How can you tell that someone is not a scientist?
They’ll have the word “scientist” in their title.
This seems harsh right? The truth is that if you look at most of the fields defining science you’ll see that the practitioners rarely call themselves scientists:
So why not call ourselves Computerists? First of all, the term computerist is akin to calling an astronomer a telescopist. The deeper problem is that a title like physicist is not merely a label or a fancy term for the resume. Instead, a physicist is a natural philosopher who decided to stop goofing off and start applying the scientific method. Here’s a terse explanation of the scientific method:
The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.
So are we, as computer scientists, applying the scientific method? I’d say in almost every case no since, in my opinion, we generally fail on every point in the definition above. Humans are fallible, illusory, coping animals. You take a human and put them almost anywhere on planet earth and they will adapt, cope and survive. However, the only thing that separates us from shaved apes is our ability to reflect on our nature and do something about it. In fact, the scientific method is extraordinarily useful in breaking our natural habit of coping by shining a spotlight on the B.S. that we’ve conveniently chosen to ignore.
However, as computerists we celebrate our coping mechanisms to the extreme. We can take the worst operating system in the world and somehow manage to get something done by adjusting. We can slog through the most brain-dead of programming languages by hacking in features that make it “just work” and convincing ourselves that we’ve done something amazing. For every new programming language we reinvent techniques that were discovered in the 60s and before. The reward? Top ranking blog posts and consultant fees.
Are we having fun? Probably.
Are we getting things done? Sometimes.
Are we scientists? No.
Do we care?