Saturday, June 03, 2006

And Logic Begat Computer Science

Last Thursday, 1 June, ICE-TCS@Reykjavík University hosted a public lecture by Moshe Vardi. This public lecture, entitled "And Logic Begat Computer Science: When Giants Roamed the Earth", was probably the event with the highest profile that we have hosted so far, was heavily advertised and was attended by over one hundred people. (Chairs had to be brought in the room to accommodate the audience, and people were sitting along the aisles of the lecture theatre.)

During the talk, Moshe provided an overview of the unusual effectiveness of logic in computer science by surveying the history of logic in computer science, going back all the way to Aristotle and Euclid, and showing how logic actually gave rise to computer science. This was an erudite and witty lecture, full of memorable one liners that I'll try to transcribe one day. For example, Moshe said that

"Aristotle was the most influential intellectual of all times, whose wisdom stood unchallenged for over 2000 years. Now we hope for two years!"

and treated the men in the audience with a quotation from Words of Power, by Andrea Nye:

" Logic, one current argument goes, is the creation of defensive male subjects who have lost touch with their lived experience and define all being in rigid propositional categories modelled on a primal contrast between male and female."

Above all, I believe that each person in the audience learned something new about the history of thought that led to the development of computer science as we know it, and about the lives of the people involved. I for one certainly did and loved every minute of it.

People who enjoyed Moshe's talk will want to seek out and read the lovely book Engines of Logic by Martin Davis.

Moshe's talk was taped, and will soon be available on the web. I'll post the URL on these pages in due course.


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