Sunday, January 21, 2007

Imaginary Numbers paradigm for Existential Programming

It occurs to me that one of the things that Existential Programming hopes to enable is the ability to continue working with data that is vague, fuzzy, semi-inconsistent instead of screeching to a halt as would be the case with a strongly-typed implementation of a single ontology.

An analog to this is the invention (discovery?) of Imaginary Numbers in mathematics. The imaginary number "i" is defined to be the square root of -1. Now the mildly mathematical reader will note that you can't have a square root of a negative number because any time you square a number it is always positive. So, when early mathematicians came to a point in their formulas where a square root of a negative number was required, they were stuck. By creating a way to talk about and manipulate numbers that "can't exist" (i.e. imaginary numbers), formulas could be worked through such that "real" answers could eventually emerge.

By developing techniques to work with data that is not consistent with a single ontology (i.e. existential programming), programs can get past the "thats not legal data" stage and work its way to answers that ultimately do result in "legal data".

2 comments:

  1. There is a very good show/podcast about Imaginary Numbers on the BBC show "In Our Time".

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tt6b2

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