Written on 2010-07-18 01:56:03It's bedtime here but I couldn't help but post this quote by kragensitaker from reddit. I've always meant to get around to writing an explanation of why I think Computer Science is a lovely discipline. This addresses it in a very different way than I was hoping to but absolutely merits posting here.
Well, a thousand years ago, geometry was the field holding those special secrets. Computers are just the automation and generalization of geometry. Everything except that generalization of geometry (now known as "mathematics") is contingent on the physical universe we happen to inhabit.
The most remarkable thing about all of this is that apparently that physical universe can be simulated, analyzed, and even predicted with mathematics. So, too, with all the universes we can imagine. And of course this is much easier to do with automated mathematics.
So a computer is not just a machine; it's not just a machine that imitates other machines; it's not just a machine with a universe in it; it's a machine with all possible universes in it.
Of course, this is not somehow discontinuous with the multi-millennium discipline of geometry, or for that matter writing and arithmetic. It's merely the current step.
That's part of what makes it such an extraordinary field, to me, and makes the bullshit worthwhile.
There's also, though, the human side. Computers are not merely simulators; they are also communicators, through which we can diffuse universal access to human knowledge. This is an educational and liberal achievement unparalleled in human history. The dream of Diderot is less and less a dream and more and more a reality. And thus even PHP is forgiven.