud computing as the prime virtual market place for cheap rationalized technology choices. This satisfies the constraints imposed tacitly and otherwise in the problem statement. In their own pace, each factory will eventually orchestrate their own convergence onto the cloud.

Adding further to the benefits of this way of thinking and modeling solutions is that the executive branch more intuitively can understand and comprehend the solution and its implicative benefits and liabilities. This helps close the gap which has existed between the two communities of practice since the inception of computer science. In more practical terms, this alleviates much in terms of getting the right kind of feed-back from the business side and obtaining executive buy-in.

Moreover, reading the works of libertarians like Noam Chomsky and Milton Friedman is no longer such an intractable conundrum, in that computer science helps me understand some of their societal viewpoints.

Finally, I believe the future of computer science is to keep on facilitating new and exciting ways to collaborate. Whether this happens in natural or manmade societies is of no difference to me.

More Stories By Martin Kaarup

Martin Kaarup began his professional career over a decade ago as a system developer on location-based mobile phone services. During that time he participated as lead developer in pioneering unique state-of-the-art location-based services for the European and Asian markets, such as low-cost fleet-tracking using antenna triangulation and applications for utilizing customer positioning data for demographic use. He also participated in building location based games, such as treasure hunts and country-wide Dungeon & Dragons-based games merging www, wap and sms technologies.

Later, he shifted to the financial sector in Scandinavia where he worked as an enterprise architect building, extending, and delivering advanced fund data solutions and services designed specifically for the pan-European Fund Industry.

Today, Martin is an employee at the Swedish consultants company Avega Group, where he focuses his expertice on consulting companies on strategic and enterprise wide issues.

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