Myopic utilitarianism

What are the odds, eh?  On the same day that the Guardian publishes an obituary of theoretical computer scientist, Peter Landin (1930-2009), pioneer of the use of Alonzo Church’s lambda calculus as a formal semantics for computer programs, they also report that the Government is planning only to fund research which has relevance  to the real-world.  This is GREAT NEWS for philosophers and pure mathematicians! 
What might have seemed, for example,  mere pointless musings on the correct way to undertake reasoning – by Aristotle, by Islamic and Roman Catholic medieval theologians, by numerous English, Irish and American abstract mathematicians in the 19th century, by an entire generation of Polish logicians before World War II, and by those real-world men-of-action Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Alonzo Church – turned out to be EXTREMELY USEFUL for the design and engineering of electronic computers.   Despite Russell’s Zen-influenced personal motto – “Just do!  Don’t think!” (later adopted by IBM) – his work turned out to be useful after all.   I can see the British research funding agencies right now, using their sophisticated and proven prognostication procedures to calculate the society-wide economic and social benefits we should expect to see from our current research efforts over the next 2300 years  – ie, the length of time that Aristotle’s research on logic took to be implemented in technology.   Thank goodness our politicians have shown no myopic utilitarianism this last couple of centuries, eh what?!
All while this man apparently received no direct state or commercial research funding for his efforts as a computer pioneer, playing with “pointless” abstractions like the lambda calculus.
And Normblog also comments.
POSTSCRIPT (2014-02-16):   And along comes The Cloud and ruins everything!   Because the lower layers of the Cloud – the physical infrastructure, operating system, even low-level application software – are fungible and dynamically so, then the Cloud is effectively “dark” to its users, beneath some level.   Specifying and designing applications that will run over it, or systems that will access it, thus requires specification and design to be undertaken at high levels of abstraction.   If all you can say about your new system is that in 10 years time it will grab some data from the NYSE, and nothing (yet) about the format of that data, then you need to speak in abstract generalities, not in specifics.   It turns out the lambda calculus is just right for this task and so London’s big banks have been recruiting logicians and formal methods people to spec & design their next-gen systems.  You can blame those action men, Church and Russell.

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