Lorentz Center - Philosophy of the Information and Computing Sciences from 8 Feb 2010 through 12 Feb 2010
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    Philosophy of the Information and Computing Sciences
    from 8 Feb 2010 through 12 Feb 2010

Scientific report



Computer science (informatics) is branching out to any field of scientific, industrial, and societal relevance. Yet, after many years of great technological development, the nature of computer science as a science seems far from understood. What is its scientific core? What are the fundamental questions the field is addressing? What are its unique methodologies?

The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the developments in the philosophy of computer science (informatics) and to contribute to the ongoing research in the field, from foundational issues about the concept of information to ethical issues in the design of computer games. The workshop specifically sought to expose the interdisciplinary nature of this field, with inputs from philosophy, logic, the philosophy of technology and computer science itself.


The workshop was attended by 44 people from 10 different countries, with varying backgrounds. The group consisted of leading senior and junior researchers as well as PhD students and participants of different background eager to learn of this upcoming field. The unique focus on surveying the field and pursuing research gave a sense of uniqueness and cohesiveness, which resulted in a very lively and enthousiastic meeting.


The main program consisted of 20 keynote lectures of 45 minutes each, spread over the days of the Workshop. The lectures were followed by lively discussions, often extending well into the coffee breaks. There also was a nice poster session, in which twelve posters were presented.

On the first day, four discussions groups were formed, on the following themes:

  • Theme 1: Philosophical aspects of agents and virtual intelligence
  • Theme 2: Philosophical aspects of computing and computation
  • Theme 3: Philosophical aspects of information and ethics
  • Theme 4: Philosophical aspects of the foundations of models of information

The discussion groups were enthousiastically welcomed and led to extensive debates all through the week. The groups met daily (except on Wednesday) and reported their conclusions in a plenary session on the last day of the workshop.

Distinguished Lecture

A special highlight of the workshop was the public Distinguished Lecture delivered by Luciano Floridi, in the auditorium of the beautiful Academiegebouw of Leiden University. In a thought-provoking lecture, Luciano Floridi sketched the impact of the information revolution (`the fourth revolutioní) as it is unfolding in our society.


The workshop showed the state of the art is several important directions in the philosophy of

  • On the first day several main different directions were highlighted: Luciano Floridi on
    the constructionist philosophy of the field, John Jules Meyer on the impressive developments in the understanding of agent technology, Klaus Mainzer on the integral view of complexity in dynamical systems, and James Moor on a developing ethics framework for AI.
  • The second day was more specialized and devoted to two themes: the philosophy of information (Rovan, van Benthem, Seligman), and novel computational frameworks like amorphous computing (Wiedermann) and stochastic diffusion processes (Bishop).
  • The third day was devoted to several appraisals of the notion of trust (Grodzinsky,
    Taddeo), the stimulating vision of human computing (Russ) and an excellent analysis of the the societal effects of the developing social communication media (Ess). The later part of the day was devoted to the Distinguished Lecture and the Workshop Dinner in the Faculty Club of Leiden University.
  • The fourth day emphasized investigations into causality and computation (Cooper), a
    well-illustrated analysis of the notion of values in the design of computer games (Sicart) and in technology in general (Brey), and the contours of a general theory and understanding of design (Turilli).
  • The final day was devoted to the role of specification in designing and constructing
    computational artefacts (Turner), computations from deductions in theories with algorithms as axioms (Dowek), and a general machine characterisation of hyper-computation related to the levels in the arithmetic hierarchy (Van Leeuwen).


The aim of the workshop was to bring the most recent viewpoints and insights together, and to
work on advancing the field. The workshop fulfilled its goal excellently. The talks and the
conclusions of the lively discussion groups were inspiring and presented much food for thought, and were excellent stimuli for research during the week. The presentations are all available of the website of the workshop.


We thank the Lorentz center, in particular the workshop coordinator Pauline Vincenten, for the excellent local organization and facilities. We thank the Lorentz Center (LC) and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) for supporting the Workshop, as part of the Distinguished Lorentz Fellowship 2009-2010.

Jan van Leeuwen

Utrecht University / NIAS