Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Importance of Computer Science
Computer Science is becoming fundamental to Science

Anybody who has more than a passing interest in computers will hardly be surprised to know that their importance to how we manage business and society is growing.

However, a group of internationally respected scientists has now produced a report that goes further than just saying computers are becoming more important. Indeed, much further. The report - Towards 2020 Science - suggests that computer science is on the way to becoming as fundamental to science as mathematics already is.

The group, led by Professor Stephen Emmott of Microsoft Research, Cambridge, UK, focused primarily in the natural sciences rather than engineering or physical sciences. However, their conclusions have startling implications for science in general. They posit that, driven by advances in computer science and computing, scientific knowledge is set to grow more rapidly than ever. Since most natural systems can be modeled as information processing systems, computing advances such as Multicore CPUs, Peer-to-Peer and Service-oriented architectures, and Data Analysis tools will have dramatically accelerating effects on the rate at which science develops.

Databases, for instance, have virtually become indispensable to the scientific method - to gather data, manage it, draw inferences, and verify conclusions. Advances in computers have made statistical techniques and numerical methods much more powerful.

And their findings are not being taken lightly. The Economist and Nature, always unflappable, have gone into dignified raptures over the earth-shaking possibilities being thrown up by this report.

One thought that surfaced irresistibly while reading the report and the learned commentarites: perhaps many of the conclusions are valid for the world of business as well. Just substitute the word 'business' for 'science' above and you can scarcely disagree.