Comparing lists

Christian Stapfer nil at dev.nul
Sun Oct 16 20:00:23 CEST 2005

"Ron Adam" <rrr at> wrote in message 
news:jYv4f.152052$xl6.59875 at
> Christian Stapfer wrote:
>> "Ron Adam" <rrr at> wrote in message
>> news:cTp4f.16180$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.
>>>An interesting parallel can be made concerning management of production 
>>>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 
>>>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 computational complexity of string searching
>> than any of the then known algorithms could provide.
>> Regards,
>> Christian
>> (even though you seem to believe that
>>> a theoretical bent of mind can only serve to stifle
>>> creativity)
> No, that is not at all what I believe.  What I believe is, "The insistence 
> of strict conditions can limit creative outcomes."

That's agreed. But going off *blindly*experimenting*
without trying to relate the outcome of that experimenting
back to ones theoretical grasp of the work one is doing
is *not* a good idea. Certainly not in the long run.
In fact, muddling-trough and avoiding the question
of suitable theoretical support for one's work is
perhaps more typical of production environments.

> The lack of those limits does not prevent one from using any resources 
> (including theoretical ones) if they are available.
> You seem to be rejecting experimental results in your views.

Not at all. You must have mis-read (or simply not-read)
my posts in this thread and are simply projecting wildly,
as psychoanalysts would call it, that is all.

>  And the level of insistence you keep in that view,

A view that I do not really have: you are really projecting

> leads me to believe you favor a more productive environment
> rather than a more creative one.

You are mistaken. Although I have some "practical background"
(originally working as a "self-taught" programmer - although,
ironically, for a "development and research department"),
I went on to study mathematics at the Federal Institute
of Technology here in Switzerland. Do you want to say that
having been trained as a mathematician makes one uncreative?
- But it is true that mathematicians are socialized in such
a way that they tend to take over rather high standards of
precision and theoretical grounding of their work.

>  Both are good, and I may entirely wrong about you,

.. you are at least *somewhat* wrong about me,
that I am quite sure of...

> as many people are capable of wearing different hats depending on the 
> situation.
> I think the gist of this thread may come down to...
> In cases where it is not clear on what direction to go because the choices 
> are similar enough to make the choosing difficult.  It is almost always 
> better to just pick one and see what happens than to do nothing.

As it appears, not even my most recent post has had
*any* recognizable effect on your thoroughly
misapprehending my position.


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