new years resolutions

Michele Simionato mis6 at pitt.edu
Sun Jan 5 19:11:01 CET 2003


On Sat, 2003-01-04 at 11:05, Laura Creighton wrote:

> I don't think that dividing 'csc == software' and 'engineering ==
> hardware' is the best possible way to distinguish between them.  A
> more useful question, I believe, is 'do you hunger to build things, or
> just to think about them'?  (Some people do both about equally, of
> course.)  The distinction is important for people who are considering
> getting a degree in computer science.  Some of them do quite badly at
> it because what they want is a degree that will help them build the
> programs they dream of creating, and instead they are persuing a
> degree that will help them think about thoughts they have no interest
> in thinking. This is a very bad fit.

<snip>

>  my life would have run an awful lot easier if I had understood
>  when accepted to both Science and Engineering schools, that the fact
>  that I like building things was significant.  I suppose I was expected
>  to figure this one out for myself, but I didn't ...

Laura, are you saying that engineering types like building things more
than CS types ? This sounds like a surprise to me. I mean, I don't know
about CS types since I never had a CS education, nevertheless I know
very well the academic type in Mathematics or Physics (I am part of this
"mala genia" :) and I think there is not such a big difference.

I did Physics because I like to build things. I did not choose engineering
because I had the impression (maybe wrong) that once you work in the industry,
as opposite to academy, you have to build ininteresting things or, in
other words, you have to solve boring problems. For me, a problem is boring 
when I know how to solve it. Since I don't like to build twice the same thing I
tried to avoid the industry until now and I have no problems with the academia
(except, of course in finding a permanent position :-/).

In my view the difference between CS types and engineering types is not 
if they like to build things or think about things (you would admit that
even an engineer can think about things ;-). The difference is if you like 
abstractions and out-of-the-world concepts or if you prefer *concrete* things.
If you are more concrete, you are more likely an engineering type, if you
are more theoretical, you are more likely a CS type.

Of course the notion of "concreteness" depends on your background and
experience. For instance, to me metaclasses are rather concrete and very 
little abstract, if I compare them with the conceptual tools I routinely
use. But I am sure for the average programmer they are a rather abstract 
concept.

Now, if I may ask a personal question, what you didn't like in science/academia ?




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