Subject: Re: Is mediocrity the norm in computer science ?
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 2002 23:40:03 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Vlastimil Adamovsky
| If I can think for myself, then I will not to go to scholl (college,
| university), because if I don't go there to be taught, then I can go to learn
| somewhereelse...  (in US people have to pay for being taught)

  If you can think for yourself, you realize that you may save time by learning
  from those who have spent their lives figuring things out.  If you are any
  smart at all, you will also recognize that smarter people than yourself exist
  in your field and that you would do well to listen to them.  If you are dumb
  as a brick and cannot think for yourself, you think you will be able to learn
  all you need to learn for your own life on your own, without any assistance.

  However, you should leave when a school demonstrably impedes your progress.
  This may happen for a variety of reasons.  Many universities are primarily
  political institutions despite their attempt to do research and science, and
  mostly produce reasons for itself to continue to exist rather than any actual
  research.  (The highly controversial Nobel laureate Kary Mullins argues that
  much of recent "science" has been based in such greedy research, directed
  mostly by what might secure good funding than by good research.)  A large
  fraction of computer science is a load of crap to appease political lobbying
  groups (e.g., Microsoft, which infests many universities with its peculiar
  kind of marketing, _much_ more aggressively than any other sponsor or
  equipment supplier) and a waste of time, unlike any other university-level
  discipline with which I have had first-hand contact.  The problem of teaching
  computer programming is still unsolved.

  People well above average intelligence will be impeded in their learning if
  they waste their time only on the computer science they are taught, but that
  does not mean that they will not have the opportunity to do more interesting
  research in a CS department than outside and to learn many other things on
  their own -- it is, after all, the staff that defines the department, not
  vice versa.  What a university teaches and what you learn while there are
  quite unrelated, and if you stay, you can affect it.  Outside the university,
  a degree only certifies that you can follow orders of a certain complexity,
  which may be important enough, but hardly proof of your ability to think and
  act without similarly specific orders.  Considering the massive intelligence,
  not to mention the _time_, required to formulate the orders that a degree
  certifies your ability to follow, in may indeed be quite the opposite of what
  others believe it is and no guarantee of any ability to acquire new knowledge
  expeditiously or indeed accurately and productively use what you know.  Yet,
  the ability to follow complex orders has been valued very highly in modern
  society, and may also be considered the practical foundation of the rule of
  law -- if people were unwilling or unable to follow very complex orders, a
  set of rules they would not follow would just be massively annoying and would
  only work to piss people off and create a society that disrespects it rules.
  (Come to think of it, that is how most tax laws work.)

  Given the challenging balancing act of both independent learning and
  following orders that the university offers a student, it rewards those who
  do better than expected.  If you _only_ the follow orders, you become an
  average graduate.  This should be quite sufficient for many jobs, but if you
  are an above average or excellent graduate, perhaps the only need for the
  degree is to show that you have acquired discipline and are not too clever
  for your own good.

  The only huge problem I see with degree requirements for an increasing number
  of jobs is that it carries a cost that is not repaid reasonably fast, so
  people who could do an excellent job may not be able to get it because they
  cannot pay the admission ticket.  This has serious and negative effects on an
  economy in recession and turns the economy into something like a pyramid game
  or multi-level marketing scam that makes recessions much worse and which
  makes it more likely that recessions will occur, since the mobility of the
  work force is dramatically reduced by requiring specialized degrees in every
  line of work, which will be unavailable to people who are still paying for
  their previous degree, or who simply cannot afford not to work during the
  time it takes to acquire a new degree.
  Guide to non-spammers: If you want to send me a business proposal, please be
  specific and do not put "business proposal" in the Subject header.  If it is
  urgent, do not use the word "urgent".  If you need an immediate answer, give
  me a reason, do not shout "for your immediate attention".  Thank you.