February 10 – 14 , 1992, Dagstuhl Seminar 9207

Limits of Modelling with Programmed Machines


B. Booß, W. Coy, J.-M. Pflüger

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Dagstuhl-Seminar-Report 31


Computer programs model technical and social reality by formal means. These models construct a new reality. It is a fundamental necessity that this modelled reality is specified in strict details. Everything has to be stepwise transformed into smaller modules or "objects". The relations between these modules has to be defined explicitly, even if detailed scientific data, experience or insight are not available or unreliable. This modular approach of computer science defines reality in a restricted manner, evoking specific questions like:

  • How does our understanding of reality change when every intension must be specified extensively?
  • Is simplicity a sufficient measure of (otherwise correct) theoretical insight?
  • Which cognitive insights are lost when experiences are reduced to programmed models?
  • Is there some "magic realism" behind the rational, but necessarily limited models of nature and how strict or limiting is the role of scientific thought as a basic ideology of the industrial societies?
  • How may philosophical relativism be used as a theory of science?
  • How is computational exactness related to some presumably feasible but not well-understood ad hoc-models?
  • In which way do different software development approaches relate to different world views?
  • Will cooperative user participation improve the benefits of computer applications? Is there room for conflict in a basically consensus-oriented process of modeling ?
  • What are driving forces behind the simplification of reality (realities?) to technologically fixed social relations.


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