Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thank you, Benoît

Benoît Mandelbrot has passed away. In reading this article, I ran into the following.

He called himself a maverick because he spent his life doing only what he felt was right and never belonging to a particular scientific community.

Well, exactly what would you do in your life, what you feel is wrong? It's so obvious that you should do what you feel is best, right? And yet, how many of us fall short of this standard for a multitude of excu I mean reasons? This statement reminds me of what Knuth said in an interview: that you should do what you think is valuable because then you will care and, in the long run, your efforts will show. And before you wonder if Mandelbrot had issues with "communities", check the actual Knuth quote:

[...] too often [...] people will do something against their own gut instincts because they think the community wants them to do it that way, so people will work on a certain subject even though they aren't terribly interested in it because they think that they'll get more prestige by working on it. I think you get more prestige by doing good science than by doing popular science because if you go with what you really think is important then it's a higher chance that it really is important in the long run and it's the long run which has the most benefit to the world.

Do not simply go along whatever the "majority" thinks, because clearly this "majority" is not producing original knowledge. Nobody will do your thinking and creating for you, that is something you must develop on your own. But, you know, the clock is ticking. Are you done yet?...

Thank you for fractals, Benoît!

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