We live in interesting times. Not fun, but interesting. The politics, and populism that is rising in the U.S. as well as other countries is only a reflection of another problem, a large, almost plague-like affliction.
I have been helping somebody work on their book, not fiction, but one revolving around this author’s experience in the financial sector. It’s fairly dry in many areas, but as she says, “the dryness of the topic is deliberate.”
Once you get past the urge to sigh, yawn or roll your eyes, the pattern of how things are done becomes interesting, at least to me, somebody that has studied history, patterns in mathematics and the way things behave in physics. The problem is us, and academia.
Many of you know how people obtain their PhDs. They come up with something new, and become experts in that field, right? But the problem arises when a university uses graduate schools as a generator of money, and like anything regarding money, more product means more profit. The product being the graduate student, and this assembly line needs dissertations.
But, not every grad student can be a Galileo, or Newton, and with so much out there, the expectation of being an expert becomes narrower, and limited to a very small subsection of a field. And even within that narrow section, the grad student, the supposed expert will be able to go on, babbling about something totally useless, convoluted in minutia. They have to, because how else could they become experts if anyone else could challenge them?
This process in academia (that many would defend to the death) has been applied to everything in society, to business, to industry, to politics. The end result is what I will call techno-anarchy (as opposed to technocracy) because everyone does whatever they want, based on their own “work.”
We develop complex systems, regulations, theories and approaches to all manner of things. I’m sure all of you have come across articles claiming that some new study found that coffee is good for your health, only to read another article a month later, that another study claims it is the leading cause of death. Eggs, milk, cheese…driving a car, etc all have such articles. And if you are inclined to dig deeper and actually find the case study or report that is cited, you will be inundated with complexity.
The problem is that we no longer distinguish between complicated and complex. An engine is a complex machine, with thousands of parts. But it is not complicated. Its an internal combustion engine based on a thermodynamic cycle (the Otto cycle, based in turn on a Carnot transformation).
In other words, it’s simple, even if complex. Rockets, airplanes, finances, were the same. But now, nothing can be simple anymore because we have to give the masses the feeling of progress. So banking is thoroughly complicated, with even a simple checking account requiring the user to read dozens of pages ever few months, rockets having to land upright and cars that have to do a hundred tasks well, while leaving the actual generation of motion as secondary.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is a saying that many people have heard, minus the younger generation. The new must be best in their eyes, regardless if it performs better or not. We have become desperate to advance technologically and come up with standards of measuring that, each more convoluted than the other, just to justify the “new” as being better.
And why not? Because our PhDs do the same thing since grad school. They can’t find the simple, so they do what they can, invent the complicated. Math proofs that are hundreds of pages long , engineers that can’t figure out how to land a rocket on the moon, but they will struggle to land it upright (something a simple parachute used to accomplish) and programmers that can’t create a simple operating system that works without crashing.
Are we so totally lost that not only can we not see the forest of the trees, but we refuse to even try. Many in these fields will defend their views, and claim we are at the peak of science and technology.
Being brain washed by propaganda is bad and hard to overcome, but being brain washed by one’s own mind is nearly impossible to defeat, so we won’t see true leaps in science. It’s up to the following generation. But I fear that if they are raised to feel like champions, each one a genius simply for taking part in class, then such hope isn’t warranted.
It make time us some time, but if we don’t start now, we will never reach the perfection of a simplified, streamlined world.
Signed, Somebody that is disappointed with academia and finds more intelligent people farming pigs.
(image: Patek Phillipe watch guts)