Big Ideas in Computer Science

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Big Ideas in Computer Science

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Computer Science

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

    3
  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
    3
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
    4
  • Overview

    OVERVIEW
    “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes”
    – Edsger W. Dijkstra. 

    Interaction with computers has become a big part of our daily life, but they do much more than help us with practicalities. They are tools for understanding the fundamentals of information, processes and human thinking. The insights they have brought us are some of the most important in human history, with far-reaching consequences for society.

    LEVEL
    Advanced Bachelor

    COURSE CONTENT
    On this course you learn to look with the eyes of a computer scientist, to understand the potential and limitations of computing and to apply these insights to such topics as social networks, biological processes, language and consciousness. 

    Specific subjects we investigate are: 

    • The science of algorithms, their power, universality and limits. This includes some programming, but for the most part you explore algorithmics away from the computer. 
    • The science of data: encoding, compression and pattern recognition. 
    • Taming complexity: dividing the problem, the search as a general heuristic and quantum computing. 
    • Computing and philosophy: the ethics of big data and AI, free will and consciousness.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES
    At the end of this course, you:

    • Understand the possibilities – and limitations – of computing, and how they shape our world, our organizations and our thinking. 
    • Can apply computational thinking in a range of areas, even  ones apparently unrelated to computing.
    • Can interact knowledgeably with programmers and other IT specialists.

    TEACHING METHODS
    Seminars, reading, lectures, project work, group activities, writing

    TYPE OF ASSESSMENT
    Homework exercises, essay

    FIELD VISITS
    Visiting an event at the Waag Society 

    ADDITIONAL ENTRY REQUIREMENT
    None, but please bring your own laptop.

    TARGET AUDIENCE
    Any student or professional who feels that computing is so important in today’s world that they should know its basics and understand its implications for science and society. No programming or mathematical knowledge is assumed. It may also be informative for those with a programming background, but covers material they will already be familiar with. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students and professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds.