• Is civilization so dependent on computing that an attack
on a component of infrastructure, like electric grid, could
• What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?
How are we fooled into thinking that massive internet
information is wisdom?
• What are the social implications of brain-computer
interfaces and implants into our brains and bodies?
I do not believe any of us has answers to any of these questions. But we need to be having the conversations about them.
In so doing we need to embrace the mathematicians, scientists,
and engineers in our field. It is time to give up the old tensions
that we inherited from times long past, and work together as
brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, old and young on
these big questions.
I thank Matti Tedre for historical and technological insight in our conversations about
the topics discussed here. I also thank Fernando Flores for giving the name “edifying” to
the kind of conversation we need more of in education, and for edifying conversations
to better understand the world our technology has shaped.
1. ACM. Computer Science Curricula 2013; https://www.acm.org/binaries/content/
assets/education/cs2013_web_final.pdf. Accessed 15 Feb 2018.
2. Denning, P., Comer, D. E., Gries, D., Mulder, M. C., Tucker, A., Turner, A. J, Young, P. R.
Computing as a discipline. Communications of ACM 32, 1 (1989), 9–23.
3. Denning, P. Remaining trouble spots with computational thinking. Communications
of ACM 60, 6 (2017), 33–39.
4. Denning, P. and Martell, C. Great Principles of Computing. (MIT Press, 2015).
5. Forsythe, G. E. (1968). What to do till the computer scientist comes. American
Mathematical Monthly 75 (May 1968), 454–461.
6. Haigh, Thomas. Actually, Turing did not invent the computer. Communications of
ACM 57, 1 (2014), 36–41.
7. Newell, A., Perlis, A. J. and Simon, H. A. Computer science. Science 157, 3795 (1967),
8. Snyder, L. Fluency with Information Technology: Skills, Concepts, and Capabilities,
7th Edition (Pearson, NY, NY, 2017).
9. Tedre, M. The Science of Computing: Shaping a Discipline. (CRC Press / Taylor &
Francis, New York, NY, USA, 2014).
10. Wing, Jeannette. Computational thinking. Communications of ACM 49, 3 (2006),
11. Winograd, T. and Flores, F. Understanding Computers and Cognition, (
Addison-Wesley Professional, 1987).
Peter J. Denning
Naval Postgraduate School
Monterey, California, 93943 USA
Peter J. Denning ( email@example.com) is Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and
Director of the Cebrowski Institute for information innovation at the Naval Postgraduate
School in Monterey, CA. He is Editor of ACM Ubiquity and is a past president of ACM.
The views expressed here are his alone and are not necessarily those of his employer or
the U. S. Federal Government.
DOI: 10.1145/3191833 ©2018 ACM 2153-2184/18/12
could trigger wars or economic collapses. We see that collective
human action affects the global environment but have yet to
find ways to protect the environment we will bequeath to our
children and grandchildren.
This leaves us with a big question—how shall we shape computing education so that our graduates can develop the design
sensibilities, wisdom, and caring they will need to navigate in
this world of which they will be citizens? Our current curriculum, chock full of courses covering the 2013 body of knowledge, is not up to this task.
A place to start would be to open space in our crowded cur-
riculum to have conversations on big questions about the con-
sequences of computing throughout the world. These conver-
sations need to be interdisciplinary and intergenerational. Their
purpose would not be to solve problems but to edify—develop
mutual understanding, appreciation, and respect around these
issues. Some examples of big questions are:
• How far can automation take us? Can everything be
automated? Is there always something important left over
that cannot be automated?
• Will AI displace more jobs through automation than it
• How can we help people whose jobs are displaced by
software and hardware we have designed?
• How do we cultivate good designers?
• Can we trust decisions by neural networks when given
inputs outside their training sets?
• Will drones and robots combine to create an automated
• Is there a technological solution to the cybersecurity
• Can we make our world work when computers have been
embedded into almost all devices connected to the global
• Can blockchains and cryptocurrencies solve our problems
with trust in central authorities? Are they too expensive to
[H]ow shall we shape computing
education so that our graduates can
develop the design sensibilities,
wisdom, and caring they will
need to navigate in this world
of which they will be citizens? Our
current curriculum, chock full of
courses covering the 2013 body of
knowledge, is not up to this task.