Tuesday, November 08, 2005


The science of wishful thinking

Judea Pearl stopped by UIUC today. He gave a talk entitled “The mathematics of causal reasoning” at Siebel Center. I won’t highlight the contents of the talk, I won’t be able to make justice to it. In a nutshell, it was a blast. However, I want to post a sentence of his lecture:

Computer science is the science of wishful thinking.

People laughed, but I am not sure how many people got truth hidden behind what seemed a casual joke. He mentioned computer science, but I guess that it is also extensible to any other human endeavor involving any degree of innovation and creativity; innovation not afraid to transgress current conventions (scientific, social, or cultural), and creativity that dreams about a vision that may, eventually, become reality.

These words sounded pretty powerful to me, when pronounced at the home of ILLIAC, and deserve more than a casual laugh. The truth is that Judea’s talk went beyond the content. It was a talk about how not to dismiss wishful thinking, because it is the fuel that powers human innovation and creativity.

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