This blog was founded to collect answers to one question. Richard Hamming asked it in his speech “You and your research”. His talk was more general, but it is a really good question and i applied it to my field.
What are most important problems in computer science?
I sent out lots of email to famous and not so famous people. You can read all replies on their own, but this is my try to summarize them all. I don’t think i’ll get much more responses to the emails, i sent for now.
The big problem is complexity. Computers are a bicycle for your mind, so we can tackle more complex problems. The tools to these problems naturally are complex, so users get easily confused. The results are buggy programs, distressed users and wierd interfaces. “In spite of great advances, programming is still too difficult and machines are still too hard to use“, Kernighan wrote.
Prof. Tichy maps out the goal like this:
When everybody doesn’t just use a PC, but commands it […]. Only then computer science has fullfilled its potential, which is to free humanity from tiresome, boring, error-prone and dangerous work.
There are some really annoying problems on the way to simplicity. Prof. Adleman mentioned the famous P=NP problem. Joe Armstrong remarked that we don’t really know how to store and how to find things. For Prof. McCarthy the tangible path is “getting interactive provers for showing that programs meet their specifications and formalizing common sense knowledge and reasoning in mathematical logic“, thus improving our mind tools.
It’s not easy to discover how the computer can work for us. If we have figured this out, we need to “make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler” (Einstein), because “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” (da Vinci).
We’re still working on operating systems, compilers, languages and algorithms, because haven’t got them right so far.
As a student of computer science i want to find my personal attack vector to the big problem, but how to find that? Philip Greenspun presented a nice thought experiment: The Fantasy Research Lab
Do you miss anyones reply? Tell me! I’ll try to contact them. Also write me your own answer!