Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On Geometry and Computer Science

What do you think of when you hear the term 'Geometry' ? Perhaps you think of elementary mathematics courses you've taken in the past. Perhaps you think of a branch of mathematics concerned with properties of space such as length and volume. If you're like me then you probably don't think too much about the origins of this term -- that Geometry means measurement (metry) of the Earth (Geo). This is a case where the discipline has impacted so many other fields and thus transcended its origins in such a way that most of us don't necessarily think about the earth when we think about Geometry.

How about the term 'Computer Science'? Most of us probably still think about computer programming when we think about computer science. I believe that one day Computer Science will encompass so much of our daily lives that we will forget about the origins of this term. Dijkstra once said, "Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes." I have to agree with him in the sense that Computer Science is a mental framework for solving problems -- it doesn't necessarily require computers.

How about 'Computer Vision'? Being a much younger discipline that Computer Science, we will have to wait and see what happens to this term. I've argued in earlier posts that it will become clear in the future that to solve the problem of Computer Vision, the field will inevitably need to become more concerned with intelligence, learning, and metaphysics and less about visual attributes and image processing. Maybe there will be no term Computer Vision in the future and the field of Machine Learning will take the glory. Or perhaps the term will stick but become so commonplace that we will forget how Computer Vision initially started out.