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Is academia a scam?

by gravenewworld
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chiro
#199
Mar5-12, 11:45 PM
P: 4,573
Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
I don't care how the sausage gets made.
I do!

If you have competing national governments, then they aren't a monopoly anymore.
Can you honestly imagine the kind of situation you are describing? Governments actually inventing stuff and then actually 'sharing' that with other countries/governments?

Maybe you should ask governments to release all the stuff that is covered under 'national security' or similar for your government of choice just as a 'pilot project' to get this whole thing started.

I'd be very interested in seeing how far you get.
chill_factor
#200
Mar6-12, 12:07 AM
P: 899
Quote Quote by chiro View Post
I do!



Can you honestly imagine the kind of situation you are describing? Governments actually inventing stuff and then actually 'sharing' that with other countries/governments?

Maybe you should ask governments to release all the stuff that is covered under 'national security' or similar for your government of choice just as a 'pilot project' to get this whole thing started.

I'd be very interested in seeing how far you get.
i'd like to stay out of politics but let me make an observation:

all private corporations are dictatorships to their employees and are run as command economies internally. yet they can compete with each other.

why not national governments?
twofish-quant
#201
Mar6-12, 12:09 AM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by chiro View Post
In short many scientists and inventors are not salesman or businessman and don't understand the game that is being played. If they want to play fine, but its a different game with different rules.
I think that's a somewhat inaccurate stereotype. Trying to raise $100 million to get a telescope built or $10 billion to get a particle collider built requires pretty sharp sales and business skills. The other thing is that playing the game means changing the rules to your favor.

If you look at the salaries of the professors of astronomy at UT Austin (and these are public records). Most make around $120K, but there is one that makes $500K, and he gets that money because in addition to being a first rate cosmologist, he is also a first rate salesman, and part of his job is to fly around and convince people to give people money to keep the other professors paid.

In terms of markets evaluating good research, you really have to define good.
The operative definition in the case of US science and technology has been to maximize American comprehensive national power. The reason that science and technology gets funded is so that United States stays a superpower. If the US doesn't care about the superpower thing, then some other country will.

Also the trick in sales and marketing is to get people to agree with your definition of good.
I think it's a good thing if we build lots of telescopes and create high paying jobs for
astrophysicists. The sales and politics comes in in trying to get people to agree with me,
and that involves appealing to some pretty basic human emotions.

Having said the above, the one thing that a real sound capitalistic system provides is good to honest fair competition and this does have a habit of giving consumers a choice and forcing business to do what they need to do to keep up with the Jones' business. In the end it forces businesses to give the consumer a good deal which means businesses that don't give consumers what they want die and the ones that do keep going.
Except that the easiest way of making a ton of money is to eliminate your competition and spending a ton of money on marketing. You don't keep up with the Jones's business, you figure out a way of driving them out of the market. This comes up with University of Phoenix. The rules are such that I can't put out a shingle and teach Algebra I. I have to go through them, and naturally, they'll charge through the nose for it.

Markets *can* be set up to benefit the consumer, but there is no particular reason why they have to be. You can end up with markets that screw the consumer in a big way.

Just so you know, I am aware that it's not this easy when you have the Walmarts coming in, undercutting prices and forcing the local guys out of business and that because of this kind of thing the playing ground is not 'fair' in different ways, but capitalism as a tool does tend to create a lot of innovation and benefits for consumers in industries that have a lot of competition.
But a lot of those industries also were critically dependent on government involvement. Look at Silicon Valley. There were a number of important factors including a very strong defense industry, a good education system, critical government research, and a set of contract laws that prohibited non-compete clauses.

I know what I've said in many respects is highly idealized in certain respects, but there are benefits for privatization. But academia too has its place and purpose and it won't be disappearing anytime soon anyway.
Academia as we know it is dead. Academia is dead because we have all of this new technology, and that technology has proven disruptive in every other industry. It's going to hit academia, and things will change. How they will change, I have no clue.
twofish-quant
#202
Mar6-12, 12:21 AM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by chiro View Post
Can you honestly imagine the kind of situation you are describing? Governments actually inventing stuff and then actually 'sharing' that with other countries/governments?
http://adswww.harvard.edu/ or the Los Alamos Preprints Archive. Or for that matter the WWW and the internet.

Stuff leaks out. The thing about national governments is that in order to do research, you need a degree of openness which means that most of what you know will eventually get known by all of the other major governments, but as long as it's another country in the "club" then it really doesn't matter that much.

As far as commercial stuff. All the big corporations and universities are multinationals anyway with interests that are independent of any government.

The other thing is that in order to maintain "soft power", a national government has to release the research. For example, the fact that the internet started in the US gives the US a big advantage in the "global power" game, but none of that would be usable if it just kept it a secret.

Maybe you should ask governments to release all the stuff that is covered under 'national security' or similar for your government of choice just as a 'pilot project' to get this whole thing started.
If you go to Los Alamos or Oak Ridge, you'll find a fairly large number of foreign nationals working on non-classified research. For that matter, just how many Chinese or Indian graduate students are enrolled in US universities working on projects under government grants.

The other thing is that getting a government to release information is 100x as easy as getting that information from a private corporation. Without too much trouble I can find the organization chart for the CIA. Now try that for your favorite Fortune 500 corporation.
chiro
#203
Mar6-12, 02:33 AM
P: 4,573
Thankyou for the replies guys and girls. Very insightful! I'll check out those sites that you mentioned two-fish and yes what you said about open-ness makes sense in the grand scheme of things.

I think I learned a lot today :)
chiro
#204
Mar6-12, 02:39 AM
P: 4,573
Quote Quote by chill_factor View Post
i'd like to stay out of politics but let me make an observation:

all private corporations are dictatorships to their employees and are run as command economies internally. yet they can compete with each other.

why not national governments?
I'm not saying its not possible, its just that the way things are now, I'm not optimistic.

I know you can play the diplomacy game and make it look all rosy but just look at the world: everyone is watching everyone else like hawks.

Again I point to things like national security in the US and the equivalent in other nations around the world. To me this says: "don't go there" in contrast to the "ties between nations have been forged".

Again I'm not saying it's not possible, just more or less that it doesn't, at this time seem to really be plausible as opposed to probable but if it happens on the kind of scale and scope that two-fish mentioned then that would be great: I'm just not holding my breath.
twofish-quant
#205
Mar6-12, 05:11 AM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by chiro View Post
I know you can play the diplomacy game and make it look all rosy but just look at the world: everyone is watching everyone else like hawks.
Sure, but at the end of the day, no one that matters wants the world to blow up. It's basically 19th century Europe all over again with the major powers trying to play diplomatic games to keep the peace.

Again I point to things like national security in the US and the equivalent in other nations around the world.
One of the things that I saw was after the Cold War, the US government worked very hard to make sure that nuclear scientists from the former Soviet Union got jobs in the US, because everyone thought that it would be better if they ended up in the US rather than in North Korea or Iran.

The United States buys its aircraft carriers with money that it borrows from China, and that tells you that there are limits to which the US and China are actually scared of each other.

Again I'm not saying it's not possible, just more or less that it doesn't, at this time seem to really be plausible as opposed to probable but if it happens on the kind of scale and scope that two-fish mentioned then that would be great: I'm just not holding my breath.
I'm telling you what I'm seeing *now*. What's happened is that the major issues are now all global, and they are beyond the reach of anyone national government, so you are ending up with cross-national cooperation in order to fix some of the major issues.

The other thing is that you have major non-state players in the form of multi-national corporations. One reason that national governments are cooperating is that without trans-national cooperation, they'll lose all of their power to the corporations.

For example, if Congress passes a law that changes the way that banks are regulated in the US, it's not going to do a darn thing since the corporations will just change their structure to move outside the scope of regulation. Now if you get the regulators from the major powers in the Basel Committee to agree on something, *then* it has teeth.

The United States is the most powerful country in the world. Perhaps the most powerful country in history, but that poses a problem for people that live in the United States. If you leave in the United States, you can pretty much pretend that the rest of the world does not exist. This isn't true anywhere else on the planet Earth, where you just *feel* the power of the United States even if you are not there. But that means that if you are outside of the United States, you see globalization hitting you left and right.
Pyrrhus
#206
Mar6-12, 01:06 PM
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Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
And the problem is that it's so hard to get in that it kills research. If you want to make it in economics, the last thing that you want is to come up with a new or original idea or anything that's the slightest bit risky or controversial.

One problem that I have with economics academics is that I don't think that anyone outside of economics really reads any of the research gets published in the economics journals, outside of some of the more technical econometric stuff. Getting published in the right journals is critical for getting tenure track, but it's not useful for that much else.

Also the status hierarchy is different in economics and physics. In physics, if a tenured Harvard professor gives a talk, and some random person without a Ph.D., says "this is total non-sense" then that person is going to be seen as a crank. In economics, you could have a tenured professor from the London School of Economics or University of Chicago give a talk and if a trader or hedge fund manager or Fortune 500 CEO who dropped out of college says "this is total non-sense" then more likely then not it's going to be the professor that is seen as the crank.

The flip side of this is that because industry has higher status than academia, the universities have to put together extremely attractive packages to compensate.



Hard to say. I've learned not to say "X is going to happen" but rather "Assuming that X is the case, then Y will happen, so I should do Z."
I don't think this is really true. I have seen professors from other fields even Civil Engineering publishing in top Economics Journals. That's how I changed to Econ. My Master's advisor introduced me to economics. He has published in Econ Journals. That means others read those journals. The problem is physicists don't read any journals except their own journals. This is apparent to me all the time. My coworker, a fellow PhD Candidate, does a lot of network economics. Recently, he sent a paper to a physics journal (EPJ) as they publish research in networks. The reviewers comments seemed to know anything at all about the papers he cited from econ journals. He had to explain back and forth after 1-2 round of review those papers. Eventually, the paper was published in EPJ. However, it showed me how clueless physicists are about research outside their own journals.
Fifty
#207
Mar6-12, 02:01 PM
P: 35
Obviously I'm under-informed about this subject (still in high school) but perhaps the seemingly useless topics you learn through education to get a seemingly unrelated position are just to limit the amount of people getting those positions. There can only be so many accountants.

Also, the population is increasing. More specifically, the percentage of the population trying for university degrees is increasing (at least over here it is, without a doubt)
chill_factor
#208
Mar6-12, 03:47 PM
P: 899
Quote Quote by chiro View Post
I'm not saying its not possible, its just that the way things are now, I'm not optimistic.

I know you can play the diplomacy game and make it look all rosy but just look at the world: everyone is watching everyone else like hawks.

Again I point to things like national security in the US and the equivalent in other nations around the world. To me this says: "don't go there" in contrast to the "ties between nations have been forged".

Again I'm not saying it's not possible, just more or less that it doesn't, at this time seem to really be plausible as opposed to probable but if it happens on the kind of scale and scope that two-fish mentioned then that would be great: I'm just not holding my breath.
what im saying is that there's no reason why private corporations are any more trustable than governments. both are equally untrustable and in some countries they're one and the same; in that case, its a matter of which dominates which. in socialist countries, the government is the corporations, but in other countries, the corporations are the government. which is worse?

now many americans will say "its obvious that socialist countries are worse" but just keep in mind that in India, everything is so privatized water pipes to homes got shut down and instead the utilities sell water from water trucks (its what you think it is: a tanker truck filled with water that dispenses a tiny bit and they sell it).

academia, government and the corporations are one and the same, its just their job security that differs.
twofish-quant
#209
Mar6-12, 08:13 PM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by Pyrrhus View Post
I don't think this is really true. I have seen professors from other fields even Civil Engineering publishing in top Economics Journals.
I was thinking less in terms of other professors but rather how badly economics journals are seen by people that work in investment banks and other financial institutions. The problem is that if you pick up any economics journal, you'll find at least one article that appears totally clueless to someone that works in the industry (anything with the word "efficient" next to "market"). Yes, there are usually good articles along with the bad, but if you end up with stinkers then what's the point of peer review?

In that situation, it's just better to post everything to SSRN, Repec, or just put the article on your web site.

The other problem is that whenever someone with industry background publishes, it's usually a result that is moderately interesting, but not the crown jewels. That stuff you keep secret and make money out of. So even when you do see an article that isn't a stinker, it's often something that has been used for years in industry.

The problem is physicists don't read any journals except their own journals.
That's one problem, there are several others. Communication style is one of them. For example, if you disagree with something in a journal, you are expected to go to the library, and write a rebuttal with a thousand citations. The fact that you have to spend months in the library before anyone will even listen to you is a barrier to outsider input.

However, traders don't communicate in this way. If a trader thinks that what he read is nonsense, he'll let out a string of expletives, toss the journal in the trash, and that's the end of it. He has no reason to go to the library to prove his point.

There's also a lot more secrecy in economics. It's very common that I read an economics paper, and then think to myself, this is obvious non-sense. Unfortunately, if I publicly mention why I think it's non-sense, then I get fired and possibly investigated by the SEC. What this means is that a lot of real information in economics is "oral." I go to a conference, someone gives a presentation, and then afterwards, we talk over coffee. The fact that a lot of the information in economics is oral is why industries center in a few cities.

Recently, he sent a paper to a physics journal (EPJ) as they publish research in networks. The reviewers comments seemed to know anything at all about the papers he cited from econ journals. He had to explain back and forth after 1-2 round of review those papers. Eventually, the paper was published in EPJ. However, it showed me how clueless physicists are about research outside their own journals.
People have limited time, and so silos tend to form. But in the end it got published. Having clueless reviewers is a sometimes a good thing, since they will give you the benefit of the doubt and publish it. One problem with economics journals is that if the reviewers know the papers and don't like them, the papers will get binned.
twofish-quant
#210
Mar6-12, 08:41 PM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by chill_factor View Post
in that case, its a matter of which dominates which. in socialist countries, the government is the corporations, but in other countries, the corporations are the government. which is worse?
The good news is that you have a ton of interest groups. If both the corporations and the government agree, then give up. You can't win. What's more common is the situation were you have some corporations and some government agencies on one side and other corporations and other government agencies on the other, and in those situations, a small number of people can make a huge difference.

now many americans will say "its obvious that socialist countries are worse" but just keep in mind that in India, everything is so privatized water pipes to homes got shut down and instead the utilities sell water from water trucks (its what you think it is: a tanker truck filled with water that dispenses a tiny bit and they sell it).
One problem is "define socialist." Is France socialist? Is China socialist? One funny thing with China is that people have called it "half-capitalist", but if you *define* capitalist as "an economic system that works" that doesn't tell you much about what to do.

A lot of this came out of the Cold War, when the US=capitalist, and the Soviet Union=socialist. The trouble is that there aren't any Soviet-style economies any more, and while the US economy is functional, no one quite is sure what parts of this works.

Academia, government and the corporations are one and the same, its just their job security that differs.
It's not. There is a power elite, but there also conflicts within the power elite, so that means that if you aren't a member of the ruling classes, you can still have a lot of influence over what ends up happening.

There's also the "if you can't beat them, join them." The power elite is pretty good at making sure that anyone that could overthrow them gets "absorbed" into system.

One way of looking at MIT, is that ruling elite doesn't want smart people out in the streets doing mischief. So they convince parents that they should send their kids to elite schools where they get brainwashed into supporting the system. One good thing about going to MIT is that you get to see the power elite up close, and you figure out that they are just human beings, and you see the same sorts of cliques and conflicts that you have anytime you get a bunch of people together.

You might wonder what a Marxist is doing working on Wall Street. Well it's simple. I think that Karl Marx got most things right. The part that he got wrong was the idea that you could fix things with a revolution. If there is a ruling class, and if a revolution is undesirable, then the logical thing to do is to find a way of getting as close to the center of power as possible.
Pyrrhus
#211
Mar6-12, 09:59 PM
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Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
People have limited time, and so silos tend to form. But in the end it got published. Having clueless reviewers is a sometimes a good thing, since they will give you the benefit of the doubt and publish it. One problem with economics journals is that if the reviewers know the papers and don't like them, the papers will get binned.
I will give you that one, because it is more likely than not. Economists (at least academics) are notorious for loving their jargon and their ways. They don't usually allow outsiders to publish so easily. It takes time, but it can be done as I mentioned before. However, (I think) economists are more open to read outside economic journals in contrast to physicists. In my experience, physicists are more open to listen to uncommon (to them) views by outsiders.
deRham
#212
Mar7-12, 03:20 PM
P: 410
But is that a good thing? One thing about physics is that the reason that physics gets the money is that the generals and CEO want better bombs and toasters. One of the *good* things about this is that in order to get what the generals and CEO's want, you *can't* be narrowly focused on a small technical research area. You *have* to think broadly about what you are doing and to function in an environment where you have to think politically and philosophically.

The problem with "sending people elsewhere" is that it totally guts the research effort and undermines the political point of the exercise. Also, "where is elsewhere?"
Does string theory get funding from people who want better bombers and toasters?

One issue is that not everyone getting a math or physics PhD seems necessarily to have what the generals and CEOs want as priority, and you can try forcing them to by shoving them into a market, but that works for a limited number of people. Whereas a lot of smart people who actually could complete a math PhD if they wanted don't really care enough to research differential geometry, even if they learned some in college, and some of them end up in careers where they DO accomplish some things which seem to be in demand. The people who just don't find what the generals and CEOs want in their great interest will just end up competing with people without PhDs for basic jobs to make ends meet and try to find satisfaction in life outside their careers. That's not terrible, but it certainly doesn't put their creative energies to use much. Perhaps you hit a sweet spot in between :)

Well, I don't really mean send people elsewhere - more like it will naturally happen if they don't want to do what the research careers demand. The best that can be done is to try to keep around most of the people who would probably be more productive as academic researchers than anything else. That certainly is NOT everyone who is going for a PhD (some are invariably there more for some sense of prestige or out of confusion as to what else to do).

But what if you are flexible? Tell me what I should enjoy.
If you are flexible, why can't you enjoy the many things your flexibility takes you towards? If we're talking career, I'd say do the thing you enjoy at which you're also the most productive, at first naive approximation.
twofish-quant
#213
Mar7-12, 08:53 PM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by deRham View Post
Does string theory get funding from people who want better bombers and toasters?
Absolutely.

http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5626

Here's one random grant

http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showA...Number=1068558

There's a search engine on the site where you can see others.

Also a lot of funding goes through Federal student aid. Essentially money that goes to pay tuition ends up funding research through overhead. And then you also have indirect funding in that donations to universities are tax deductible and also not subject to estate taxes.

The other thing is that the number of Ph.D. in science and math is basically controlled by the amount of government funding that goes into the system.

One issue is that not everyone getting a math or physics PhD seems necessarily to have what the generals and CEOs want as priority
This is research. The generals and CEO's are willing to write blank checks because no one knows what is going to turn up. I mean, when I did my Ph.D. in radiation hydrodynamics, no one knew that the math would be useful for calculating bank liquidity ratios. If something was obviously of immediate benefit then you could fund it from private sources.

Part of the reason that physicists get paid is that the generals and CEO's don't know exactly what they want, and need advice as to what they situation is.

The people who just don't find what the generals and CEOs want in their great interest will just end up competing with people without PhDs for basic jobs to make ends meet and try to find satisfaction in life outside their careers.
We are talking about a few thousand people here. Also, part of the reason I think I got a good education is that the generals and CEO's have no idea what they want at a detail level. So you set up a political and economic system to figure it out.

Also, the generals and CEO's want a booming economy. Without a good economy, then you can't afford an aircraft carrier. The other thing is that we have a massively productive economy. If we are in a situation in which most people are just struggling to make ends meet then there is something seriously broken that needs to get fixed.

Since the time of the Romans, politicians have figured out that to keep a population docile, you need bread and circuses, and if people are struggling for bread then at some point people are going to wonder why they put up with the system, and the people with power will lose it. So it's essential for the ruling classes to provide enough toys and distractions to keep the masses passive and docile. Having a sound banking system is essential for this because as long as someone is figuring out what apps to install on their iPhone, they aren't going to be interested in overthrowing the government.

And keeping the banking system sound is where I come in. As long as people have jobs and mortgages, they are going to be chained to the system. Once jobs and mortgages disappear, then people really have nothing to lose but their chains, and then you have revolution.

The best that can be done is to try to keep around most of the people who would probably be more productive as academic researchers than anything else.
Define "productive". For the people that run the world, having someone in a bank trying to prevent world revolution is infinitely more productive than someone in a university that just puts out papers.

If you are flexible, why can't you enjoy the many things your flexibility takes you towards?
Because in the way that I look at the world, enjoyment means stagnation. I'm an intellectual masochist, and part of being a masochist is that it feels bad to feel good and it feels good to feel bad. Also because of my religious upbringing, I feel nervous and guilty about enjoying myself.

If we're talking career, I'd say do the thing you enjoy at which you're also the most productive, at first naive approximation.
Again, you have to define "productive." Personally, I've found that paradoxically being forced to do something that I hate makes me more creative in that I have to think of clever ways of getting out of the work.

It turns out that "saving the world" involves a lot of unglamorous crap work that no one wants to do, so since we are clever people, we are figuring out ways of making sure the work gets done without anyone having to work too hard to do it.
deRham
#214
Mar8-12, 09:03 PM
P: 410
I mean, when I did my Ph.D. in radiation hydrodynamics, no one knew that the math would be useful for calculating bank liquidity ratios.
This refers to a fascinating topic, at least to me. I've always wondered what benefit funding the innovation of new math has to that CEO/general. I mean, is the math developed private and only at the disposal of that funding source? I'd imagine almost anyone could benefit.

Define "productive". For the people that run the world, having someone in a bank trying to prevent world revolution is infinitely more productive than someone in a university that just puts out papers.
Productive meaning they end up doing whatever is both useful for themselves and the rest of the people running the world.

Being forced out of academia does not imply the individual is going to end up doing a high stress job that prevents world revolution. That would perhaps be true of working in banks were a career that is "second choice to academia."

As has been said before, the same sort of funding going into math/physics doesn't necessarily make its way to all the humanities departments. A common second choice for a humanities person who did a graduate degree is going into a teaching career. Now, teaching is noble. Having great teachers is important. However, it doesn't seem to benefit generals and CEOs much directly. I wonder why they fund it then, because indeed, I don't doubt that a lot of, say, math PhDs end up doing some such teaching career at a non-research institution, or something totally different.

Basically: why fund someone to be trained in string theory when you want better toasters? Wouldn't it be better never to give them the chance to learn string theory (from the point of view of toasters and bombs)? I use string theory as an example because depending on what angle one takes, it can take place in either the math or physics department.

This leads back to the earlier question of whether some "profound new useful math" actually benefits the CEO's direct needs.
deRham
#215
Mar8-12, 09:18 PM
P: 410
Because in the way that I look at the world, enjoyment means stagnation. I'm an intellectual masochist
Or one can just redefine enjoyment :)
twofish-quant
#216
Mar8-12, 11:47 PM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by deRham View Post
This refers to a fascinating topic, at least to me. I've always wondered what benefit funding the innovation of new math has to that CEO/general.
Ask the NSA. They probably know more about factoring large numbers than anyone else in the world. For that matter, I've seen some very interesting work in applied math in financial firms. If your algorithms are faster than the people across the street, then you can sell financial products that they can't.

I mean, is the math developed private and only at the disposal of that funding source?
It depends. In my situation, it's understood than any new mathematical technique is going to be known by everyone eventually (usually in a matter of months), however, the game is to be able to exploit the edge that you have. Also, you can't chain people to the office, so usually the firm across the street finds out about a new technique when they give the person that invents it enough money to switch firms.

For stuff that the NSA develops, you can't do that, and people that do that sort of work are under a lot of legal restrictions. For the stuff that the NSF produces then there aren't.

There are also odd situations in which someone wants everyone to know about something without anyone knowing who discovered it.

For example, some major banks have close relationships with academics so that the academic will with the bank's blessing publish mathematical work that was developed by the bank. There are some legal reasons for this. If a bank publishes a mathematical paper that is obviously likely to be used to price some financial product, then the regulators can get annoyed, whereas if the bank hands the research over the an academic, who builds on it and then publishes it without the banks name, this doesn't trip over securities regulations.

For that matter, there is a ton of development on open source software that is done anonymously by major financial firms.

Productive meaning they end up doing whatever is both useful for themselves and the rest of the people running the world.
Define "useful"

Being forced out of academia does not imply the individual is going to end up doing a high stress job that prevents world revolution. That would perhaps be true of working in banks were a career that is "second choice to academia."
Even low stress jobs prevent world revolution. All that matters is that you are in the office and not in the street. However, one curious thing is that most menial jobs are in fact quite high stress. Working as a waiter, a cashier, or a telemarketer is extremely high stress.

Now, teaching is noble. Having great teachers is important. However, it doesn't seem to benefit generals and CEOs much directly.
Yes it does. In order to keep yourself in power, you have to tell a story to explain to people why they must kill and die for something. When people are no longer willing to kill and die for a cause, then countries collapse. In the 1940's, people in Russia were willing to kill and to die for the hammer and sickle, but in the 1990's, people stopped and everything collapsed.

One of the major functions of schools is political indoctrination. In the US for example, one message that gets taught starting from elementary schools is that freedom and democracy are important. So you need lots of people that come up with these stories, and lots of people to teach these stories. One other thing is that starting from elementary school, you are to stand in line, raise your hand before being speaking, and turn in your assignments on time. It's all so that you end up as a cog in the machine.

Almost.... The tricky part is that you don't want people to be "complete robots" because if they are, then the system is going to fall apart. So what you want is for people to work against the system within the system.

Basically: why fund someone to be trained in string theory when you want better toasters?
Same reason it turned out to be a good idea to fund people to research heavy metal ores in the 1920's. You never know what is going to turn up, and if something does turn up, you want it first.

It turns out that string theory is useful in valuing mortgage backed securities.

Wouldn't it be better never to give them the chance to learn string theory (from the point of view of toasters and bombs)?
Most people in fact don't get the chance to learn string theory. The number of people that do is controlled by funding levels, and the political system adjusts those levels to get the number of people that they want. Which isn't high. Maybe a dozen a year.

This leads back to the earlier question of whether some "profound new useful math" actually benefits the CEO's direct needs.
If it didn't, they wouldn't be paying me as much as they do.

A lot of my thinking involves taking Marxist ideas and then figuring out how to make use of them. I'm very heavily influenced by Marx, Trotsky, and Chomsky, but the big difference is that since I grown up when the Soviet red dream was dying and the biggest political event in my life was when it finally died, I don't have very much support for using Marxist ideology to advance world revolution or overthrow the status quo.

So what I've done is to take Marxism and try to figure out to use it for my advantage. What does it take to get me money, and that involves understanding why people behave in the way that they do.


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