Critical thoughts around computational thinking


a computer ... computes

3 -2 -2 = -1

binary base

Computational thinking

  • late 1950's
    first conceptualization by Alan Perlis
  • 2006
    reviving and breakthrough in education  by Jeannette Wing

the thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent.

Divide & Conquer

an illustration

A divide-and-conquer algorithm works by recursively breaking down a problem into two or more sub-problems of the same or related type, until these become simple enough to be solved directly. The solutions to the sub-problems are then combined to give a solution to the original problem.


one step backward

a holistic approach: with technical, social and epistemological dimensions

zoon politikon, Aristoteles



What is the validity of a knowledge?

What is the context of a knowledge?

On which paradigms is this science based?

often hidden, unrealized and latent

Part of the philosophy

which has for object the being as a being

which studies the general properties of the being.

Hook points

  • Computer Colonialization of Language and Imagination
  • From binary base to poor thinking
  • Functionalism
  • Parallel with Feuerbach's criticism of religion

Computer Colonialization of Language and Imagination

a human bug? 🤔

Binary logic ->  dualistic thinking

From 0 & 1 to black & white

Binary logic ->  Manichean thinking

+ moral content:
From 0 & 1 to good & bad, us & they, Rebel Alliance & Galactic Empire

Binary logic ->  probabilistic logic

just adding an infinite of greys between black & white


The program is defined exclusively by its function.

brain ≡ computer





≠functionalism in social sciences

a twisted relationship to the technique




[...] the personality of God is the means by which the human being makes the attributes of his own nature the attributes of a being different from himself, supernatural and superhuman. The personality of God is only the personality of man projected and realized in the field of imagination.

L. Feuerbach, Das Wesen des Christentums, 1841

a twisted relationship to the technique






Next steps

which paradigms and methods can be used to avoid these issues?


The highest breaking point towards this technical society, the truly revolutionary attitude, would be the attitude of contemplation instead of frenetic agitation.

Jacques Ellul, La technique ou l’enjeu du siècle, 1954

Pour une extension de la culture (1956)

Gilbert Simondon

[...] human thought must institute an equal relationship, without privilege, between technology and man. [...]

In order to discover an adequate relationship between man and the technical object, it would be necessary to be able to discover a unity of the technical world, through a representation that would incorporate both that of the craftsman and that of the engineer".

... designers?


  • Do you also feel the disconnection between computational science and society?
  • What are the digital|technical tracks you prefer to direct your rapport to the other and your environment?
  • In which extent do you pay attention to the foundation of thinking (ontology, epistemology) of the technical and organizational apparatus around you?


Ellul, J. (1990). La technique: Ou, L’enjeu du siècle (2e éd. rev.). Paris: Economica.

Stiegler, B. (2018). La technique et le temps.

Esfeld, M. (2005). La philosophie de l’esprit: De la relation entre l’esprit et la nature. Paris: Armand Colin.

Esfeld, M. (2017). Philosophie des sciences: Une introduction.

Feuerbach, L. (1864). Essence du Christianisme. Retrieved from

Garbinato, B. (2018). Algorithmes et Pensée Computationnelle. Retrieved from

Sadin, É. (2018). L’intelligence artificielle, ou, L’enjeu du siècle: Anatomie d’un antihumanisme radical. Paris: L’Échappée.

Simondon, G., & Simondon, N. (2012). Du mode d’existence des objets techniques (Nouv. éd. rev. et corr). Paris: Aubier.

Tedre, M., & Denning, P. J. (2016). The long quest for computational thinking. Proceedings of the 16th Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research - Koli Calling ’16, 120–129. Koli, Finland: ACM Press.

Walker, K., & Fass, J. (n.d.). De-Computation: Programming the world through design.

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Many articles.

Wing, J. M. (2006). Computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 49(3), 33.

Critical thought around computational thinking

By Mathieu Payn

Critical thought around computational thinking

ReclaimFutures 2020 Presentation

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