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
- Theme 2: Philosophical aspects of computing and
- Theme 3: Philosophical aspects of information and
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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
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