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Informatics is a natural science


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I argue why I think that Computer Science (or better: Informatics) is a "natural science", in the same sense that physics, astronomy, biology, psychology and sociology are a natural science: they study a part of the world around us. In that same sense, I think Informatics studies a part of the world around us.

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Informatics is a natural science

  1. 1. Informatics is a natural science Frank van Harmelen Dept. of “Computer Science” VU University A’damCreative Commons License:allowed to share & remix,but must attribute & non-commercial
  2. 2. Health Warning:This is going to be a pretentious talk
  3. 3. Philosophical confession coming up: What I believeabout scientific knowledge
  4. 4. Computer “Science” ?"Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes”-- Edsger W. Dijkstra
  5. 5. just like laws aboutthe physical universe?
  6. 6. alchemy
  7. 7. Some examples of“laws” from the information universe (and sometimes: from the SIKS part of that universe)
  8. 8. Zipf’s law
  9. 9. RE-USE USEUSE U = 1-R
  10. 10. Some proposed laws from the SIKS partof the Information Universe
  11. 11. Factual knowledge is a graph
  12. 12. Terminological knowledge is a hierarchy
  13. 13. |Terminology| << |Facts|
  14. 14. Dataset Schema Full Ratio closure closureLinked Life Data 332sec 1h5min 10FactForge 89sec 2h45min 100
  15. 15. The role of the human observer?
  16. 16. Are these the only examples?Many more laws, about:• Abstraction, Information Hiding, Layering• Simulation, Universality, Virtualisation• Tractability, Computability
  17. 17. Is this a weird position? "Informatics is the study of the structure, behaviour, and interactionsof natural and engineered computational systems." Three of the truly fundamental questions of Science are: "What is matter?", "What is life?" and "What is mind?".
  18. 18. Is this even controversial? Mathematics provides a framework for dealing precisely with notions"Underlying our of "what is."approach to thissubject is our Computationconviction that providescomputer science a framework foris not a science” dealing precisely with notions of "how to"
  19. 19. Is this new?Bill Rapaport’s page with a map of 45(!) years of debate
  20. 20. Is this even important? It changes our “ontology” of CS!• A computer is a result A computer is an experimental instrument• A programming language is a result A programming language is an experiment• An algorithm is a result An algorithms is an observation
  21. 21. Is this even important?• It changes how PC’s and editorial boards think• It changes how you teach your courses• It changes how you train your PhD’s• It changes how you judge a PhD thesis• It changes how other fields perceive “CS”• It changes how the general public perceive “CS”
  22. 22. Theory?What theory?