1969 — Computer Programming

In 1969, I was a law student at Utrecht University. At that time, reading law in the Netherlands was not a full-time occupation. After having been active on the side for two years in a theater/acting student fellowship, I became one of the first computer programmers in the Netherlands. At the faculty of social sciences, where empiricism and statistics had become popular.

The infra structure was different, then. In all of the Netherlands, a handful of mainframe computers was available. Computer science was not yet an individual discipline: it was part of applied mathematics. It was only very much later that I came to understand that — despite what seems self evident — computing and mathematics are uncomfortable bedfellows indeed.

In one important sense, computing is rather like what many people think the law does: it describes what has to be done, and often how. Computing and math coincide, when computing describes what has to be done within the constraints of consistent formal-system behaviour — say in a formal game. Computing and math diverge, when the consistency requirement is dropped or diluted.

Much later (in 1987) I would discover that it is possible to describe how laws have to be changed in computing algorithms, while no consistent math model can. [Of course, this had been discovered earlier. Nevertheless, it hardly ever surfaces in scientific debate.]


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