Analysis by Thierry Viéville, published on the blog Binaire.
Language, or languages, play a central role in the way in which we think and communicate. Languages are vehicles of thought . In the words of Jean-Michel Blanquer, French minister for national education, “code is a language” . This makes it critical to understand the differences and links between computational thinking and other forms of intellectual creation in terms of how they are formulated linguistically.
Gilles Dowek presents a seminal essay on languages, these different ways we have of understanding the world. His work is targeted at people interested in literature and scientists.
We express ourselves using a wide range of different languages. However, we also use languages to prescribe glasses, to buy train tickets, to schedule meetings, to ask for information, and so on. The question goes beyond mere computational thinking, though: both biology and physics also need languages to express the laws of nature. Languages are omnipresent, having been with us for thousands of years : without them, writing would be impossible. They greatly increase our ability to express ourselves .
Dowek’s essay is also a superb introduction to some of the main ideas of computer science. Understanding the underlying differences between languages at a syntactic and semantic level is essential if we want to properly teach IT, as is the case with human languages, and to determine to what extent an initiation in computational thinking could give a second chance to people having struggled with other humanities.
Gilles Dowek shares all of these fascinating insights from science and literature and many more in his essay. This leads to far-reaching questions regarding our way of looking at the world, completely turned on its head by computational thought.
These subjects are of vital importance, subjects we need to be able to talk about - in order to do so, this is essential reading.
Dowek, G. (2019). What we cannot speak, we must write, Different types of language Le Pommier (eds), a collection of essays.
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