As theoretical computer scientists, do you work more with proving theorems, or do you work more with data?

According to How to Criticize Computer Scientists, computer scientists can be divided into two: theoretical and experimental.

Even in some/many Computer Science Faculties, not all the academicians there are theoretical computer scientists. Since artificial intelligent (AI) is booming, more people are going towards AI, which relies heavily on data.

Theoretical computer scientists, from my understanding, work more on proving theorems, enjoy the mathematics and/or developing new theorems/algorithms, while some of the experimentalists, in some faculties/countries, prefer to use the existing algorithms, without fully deep-diving into the algorithms. Maybe this also depends on the culture of each faculty/university.

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    $\begingroup$ While this is not a research level question, I like it as a big picture question. For example, the following question relates theorem proving and computer experiments: cstheory.stackexchange.com/questions/82/… $\endgroup$ Mar 24, 2021 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ Experimentalists also invent new algorithms; they just don't prove theorems about them as often. $\endgroup$ Mar 24, 2021 at 12:29

1 Answer 1


There are many areas of computer science. Some main examples are systems, networks, programming languages, robotics, human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and theory. There is overlap between the areas. Theory in particular is usually only a fraction of any CS department.

Most areas use several different approaches. Some main examples are experiments with data, running simulations, building software, building hardware, human subject experiments, proposing models and algorithms, and proving theorems.

Theoretical CS focuses mostly on proving theorems but often includes a bit of other approaches. For example, a theorist may use simulations or experiments on data to further investigate an algorithm or random process, beyond the information given by a theorem.

(A better place for this kind of question is cs.stackexchange.com.)


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