PROGRAMme spring workshop: Future visions on computing and programming then and now.

From June 12 to 14 2023 the ANR PROGRAMme group is gathering in Lille, Maison de la recherche, Salle F0.13, Campus Pont de Bois for a two-days intense work meeting (June 13-14) preceded by a workshop titled Future visions on computing and programming then and now. The workshop is the second workshop organized in 2023 within the Lille-Paris Séminaire Histoire et Philosophie de l’Informatique et du Calcul (HEPIC) organized by Alberto Naibo and Liesbeth De Mol and supported by UMR 8590 IHPST; and UMR 8163 Savoirs, Textes, Langage.

The campus can be easily reached from the Gare de Lille Flandres by taking the metro line 2, direction “Quatre Cantons”, get off at “Pont de bois”.

Subscription to the workshop is free but necessary. Please send a message to Liesbeth De Mol to subscribe to the workshop.

Future visions on computing and programming then and now.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.1 That motto, attributed to Alan Kay in the wake of his work on the Smalltalk system at Xerox Parc, is one that is at the core of past and current thinking about programming technologies: the idea that we can change the future through programming. But where these words, when pronounced by someone like Kay, may perhaps be understood as a rebellion against the now of the late 1970s to bring the computer to any user as a means to self-develop through programming, today, such pronouncements go hand-in-hand with a blind belief in disruption and innovation. What matters then, is not to have a better future for all, but to propagate an ideology of personal computing that fits with the commercial and political interests of only some. That is, an ideology of ease of use without understanding, and, by consequence, without the possibility for humans to re-program their own futures. It has resulted in a divide – in industry, academia and society – between those who celebrate every next new “disruption” as a further step towards some form of trans-humanism, and those who oppose these for a variety of ethical and societal reasons.

The PROGRAMme group with its anti-disciplinary stance has chosen to take a different road: instead of following the next new hype either as a critic or as an optimist, our view is that we need to make an effort to challenge our own familiar views, habits and understandings by facing the unfamiliar through a constant state of learning. The aim is then not to critically reject or to optimistically accept, but to break open one’s views to enable a re-programming of those very same technologies. In this workshop, we would like to revisit the above motto in that spirit both from a historical as well as from a contemporary perspective. Questions to be considered are:

– What was the effect of past future visions and how can they be related to current ones

– How should we envision the education of programming for future generations, then and now?

– What means do we have to re-program our futures? Is this desirable and, if yes, how?

– Is history itself an obstacle or, instead, a potential source for imagining a different future What can be the task of the historian here?

– What could be alternative visions when founded in a non-Western way of thinking?

The workshop will consist of a number of plenary talks followed by a roundtable. The speakers and contributors come from a diversity of backgrounds — history, free software, computer science education, media theory, programming, philosophy — and gather to explore the potential and limitations of the above motto.

1See for instance:

Provisional program

10h-10h15: introduction

10h15-11h00: Barbara Hof (University of Lausanne), Defuturization Machines: The OECD’s Early Efforts to Plan the Computerized Future of Education, abstract

11h00-11h30: Coffee break

11h30-12h15: Ksenia Tatarchenko (Singapore Management University), Man, Women or Machine? Imagining, Depicting, and Gendering Human-Computer Interactions in Soviet Fiction and Media, abstract

12h15-13h30: Lunch

13h30-14h15: Violetta Lonati (University of Milan), The nature of programs: an educational perspective, abstract

14h15-15h00: Simone Martini  (Università di Bologna), Teaching programming in the age of generative AI, abstract

15h-15h30: Break

15h30-16h15: Bastien Guerry (Etalab)

16h15-16h30: Short break

16h30-18h30: Roundtable with:
Arnaud Bailly If software is eating the world, will we all end up in shit?, abstract
Selmer Bringsjord, Can Artificial Agents Like ChaptGPT, Bard, Galactica (etc.) Automatically Write Logic Programs?, abstract
Martin Carlé, Is Web Assembly (WASM) becoming the new Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX)? , abstract
Baptiste Mélès When analytic languages were the future of programming, abstract
Mark Priestley Unlearning computer science : towards a potential history of programming, abstract
Introduced and moderated by Liesbeth De Mol.