I thought I’d let Shtetl-Optimized readers know about an experimental new course I’m teaching this fall (starting tomorrow): 6.893 Philosophy and Theoretical Computer Science. The course was directly inspired by my Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity essay, and will cover many of the same topics. Here’s the description:
This new offering will examine the relevance of modern theoretical computer science to traditional questions in philosophy, and conversely, what philosophy can contribute to theoretical computer science. Topics include: the status of the Church-Turing Thesis and its modern polynomial-time variants; quantum computing and the interpretation of quantum mechanics; complexity aspects of the strong-AI and free-will debates; complexity aspects of Darwinian evolution; the claim that “computation is physical”; the analog/digital distinction in computer science and physics; Kolmogorov complexity and the foundations of probability; computational learning theory and the problem of induction; bounded rationality and common knowledge; new notions of proof (probabilistic, interactive, zero-knowledge, quantum) and the nature of mathematical knowledge. Intended for graduate students and advanced undergraduates in computer science, philosophy, mathematics, and physics. Participation and discussion are an essential part of the course.
If you’d like to follow remotely, the course homepage has links to lots of interesting readings, and students will also be posting their personal reactions to the class discussions as the semester progresses.
Update (Sept. 7): By overwhelming request not only from readers but from students in the class, and with several of those students’ extremely kind assistance, we will be making audio recordings—although the audio quality probably won’t be great.