Featured in Five is a monthly section where we pose five questions to a Computing Reviews featured reviewer. Here are the responses from our June featured reviewer, Walter A. Carnielli (State University of Campinas - UNICAMP, Brazil).
Q: What is the most important thing that's happened in computing in the past 10 years?
A: From the technological viewpoint, I'd say that nanocomputing and developments in quantum computation are very important. These have a tendency to be combined and contribute to a new field of quantum-nanocomputing with astonishing new applications. But there is another side of computing, more conceptual and deeply connected to logic and philosophy: the so-called algorithmization of commonsense reasoning. For instance, computational models that emulate the human process of generating and reasoning with counterfactual judgments, causal chains, and probabilistic arguments have great potential in a new form of AI.
The Turing Award for 2011 was given to Judea Pearl for his work on problems of this kind. We could teach robots, according to Pearl, notions such as "responsibility and regret, pride and free will," and could also better understand such notions ourselves.
Q: By the end of your career, where do you think computer science will have taken us? What are you working on that might contribute toward that?
A: I think that logic (as the study of symbolic reasoning), computer science, and human reasoning will increasingly merge. The strong ties between formal computer science and symbolic logic will develop better models of complex human reasoning. My own work and the work of my research group on paraconsistent logic and other non-classical logics, combinations of logics, formal semantics, and connections between logic and probability contribute toward that goal, I believe.
Q: Who is your favorite historical figure? Why?
A: My favorite historical figure is Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. Even if he may not have existed as a historical figure, Buddhism is not contrary to science, but equilibrates excessive narrow-minded views on science, and help us in the most difficult of our tasks: to die... But coming to more earthly figures, Leonhard Euler and the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa are also great.
Q: If you weren't working in the computer science field, what would you be doing instead?
A: Actually, my area of research mixes some computer science with logic and philosophy of formal sciences. If I had to choose a completely different area, I'd rather go to linguistics, an area that greatly interests me (I'm fluent in several languages).
Q: What is your favorite type of music?
A: I like classical (erudite) music, and also rhythmic music like Brazilian samba, bossa nova, and traditional blues.