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Model-Dependent Realism: Is This the Worldview of Software Engineering?

Author: Mountriver TY Yu,  Source:  EE-Forum.org,  Published: 2011-11-24

Excerpt: S. Hawking and L. Mlodinow proposed Model-Dependent Realism as a worldview for physical theory or science. It is quite similar to B. C. Smith's opinion in 1985.

One of the characteristics of an engineering discipline is a world view or paradigm[1]. However, what is the of Engineering? (or a bit wider, for computers?)

I just read an idea by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, called [2]:

“the idea that a physical theory or world picture is a model (generally of a mathematical nature) and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations.”

This statement is rather matching with my thoughts, almost in each word. (Of course, we perhaps may ignore the “physical” and take some extension for “observations”)

This reminded me of the Smith’s opinion[3]: (see the Figure 1 below)

“You are to imagine a description, program, computer system (or even a thought – they are all similar in this regard) in the left hand box, and the very real world in the right. Mediating between the two is the inevitable model, serving as an idealized or preconceptualized simulacrum of the world, in terms of which the description or program or whatever can be understood.”


Figure 1: Computers, Models, and the Embedding World (Smith 1985)

Is this the apposite worldview for software or computing? Whatever, Smith have pointed out some key relationships for models with computers, and with the real world — of course, it still needs more — but it seems have been somewhat lost or ignored, isn’t it?


[1] Liles, D. H., Mary E. Johnson, Laura M. Meade, and D. Ryan Underdown, “Enterprise Engineering: A Discipline?“, Society for Enterprise Engineering Conference Proceedings, June, 1995.

[2] The phrase “model-dependent realism” appears to have been coined by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in their 2010 bookThe Grand Design. (quoted from: “What Is Model-Dependent Realism?” by Andrew Zimmerman Jones, About.com Guide)

[3] Smith, B. C., “The limits of correctness“, ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society, v.14,15 n.1,2,3,4, p.18-26, Jan 1 1985


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Model-Dependent Realism: Is This the Worldview of Software Engineering? by Mountriver TY Yu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Cite Style

GB7714 style: Mountriver TY Yu. Model-Dependent Realism: Is This the Worldview of Software Engineering?[EB/OL]. EE-Forum.org, http://www.ee-forum.org/wp/pub/ty/2011-11-p3175.html, 2011-11-24[2017-11-25 02:43]

Chicago style: Mountriver TY Yu, "Model-Dependent Realism: Is This the Worldview of Software Engineering?", EE-Forum.org, http://www.ee-forum.org/wp/pub/ty/2011-11-p3175.html(accessed 2017-11-25 02:43)

Posted by   2011-11-24(Original)   Hits 9774   Modified 2011-11-24(Locked)
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