Anyone who follows the theoretical computer science blogs knows that two peoples—the Technicians and the Conceptualists—have been warring over the same tiny piece of land (the STOC/FOCS accepted papers list) for well over a generation. The most fundamentalist of the Conceptualists believe that STOC and FOCS were promised to them in a divine covenant with Merlin, while moderates simply point out that the Conceptualists have maintained a continuous presence in these conferences since the time of Cook and Karp, always turning STOCward in prayer on the day of the submission deadline; and that, if not for STOC and FOCS, conceptual papers might get wiped entirely off the face of the earth (or worse, shunted to CCC). For their part, the Technicians see the Conceptualists as unwelcome usurpers, infiltrating an ancient land of log factors with bizarre new models and definitions; and suggest that, if the Conceptualists feel so wronged by physicists, biologists, and economists who refuse to see the natural and social worlds in computational terms, then let the physicists, biologists, and economists give the Conceptualists sessions in their conferences.
To many of us, it’s become increasingly clear that the only long-term solution to this bitter conflict is partition: two sets of conferences for two peoples with irreconcilable intellectual aspirations. (A few old-timers, such as Noam Chomsky, still advocate technical and conceptual papers side-by-side in the same conference, but others consider Chomsky’s proposal as quaint and outdated as his hierarchy.)
And thus I’m pleased to point my readers to two new conferences, one for each people, the first of which has the further merit of actually existing:
- Innovations in Computer Science (ICS) (“encouraging new ideas, approaches, perspectives, conceptual frameworks and techniques”), to be held for the first time January 4-7, 2010 in Beijing.
- SLOGN (“a new conference in theoretical computer science, narrowly construed, encouraging difficult arguments, analyses, and algorithms”), to be held April 1, 2010 atop Mount Everest.
Mihai Pătraşcu—arguably the most irăşcible of the Technicians—has announced his support for the new ICS conference, stating that ICS “seems like one of the best ideas in decades for improving the quality of STOC/FOCS.” As one of the handwaviest of the Conceptualists, I wish to announce my wholehearted support of SLOGN, for precisely the same reason.
And if Mihai and I are in complete agreement about how the field should evolve, what could there possibly be to argue about? Shalom, Salaam, and QED.