Flutterby™! : science is overvalued

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science is overvalued

2007-04-25 15:50:57.382378+00 by Dan Lyke 2 comments

I'm not sure how I feel about this quote from Peter Merholz:

The global market we’re entering into is one that increasingly values soft skills, and the kinds of understanding borne of education in the social sciences and humanities. This isn’t to devalue science and math — they’re critical — but there’s a lot to suggest that they won’t be the defining disciplines of the 21st century (the way they were of the 20th century).

That's certainly the way the future looks to me right now, but I'm afraid of that world, I'm afraid that as an economy the U.S. will get stomped by people who have their feet firmly on the ground, and that as a culture we'll become easily led by anyone who can come up with a good narrative.

[ related topics: Sociology Education Economics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-25 16:24:53.082283+00 by: ebradway

As a study of Geography (note the -graphy, not the -logy), this trend is not new. At the conference I just attended, there was a head hunter from DHS who was looking specifically for human geographers. They have their fill of quantitative types.

But even the -graphy has seen it's Quantitative Revolution (the late 60s/early 70s). Many fundamental ideas of what can and can't be quantified came out of that early work. Some of it is being revised because we can now throw insane amounts of computing power at optimization problems (want to simulate 1x10^18 spatial configurations - it'll take you longer to code than run!). But there are many things that just don't lend themselves well to quantification.

I hear this on the street when people discuss "the war on terror". Many people have the idea that a "terrorist" or "the bad guys in Iraq" are an identifiable and quantifiable group. The basic problem is that for cultural reasons folks over there are our friends one day and our enemies the next.

For instance, imagine you are a 13-year-old male Shia-muslim Iraqi. Your father drives a taxi cab. Life has been so much better since the ousting of Saddam. One day your father is driving a Haliburton engineer to an oil field and his cab gets blown up. Or he's driving a cleric down the wrong street and the US bombs a nearby building - and you are now fatherless. You can easily blame the US. That anger can be easily used to get you to make the next pipe-bomb.

It's the cultural differences between the US and Iraq (as it was with the US and Vietnam) that make the situation so dangerous. Understanding those differences and finding ways of alleviating tensions can win the war after the war.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-27 14:57:14.14065+00 by: Dan Lyke

With the news that British students are being dissuaded from taking mathematics after age 16 in order to keep test scores high and the comparison of British and Chinese mathematics tests, the notion that our culture is going to roll over and ignore science... well...

Feels like something out of a particular Douglas Adams novel, and somehow I got on the space ship with the hairdressers.