How does a computer do what it does? According to the organizers of the upcoming Princeton ACM/ IEEE Computer Society meeting on Thursday, February 16, “most of the computers built since the 1940s are based on a simple model of computation — the Von Neumann serial computation model. This model has been our field’s central metaphor. It has even influenced how we think brains work. But the sequentialist metaphor isn’t right for brains. It isn’t even right for what computers do. Instead, computation arises over a community of interacting entities.”

The February 16 speaker, Lynn Andrea Stein, professor of computer and cognitive science and director of the Computers and Cognition Laboratory at Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, takes another view. Her talk, titled “Challenging the Computational Metaphor,” will explore alternative metaphors for computation and why it may be useful to change the current way of thinking.

The talk begins at 8 p.m. in the small auditorium in the Princeton University Computer Science Building at Olden and William streets. A pre-meeting dinner with the speaker is held at 6 p.m. at Ruby Tuesday’s Restaurant on Route 1. E-mail if you plan to attend the dinner.

All ACM/IEEE-CS meetings are open to the public without charge. For information call Dennis Mancl at 908-582-7086, Jan Buzydlowski at 610-902-8343, or visit

Stein spent a decade on the faculty of MIT, where she was a member of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Laboratory for Computer Science. The February 16 talk is co-sponsored by the Women in Engineering chapter of the Princeton Central Jersey Chapter of IEEE.

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