A model reflects how programming languages ​​evolve

Although many of the ideas of evolutionary biology have been applied to the study of cultural changes, there is still much debate about whether the natural and cultural phenomena evolve similarly. One reason for the persistence of this debate is the difficulty of comparing the two processes.

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Cultural phenomena, unlike natural, do not have a “genome” as a measure of the change, except for the natural language for which formal linguistic researchers have designed several metrics representing grammatical changes, phonics, spelling and semantic, among others. However, other cultural phenomena, such as technological innovation, are much harder to quantify and measure properly.

Sergi Valverde, a visiting professor of Experimental Science and Health (CEXS) at the University Pompeu Fabra (UPF), and Ricard Solé, ICREA researcher and member of the Complex Systems Laboratory, studied the natural history and almost biological in programming languages ​​that have profoundly marked the social and technological advances in the last 60 years.

In the study published in the Journal of Royal Society Interface, Valverde and Solé have defined a model based on evolutionary relationships of influence of programming languages. “Programming languages ​​are our bridge to communicate with computers and represent the biggest innovation in the history of modern technology,” the authors say. According to scientists, “is an invisible technology but has led to the revolution information and has completely redefined our lives and the nature of technological change “stress.

Programming languages ​​define a universe of different solutions. Some are specialized in handling any image or sound processing complex, and others make queries on large databases. To understand the complexity of information technologies must be aware that “programming languages ​​have reached a stage of immense creativity and constant experimentation with new ideas,” say Valverde and Solé.

Almost biological evolution of programming languages ​​means building structures are becoming more complex. One of the challenges that the authors believe their work is “properly define evolutionary trees in the history of programming languages.”

The researchers proposed method has been developed with public Wikipedia data, with the aim of achieving reveal what programming languages ​​have influenced the other: “We used a simple measure of similarity between the languages ​​that make up the network, similar to recommendation algorithms used by Amazon. Although the method is quite simple, fully produced results consistent with the current understanding of the technological development, “the authors note.

The results of data analysis and network modeling show that the evolution of programming languages ​​is very uneven, marked by waves of innovation in new languages ​​created from the mixture of structures and concepts defined in the previous languages. These waves indicate the presence of episodes of rapid technological innovation consistent with the evolution of punctuated equilibrium that defined SJ Gould and Eldredge N. (1972).

In addition to modeling the evolution of programming languages, the model of Valverde and Solé offers new ideas on future developments. An important observation is the strong influence of Artificial Intelligence in contemporary programming languages, a field that has traditionally been associated with academia and research.

This suggests that some of the first ideas in computing innovations represented at the time were very advanced for their time. In addition, researchers have found that the trend towards the development of languages ​​that allow a man-machine communication more flexible and natural reinforced.

But the real merit of the model Solé Valverde and simple idea is that the influence of trees can be extended to many other domains beyond the study of programming languages, and provide a new framework to rigorously quantify the cultural and technological evolution . (Source: UPF)

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