Subject: Re: Conference moment: Lisp certification?
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 03 Nov 2002 18:03:22 +0000
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Tim Bradshaw <>
| I think the problem with this is that the skills needed to write
| conference papers are different than the skills needed to write
| significant programs.

  The problem with all certifications is that the skills needed to get the
  certification are different from the skills needed in the job requiring
  the certification.  The question we should ask "does this correlate with
  what we actually need?" and allow ourselves to be surprised by the many
  unexpected things that do correlate.  The human brain is deficient in its
  lack of capacity to see how many small things work together.  We are very
  good at singling out things that are important and focus on that one
  thing, but lousy at keeping track of masses of smaller interests that
  work together to make change.  Usenet is an interesting experiment in
  this regard.  Some people are so unable to process more than one quality
  at a time that they have to /invent/ aspects in order to retro-support
  their favorite quality.  This is not just the massive stupidity and lack
  of intelligence it looks like, it is how people are naturally wired to
  deal with the world if they do not consciously override it by thinking.

  This is somewhat like voting for people to lead a country.  The United
  States is /really/ paying the price for its plurality system during this
  presidential period.  For some reason, how many people would like
  something the most is regarded as a reason to choose it.  I favor a
  system where the number of people who like something the /least/ is
  subtracted from the number of people who like it the most, or generally,
  a system where each candidate is given positive and negative scores in
  some small range (where the sum of the absolute value of all scores is
  constant or has a fixed upper limit) and those you feel nothing about
  gets zero or no vote at all.  The scores are simply summed and whoever
  gets the highest total score wins.  The purpose of the negative votes is
  to ensure that someone who may well be favored by the largest minority
  but is loathed by a larger group, perhaps even a majority, not get into a
  position where the majority would feel they were not heard and which
  would destabilize the entire system.  This would ensure that a candidate
  would want to get backers on issues, not just fans of their person (or to
  avenge their father), and would have to calculate the risk of offending
  some groups, not just run over them.

  Back to certification, the number of points at which you would have to
  score well to be a good candidate for a job is attempted destilled into a
  certification, which at best may be assumed to mean "above the baseline",
  but the result may well be as undesirable as making George W. Bush the
  Republican presidential candidate.  In general, I want examinations and
  tests to score negative for a wrong answer and zero for no answer, and if
  it were up to me, "I don't know" would be far more socially acceptable
  than "I guess".  But no such luck.  Even the business community favors
  people who make wrong decisions over those who try to figure out what the
  best thing is and effectively make a decision not to act.  But you get
  what you deserve when you operate that way.  Unfortunately, people who
  should not get a job in programming get one because of certification,
  people who should be kept as far away from money as possible run both
  Enron and WorldCom and Arthur Andersen into the ground, and people who
  should be kept as far as away from Washington D.C. as possible get into
  the White House instead of staying in Texas and lots and lots of people
  suffer worldwide.  Incompetence should be a criminal offence.  The core
  problem is that certification does not solve any big problems, only small
  ones, just as book-keeping and auditing does not keep people from being

Erik Naggum, Oslo, Norway

Act from reason, and failure makes you rethink and study harder.
Act from faith, and failure makes you blame someone and push harder.