We computing professionals are confronted with new and complex questions nearly every day. The events of the day move so fast that we do not have the chance to reflect on those questions and find new answers or even just new understanding. With the launch of the New Ubiquity, we are introducing a new feature, the Symposium. The editors will pose a question and invite a set of leading thinkers to reflect on it. We will publish their reflections. Their thinking may help you accelerate yours on that question.
The first symposium, which will launch around November 1, addresses the question, “What is computation?” This question is at the heart of everything we do as computing professionals. There have been so many changes and new developments, with computation appearing in so many new fields and being discovered in nature, that many of us have sought out new thinking and new clarity to help us deal with our customers and our projects.
A new insight emerged for me as editor during the process of reading drafts of symposium essays. That is the notion that a computation is the actions of the computational agent doing the computing. I had not been making a sharp enough distinction between the structure of the agent and the types of computations it most easily generates. I tried to interpret everything as a Turing machine, and often the Turing machine just didn’t resemble the computational entity. For example, DNA transcription looks computational and can be modeled as a Turing machine; but that model does not give a lot of insight into the natural processes behind the transcription. Many researchers, therefore, have created computational models that look like DNA strings being transformed. They hope one day to understand what is controlling those computations and perhaps to modify the controls.
Come join us for this exciting Symposium!