Comparing lists

Christian Stapfer nil at dev.nul
Sun Oct 16 14:41:06 CEST 2005

"Ron Adam" <rrr at> wrote in message
news:cTp4f.16180$ae.11317 at
> Christian Stapfer wrote:
>> This discussion begins to sound like the recurring
>> arguments one hears between theoretical and
>> experimental physicists. Experimentalists tend
>> to overrate the importance of experimental data
>> (setting up a useful experiment, how to interpret
>> the experimental data one then gathers, and whether
>> one stands any chance of detecting systematic errors
>> of measurement, all depend on having a good *theory*
>> in the first place). Theoreticians, on the other hand,
>> tend to overrate the importance of the coherence of
>> theories. In truth, *both* are needed: good theories
>> *and* carefully collected experimental data.
>> Regards,
>> Christian
> An interesting parallel can be made concerning management of production vs
> management of creativity.
> In general, production needs checks and feedback to insure quality, but
> will often come to a stand still if incomplete resources are available.
> Where as creativity needs checks to insure production, but in many cases
> can still be productive even with incomplete or questionable resources.
> The quality may very quite a bit in both directions, but in creative
> tasks, that is to be expected.
> In many ways programmers are a mixture of these two.  I think I and Steven
> use a style that is closer to the creative approach. I get the feeling
> your background may be closer to the production style.

This diagnosis reminds me of C.G. Jung, the psychologist,
who, after having introduced the concepts of extra- and
introversion, came to the conclusion that Freud was
an extravert whereas Adler an introvert. The point is
that he got it exactly wrong...

 As to the value of complexity theory for creativity
in programming (even though you seem to believe that
a theoretical bent of mind can only serve to stifle
creativity), the story of the discovery of an efficient
string searching algorithm by D.E.Knuth provides an
interesting case in point. Knuth based himself on
seemingly quite "uncreatively theoretical work" (from
*your* point of view) that gave a *better* value for
the computuational complexity of string searching
than any of the then known algorithms could provide.

»It is no paradox to say that in our most theoretical
 moods we may be nearest to our most practical applications.«
 - Alfred North Whitehead

[and those "practical applications" will likely be most
 "creative" ones..]

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