Saturday October 24th

The Failings of Scientific Thinking

Computer Science people can often drain me

  • Sometimes, I find myself exhausted only interacting with those who work in Computer Science. Particularly, those who have always worked in Computer Science. Of course, they’re lovely people (why else would I be consorting with them), but they can sometimes fail to see the ways in which their very discipline allows them to see the world in a constrained way.
  • How often have you been speaking with a Computer Science major, who says something to the extent of “this makes no sense!” or “the way you solve it is …” or “it cannot work that way!” or “which one is it?” (by the way, my advisor is awesome at subverting this expectation, and his research does straddle two fields)
  • In hiring, what I get a lot of is “what are you?”. Usually, when they ask this, I try to give a weak explanation, but essentially it tells me that by the very structure of its organization and the people who work within it, I won’t be a fit. They don’t get it. So mentally, I write them off my list of possibilities.

Being interdisciplinary

  • People in science, especially computer science, love the idea of being interdisciplinary. I would, however, argue that they are not really comfortable with the uncertainty that comes with being interdisciplinary. Particularly, that of the understanding of duality.
  • A friend of mine this week told me that I may have missed my calling as an anthropologist (jokingly, of course). But essentially, what he was saying is that he recognized that often when asked some of the questions that would garner the responses above by a computer science student, I would say “it depends” or “it could be both”. Logic says one thing, but behavior may say something else. Contradictions exist. People are walking contradictions (coincidentally, my advisor will often, when he shows solutions to homework in class, say “these are my solutions” rather than “these are THE solutions”).
  • A great example is the very concept of interdiscplinary. People in science love to claim being interdiscplinary, but it is no secret that when a person announces that their training was in the liberal arts (either in what their original background was or their current background), they are immediately regarded as “less than”. Something about that to even those in computer science who “love interdiscplinary people” puts them in a bucket of inadequacy. We are so obsessed with measuring. Whereas, someone in the liberal arts might see the background as “a complement to” whatever the person is currently doing, or adding to their skillsets.

The communities are different

  • With all the talk of interdiscplinary in science, I have seen none but two persons straddling the line in my field (whose backgrounds were originally in the liberal arts, by the way!) who do this. I can say this because I attend events where liberal arts persons congregate, and they are giving talks, and I attend computer science events, and they are also giving talks. Outside of this, the communities in the liberal arts don’t often congregate anywhere near the computer science persons, and vice versa.
  • And why should they? If they are already deemed to be “less than” by one community.
  • I attended a reading group with a special guest this Friday, and we were discussing melancholy. Particularly that the feeling of melancholy is not a state that one can pass through, but that one takes with them (so it has a degree of permanance; you don’t get over it and it disappears). The person then made a really interesting point, which is that our technologies seem to have, embedded within them, the same lack of duality. Our technologies, just like the people who make them, often think in “either / or”. But the people who use them are, again, walking contradictions. We have dualities within us. So is it any wonder that we are failing as technologists to make adequate human-centric technologies?

Why is this important?

  • It’s important because sometimes to contribute something novel in your field, you have to understand the boundaries or limits within which the people in your field think.

Anyways, that’s about all I have to say

Written on October 24, 2020