aleaxit at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 21 00:05:48 CEST 2004
Maurice LING <mauriceling at acm.org> wrote:
> > The latter is an aspect on which we _definitely_ plan to do much better
> > in the future, btw -- we have ambitious projects for dissemination of
> > information, enhanced documentation, easing the use of pypy for all sort
> > of teaching and research support. But that doesn't resolve your issue
> > wrt the "suitable as part of academic work" (=="detached from real-world
> > usefulness"); we definitely DO plan to be real-world meaningful!-)
> Please don't get me wrong. Academic work need not be detached from
> real-world usefulness, in fact, academic work should have the potential
> to solve real-world problems. I guess it is the time. I think that
> academics should tackle real-world issues when a self-sustaining level
> of core competency is there. It is certainly more difficult to craft an
> academic question out of a real-world situation than to craft one out of
> nothing. The latter can even be a case of grabbing a hypothetical
> question from a text-book...
Hypothetical questions in good textbooks can be great ways to lead one
onto new ways of thinking, that's for sure.
But... it's said that Plato was once asked by a student, what good was
all this geometry they had to study (Plato made all students study
geometry first, as the best preparation of the mind for philosophy).
Plato called a slave and instructed him to give the student a gold coin
then throw the student out of the school.
There remains in academia an unconfessed sympathy for the Greek
position, exemplified by this anecdote, that real scholarship
_shouldn't_ be "good for something" -- it should be far from the grubby
preoccupation of everyday life, and in its own idealized spiritual
sphere. Nobody in academia will speak this out loud, but, it IS, to
some extent, still in the background.
That's why some of us aren't in academia, often having tried it but
found it wanting, partly because of that. The concept of something I've
done being actually practically useful to some people in their everyday
work, in their everyday life, is too important for me to give up.
Doesn't mean I can't explore blue-sky notions, but there's gotta be some
kind of hope that -- at least if I get real lucky and everything comes
out just right -- it WILL be useful. That's why I'm an engineer, not a
scientist, I guess;-).
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