‘Undoing’ the math

Published: July 20th, 2007

It’s all about the math, right? Not so, says Karl Fant. He’s the founder of Theseus Research and he’s feels there’s something fundamentally wrong with using the algorithm as the basic paradigm of computer systems.

For a start, many functions of a computer system don’t fit the definition of an algorithm (algorithms terminate in a finite number of steps, for example; operating systems don’t). In the early days, mathematicians seized computer development, viewing them as computational machines. But Fant argues there’s an elemental conflict between math and computer science in his paper on the subject:

  • Mathematics is concerned with the nature of the behaviour of process independent of how that process is expressed;
  • Computer science is concerned with the nature of the expression of processes regardless of what process is being expressed.

His alternative is the invocation model of computing, which he discusses in this interview. It’s pretty heady stuff, and beyond me to adequately explain, so I’ll let him do the talking.