Archive for April, 2010

Logic in the Limelight

April 20, 2010

In “Engines of Logic” Martin Davis argues that logicians played an important role in the development of the computer in the 1940’s. This book could be construed as a typical emanation from a cloistered academic trying for some exposure, on the basis of the syllogismoid

        Logicians were essential in the birth of the computer
        Computers are important
Ergo -----------------------------
        Logicians are important

After a distinguished career of publishing specialist writings in mathematical logic, Davis wrote a book aimed at the non-specialist intellectual. It was published in 2001 and has, at the time of writing, an Amazon sales rank of around 400,000. Though this probably represents a considerable decline from peak sales, it unlikely to ever have hit 1199, which is, at the time of writing, the ranking of “Logicomix” by Apostolos Doxiadis,  Christos Papadimitriou,  Alecos Papadatos, and Annie di Donna. “Logicomix” also claims that logicians played an essential role in the development of computers. Here I will be reviewing these books and I will consider the implications of their claim.