Creativity in Computer Science

Computer science only became established as a field in the 1950s, growing out of theoretical and practical research begun in the previous two decades. The field has exhibited immense creativity, ranging from innovative hardware such as the early mainframes to software breakthroughs such as programming languages and the Internet. Martin Gardner worried that "it would be a sad day if human beings, adjusting to the Computer Revolution, became so intellectually lazy that they lost their power of creative thinking" (Gardner, 1978, p. vi-viii). On the contrary, computers and the theory of computation have provided great opportunities for creative work. This chapter examines several key aspects of creativity in computer science, beginning with the question of how problems arise in computer science. We then discuss the use of analogies in solving key problems in the history of computer science. Our discussion in these sections is based on historical examples, but the following sections discuss the nature of creativity using information from a contemporary source, a set of interviews with practicing computer scientists collected by the Association of Computing Machinery’s on-line student magazine, Crossroads. We then provide a general comparison of creativity in computer science and in the natural sciences.
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Allen Newell & Herbert A. Simon (1981). Computer Science as Empirical Inquiry: Symbols and Search. Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery 19:113-26.

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