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Friday, January 17, 2020

A Theory of Computing

Looks to be of interest, both technical and philosophical.  Undergrad view at least, but could inspire people to think about where all this emerging tech and hype is going once again.  The word 'Theory' scares many people,  but can be a useful way to think of things.  And why computing is now so  important to business and economics.   Relating back to the notion of 'virtual agents', its  a means of installing elements of assistance everywhere, for everyone.    So we should think about its likely future.

Exploring the Theory of Computing    By Allyn Jackson in CACM

Avi Wigderson.  (Interview) 

In his new book, Avi Wigderson discusses, among other things, how fundamental computational processes are to all fields of science.

Credit: Simons Foundation

For close to half a century, the problem of P versus NP has resisted resolution. It also has inspired a tremendous flowering of the field of theoretical computer science and led to an explosion of interconnections to other branches of science and engineering.

Avi Wigderson's new 440-page book, Mathematics and Computation: A Theory Revolutionizing Technology and Science (Princeton University Press, October 2019), lays out a commanding overview of the theory of computing and argues for its central role in human thought.

Wigderson is the Herbert H. Maass Professor in the School of Mathematics of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, where he has been leading computer science and discrete math activities for the past 20 years. Among his honors is the 2019 Donald E. Knuth Prize, conferred by the ACM Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory (SIGACT) and the IEEE Technical Committee on the Mathematical Foundations of Computing for outstanding contributions to the foundations of computer science,

CACM recently spoke with Wigderson about his book. What follows is an edited and condensed version of the conversation.

This is a very unusual book. It's part exposition of the development of a technical area, part account of the state of an art, part philosophical exploration. It seems to me it's also part love letter; there is a lot of passion in the book. How did it come about?

It came out of a failure to write a different book. When I started eight or more years ago, I was planning to write a popular book. I wrote several chapters but found it very hard to decide on the level. Eventually Edna, my wife, suggested that I write a book that I can finish!

This is the book that I knew how to write. It's aimed at a somewhat more sophisticated audience, not very sophisticated; undergrads can read it.  Quite a few chapters can be read by almost anyone with a little background and, of course, motivation. I hope the clarity is attractive enough for people who start reading to be caught and to continue.  .... "

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