Saturday, March 21, 2015
Hofstadter: sySTEMic pattern
I have just one quick observation from chapter 9, on business and intellect: America has largely had a culture of optimism for the future, and a culture of progress (not to be confused with "progressive" in the left-wing sense). Consequently, the area of intellectual endeavor that we most esteem is science, associating it with the promises of the future, while we often associate humanities and social science with reading old books from the past (*cough*). Likewise, while there's something of a rockstar culture around top theoretical physicists working on esoteric things, any kid who actually proposes to study esoteric topics in theoretical physics will get a lot of "Great! So, um, what will you do for a job...?" questions from the family. And in academic culture, the more progressive-minded people sometimes have conflicted views on the value of the theoretical side of the subject as a measure of student understanding. This conflict doesn't always translate into a preference for applied science over basic science, but it can lead to (often healthy!) debates over the importance of the more abstract and mathematical aspects of the subject in the training of a practicioner.