Computer Science is Life Science

Computer Science (CS) is not a science of computers. CS is a science of life. It is a bridge to connect the physical science with human science.

Here I take the word life as what is meant by C.A. (Christopher Alexander) in his book The Nature of Order. And I use his concept Degree of Life as the measure of life.

So what is CS studying? The essential part of CS is software programming, which is about how to create life. It is commonly known that OOP (Object Oriented Programming) is about agents and interfaces (e.g. the contracts between agents) (so is economy). Here we can summarize it with the Principle of Play (as in the post about Python).

Briefly, the Principle of Play is about how other life entities (I will start using this word throughout this essay to describe anything that we consider having a degree of life, probably a degree of life that is higher enough to interact with other entities) can easily interact/play with.

So for a life entity, if we want to measure its degree of life, we can look at the following aspects: how many different entities are able to interact with this entity in different ways; how much time those entities need to learn to figure out how to use this one.

For a system, on average, how much degree of life within a system of many life entities? We can look at these from the following:
how generative the system is, how the system is able to come up with new ways to deal with new problems (kind of like human body);
how adaptive the system is to the outside;
how adaptive the system is to its own growth/evolution, whether the system is able to carry out the evolution in a more peaceful way;
how much time the life entities in the system spend in figuring out how to work with each other;

A better system is more able to be life-generating. It is more efficient at converting energy from lower forms to higher forms, such as converting energy into life entities. Take music for example. When a musician create the music, he consume a lot of energy (he has to eat a lot of food and use the energy that is from the food) in creating that music and put that music down in some kind of physical format (for example, a mp3 file on a computer). When that mp3 file is listened to by another person, the music causes some life-generating events in that person. If we say it causes some new material being generated in that person’s brain or causes restructuring of his brain, then the energy is transformed into the material (new life entity) in that person’s brain. So good music, just by being played over and over again for different people, simply consume some physical energy (electricity, for example) and push a higher energy being generated and stored. (The real situation, of course, can be way more complicated. Here we just simplify it temporally for the convenience of introducing the idea.)

So a system with more life means that more energy are taken from the physical world and stored at a higher level.

So what kind of brain has more life? Possible answers below:
A brain that has real knowledge, the brain structure is shaped very well that it can recall knowledge and engage with the world in a very efficient and creative way;
A brain having a higher degree of life is better at creating life.

More questions for our consideration:
Why human being is a higher form of life? (Is the language giving us the potential to have more life?)
Why creatures have more life than furniture?
Which society is more able to adapt to change? For example, with the new frontier in the info age, which country is more able to adapt and imagine a new future?
What kind of life creating process is it in human body? How does DNA create life for human? How does human being take physical energy from outside and convert that to its own energy?

There are definitely endless fields that we can go into to examine how the life generating process is carried out there.

So when we go to the macro level, we look at the whole human society, we want to see if our society as a whole has a higher degree of life than societies 2000 years ago, which means if our society is more able to adapt to change, more responsive to outside, more able to carry out the evolution in a peaceful way.

To give an example of how we can measure the degree of life, maybe we can try to see how we measure the degree of life of different programming languages (for example, Java VS. Python). I am thinking the method can be as below: we look at how people in different professions or different age groups are able to pick up the programming language quickly and how diverse are the software/apps that are built by this programming language, how the language itself is more able to adapt to change… Surely, sometimes whether a programming language is used more often has a lot to do with marketing. That is why we need a better playground so the better ones can be played by more people.

Every life center (entity) has billions of plus and billions of minus. Thus it is math on a higher level. (Any math is just an extended transformation of plus and minus). So what is this form of transformation of plus and minus in life centers (entities)? One clue is that this is computation of plus and minus on the scales of billions (http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/16-07/pb_theory). Another clue is as  CA has pointed out in his book Nature of Order, it is expressed through geometry forms. Certainly any geometry forms (if not a dot) contain billions of plus and minus. Thus visualization of huge amount of data might be part of the big picture of solutions.

Google’s search engine is a way to compute the billions of plus and minus, if we treat a link as a vote (a form of plus and minus). In words of O’Reilly, Google “built real-time information systems to capture and respond to that vote”.

Above are just some early hypothesis. Any new science starts with great hypothesis, then countless proving and figuring out the details. I hope these hypothesis can be a good start.

The ideas here are still very rough. I put it out early for the purpose of getting some early feedback. So if you know someone doing similar work on this, please let me know.

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Filed under About Software, Chan/Zen, Computer Software, Essay, Featured Essays, Programming, Python, Social Software

4 responses to “Computer Science is Life Science

  1. Pingback: Review of 2008 posts « A hacker of the Internet for the purpose of growth, fun, and creation

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