the profession of it
Computing: the Fourth
great domain of science
Computing is as fundamental as the physical, life, and social sciences.
THErE is MUCHdiscussionabout he generality and pervasive- ness of computing. Is com- puting really an inescapable part of the world? What does
that imply about science? Engineering?
Education? How can we build new stories and education experiences that attract new young people to the field? Can
computing, like other sciences, advance
technology and applications through
strong scientific advances? Can computer science rightfully claim a place at
the table of science? And so on.
Many people have been warming up
to the ideas that computing is science,
deserves a place at the table of science,
and is a rewarding profession. Yet a
question nags at the edge of perception.
Computers are admittedly everywhere.
Roads, electricity, radio, television, and
food are everywhere too, but they are not
science. They are infrastructure. Why is
computing any different?
We recently discovered a new answer
to this old question. We noticed that all
the acknowledged sciences are grouped
into three great domains: physical, life,
and social. We asked, what makes them
great domains of science? And we found
that computing meets all the same criteria. In other words, computing is the
fourth great domain of science.
We will show you why we make this
claim. We hope that you will not only
want to discuss it, but that you will
warm up to it too.
Great Scientific Domains
Most of us understand science as the
quest to understand what is so about
the world. Through observation and
experimentation, scientists seek to discover recurrent phenomena. They formulate models to capture recurrences
and enable predictions, and they seek
to validate or refute models through
experiments. Much of computing conforms to these ideals. 7, 10
Science has a long-standing tradition of grouping fields into three categories: the physical, life, and social
sciences. The physical sciences focus
on physical phenomena, especially
materials, energy, electromagnetism,
gravity, motion, and quantum effects.
The life sciences focus on living things,
especially species, metabolism, reproduction, and evolution. The social sciences focus on human behavior, mind,
economic, and social interactions. 8
We use the term “great domains of science” for these categories. 9
These domains share three common features: their foci are distinctive
phenomena important in all sciences;
the fields of each category have rich
sets of structures and processes that
evolve together through constant interaction; and their influence is extensive,
touching all parts of life and providing
unique and useful perspectives.