The use of language and logic in computing technology

Lindsay Smith

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Introduction: An emerging perception of computing as technology rather than science (Baldwin 2011) is based on a view that emphasises the role of tool use in computing. Background and the problem domain: Any new technological development is subject to unpredictable circumstances, and computing is no exception. For example, the question as to whether computing can be explained in scientific terms is still unanswered and perplexing.
Nevertheless, computing technology plays – and seems likely to continue to play – a ‘gamechanging’ role in the state of human affairs. The source of the associated ‘game change’ will inevitably determine a particular technological turn of events. We assume that any significant change in the technologies in use is likely to be a source of change in the world in which it operates. In particular, the need for software makes computer-based technologies different
from others. Software exists, and is constructed, exclusively in a specific artificial, non-natural, environment. Computer-based tools take this “context-insensitive” software and place it into human ‘context sensitive’ environments and set them to work in (assumed) harmony with other tools; software-based in-car satellite navigation software travels along the road with the car driver, courtesy of the car’s wheels. Computing technology has thus split human use of artefacts from their construction environment(s). This restricts our ability to improve technology by shifting focus between tool use and construction. As a result, it can be very difficult to be certain that software, correct in a construction environment will prove to be ‘correct’ when used in an artefact.
We use conflicting paradigms of computing to work out a logical analysis of the
problem domain: The above analysis has identified a potential technologically-based mismatch between the environments of software construction and use. This ‘mismatch’ is not explicit in computing paradigms and has provoked disputes over the ontological status and valid purpose(s) of programming languages (PL). The differing constraints acting on PL as against natural languages (NL), for example, only implicitly appear in an extensive literature review and analysis of computing paradigms (Eden 2007). Our approach to increasing an understanding of PL (software) is pragmatic, using logical analysis to counterpoise two opposing views of PL, rationalist and technocratic (Eden 2007). Due to the lack of previous work in this area, we have opposed
21st-century computing concepts – the classes and objects used in object-oriented programming (OOP) – with the 20th-century philosophical failure to demonstrate mathematical systems as inevitably logically self-consistent (Gefwert 1998).
Conclusion: By considering “Russell’s Antinomy” (Gefwert 1998), we conclude that “inconsistencytolerance” (Decker 2009) in PL is a hypothetical possibility for PLs and systems developed using them. This tends to support technocratic views of computing that are directly opposed by a rationalist concern for consistency that tends, for instance to value programs that have been formally specified over those that have not. We will align the technocratic view of PL with
Wittgenstein’s view on paradoxes (Chihara 1977), and the opposing rationalist view of PL with Russell (and Turing), as the basis for extending our analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2012
EventTuring Centenary Conference - Cambridge, United Kingdom
Duration: 18 Jun 201223 Jun 2012


ConferenceTuring Centenary Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Language, Logic, Wittgenstien, Turing


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