Making a complete list of computer science contributions would be a very difficult job, because almost every aspect of daily life has been influenced and transformed by computing. However, we can identify some major breakthroughs or innovations that have brought significant contributions to a variety of fields. Computer science has changed society in an unprecedented manner and has definitely shaped the world we know today.
1. Determining the third major leap in human technological progress
The first leap was the Agricultural Revolution, estimated 8000-5000 BC, followed by the Industrial Revolution (1750-1850 CE). The period of time until the third leap was considerably shorter, and in the 20th century we witnessed the Information Revolution. And now, in the 21st century, we see 90s computers as retrograde and primitive – this is because computers have caused a massive acceleration in the rhythm of progress development.
2. Increasing information storage capabilities
It has been estimated that the world’s capacity to store information has reached 5 zettabytes in 2014 or the informational equivalent of 4,500 stacks of printed books from Earth to the Sun. Today, more pictures are taken every couple of minutes than the entire number of pictures taken in the 19th century. Having enough internal memory on your computer does not even matter anymore because you can store information on the cloud.
3. Automation and productivity
The Information Age we live in today has swept the Industrial Age paradigm and made it possible to increase manufacturing value while around a third of manufacturing jobs fell. A good example is the one of the United States manufacturing industry, where in the period between 1972 and 2010, manufacturing value increased 270% while the number of people employed in the industry decreased from 17,500,000 to 11,500,000. This has happened because of automation and computerization, which were blamed by many for destroying jobs. However, data has shown that technology may destroy jobs in the short run but leads to creating others on the long term.
4. Breaking the Enigma Code in World War II
The western Allies were able to obtain the victory in World War II after they managed to read Morse-coded radio communications of the Axis powers which had been enciphered using Enigma machines. German armed forces and their allies were using a type of enciphering machine called Enigma to send messages securely. The Enigma code was broken by English mathematician Alan Turing who invented with a fellow scientist, Gordon Welchman, a device which reduced the work of code-brokers – a type of computer nicknamed as the Bombe. His work was so significant that it had made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory. So much so, that Hollywood even decided to make a movie about cracking the enigma code, ‘The Imitation Game’.
5. Mapping the Human Genome
Natural processes and situations characterized by great complexity can be experimented entirely only by software, such as the biological project aimed at determining the sequence of nucleotide base pairs that compose human DNA, known as the Human Genome Project. The project started in 1990 and the last milestone was achieved in May 2006, when the sequence of the last chromosome was published in Nature. The mapping of the human genome has multiple benefits and applications such as genotyping viruses, identifying mutations that cause cancer, predicting medication effect, and developing the forensic applied sciences. The data could be analyzed only by developing dedicated computer programs.
6. Artificial intelligence
Many of us think of robots that could one day overturn humanity when we hear about artificial intelligence, but AI is completely different from that. AI for Good is used to describe those artificial intelligence applications that benefit society, such as aviation systems, speech recognition software, personal assistants, robo-advisors used in the investment management industry, healthcare robots and equipment, software creating news and writing pieces, telephone customer service, and robotic vacuum cleaners to mention just a few.
7. Computer graphics
Computer graphics can be used to create images and videos, which is called computer-generated imagery or CGI. Even films that do not contain CGI are created using digital cameras or post-processed using digital video editors – modern entertainment could not exist without computer tools.
8. Algorithmic trading
The liquidity and efficiency of financial markets has been increased by using techniques such as algorithmic trading, machine learning, and high frequency algorithmic trading. Algorithmic trading eliminates the need of constantly watching stocks and manually sending small slices of the order or child orders out to the market all the time. This technique has made it possible to execute large orders in markets which don’t support the entire size at once and to minimize the cost and risk in the execution of an order.
These are just a few contributions of computer science in multiple fields; we’d say that it’s impossible not to come into contact with computer technology at this day and age, whether you are in a private or public space, in nature or in an office. Computer science has made our lives easier and safer, and in spite of the drawbacks, we owe a lot to scientists in this field.