Sunday, March 09, 2008


JSH: Making funding reductions smart

Congress is looking at excessive executive pay packages where failures in terms of how well their company does are getting TONS of money in the subprime mess, when they leave, as in CEO's getting mega pay to fail.

Wow! What a system. Fail and make out like a bandit. Gee, do you really think they EARNED that money?

If you do, want some swampland in Florida?

They rigged the system so that they would be paid even with failure.

So succeed or fail, they get paid.

Academics have the same system—succeed or fail, get paid.

I want to change that and have always needed your help. I see many of you as fakes in a fake system who teach fakery to students, where the good students leave as they figure it out, leaving duds.

So I can squeeze that system most effectively by convincing policy makers to remove your incentive—taking away your funding.

Then my analysis indicates the problem can begin fixing itself—fakes will have no incentive to do fakery for no gain, leaving room for real researchers who can prove themselves.

But there is always a risk in such an approach as you may kill valid research as well, so part of what I do is kind of a triage to make certain that doesn't happen and I'm confident, for instance, that you can zero fund in number theory and have no negative impact, while, I'd say, keep topology fully funded, but I wouldn't worry if there were sharp reductions there as well, as I think that science and engineering are the major drivers.

Ultimately the "pure math" debacle will be ended, and that argument that uselessness means something is good will die as it should.

The problem is, from a game theory perspective, that if you make a system where people need to convince others that their research is correct as there is no other measure in the real world, then the optimal path is to become convincing versus correct, which is seen in math society by the emphasis on style.

The natural evolutionary path of such a system is learning to convince, and being right is actually somewhat negative as a strategy as it takes so much energy.

So humanity came up with a system that preferentially selected people who can fake "pure research" and tend to be wrong, which is kind of funny in a way. But you see, our Universe has a sense of humor.

It's just not a human one.

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