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Computer science

June 12, 2008

I gave the opening keynote at an Agile conference in Limerick this morning and enjoyed the questions and company. The slides and podcast went up this afternoon (If you have downloaded another podcast recently you might want to fast forward a bit at the start). We had a good panel session and a fair debate on several issues. One of the things which came up is the nature of education in matters technological in Universities. Now I have some fairly strong opinions on this and was happy to express them!

You take people who are already heavily into computers (in contrast to people) into a University course in which most of their encounters will be virtual. At the end of three years (more with post grad) they go out into the world to develop systems for people with very different perspectives. We know there is a degree of partial autism in Computer Science (the other is Economics), so in effect we are emphasising a disconnect with the world. By the time you reach 25 the brain is a lot less plastic. so if we don’t get the right sort of patterns in place by then it will be difficult to do it later.

My suggestion was that we should encourage more joint honours, combining humanities with computer science. Anthology, Psychology, Philosophy (but no taking the mathematical logic options), History all spring to mind. I know managers in IBM who employed architects to do screen design as they had five years of training and experience in how to represent three dimensions into two. I think I might even go further and say that anyone wanting to interact between users and systems needs to be at least in part (and a significant part) outside of computer sciences.

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