maturity of disciplines

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maturity of disciplines

Postby hyksos on May 25th, 2020, 1:46 pm 

In this article I will be talking about the disciplines of mathematics, and various disciplines of science, such as cosmology, biology, computer science, and even "IT" = Information Technology.

Over the course of decades, (or centuries) a scientific, mathematical, or technology-driven human activity can transition from a state of immaturity to a state of maturity. There are general patterns to be gleaned from this transition. These patterns appear consistent from discipline to discipline.

When a discipline does mature, this creates changes both inside and outside of it, as well as having profound effects on laymen. In other words, when a discipline transitions to maturity, it has consequences inside the discipline (given) but also the changed reverberate through all of society.

In the roughest terms above the clouds, an immature discipline has the following fuzzy, general aspects:

  • The discipline is carefree, open, and free.
  • It accepts, or at least values, crazy zany border ideas.
  • It is welcoming of outsiders and laymen
  • Surrounding industries look like a cottage industry. The creators and designers are couple "guys in a garage" or a "few university students in a campus dorm."
  • Anyone with a few dollars and some time to spare can contribute.
  • The general atmosphere of the discipline is untainted, innocent, and even fun.

In contrast, a mature discipline exhibits the following attributes :

  • The discipline has rigid and formalistic methods.
  • The discipline no longer values crazy zany ideas.
  • It excludes laymen.
  • It is nearly impossible to engage in the discipline without a lot of initial capital investment.
  • The discipline only values the input of those who speak in its most technical jargon.
  • The general feeling of coldness, exclusivity, cloistered-ness.
  • Many laymen feel unjustly excluded from the "boy's club"
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Re: maturity of disciplines

Postby hyksos on May 25th, 2020, 1:56 pm 

Computer Science
Somewhere, circa 1976 to 1978 , a couple guys in a garage in New York decided that they would try to enter the Personal Computer (PC) market. (Pohlmon and Morse). They wanted to compete against the likes of Commodore-64s and Tandy computers. Microprocessors of the time were little un-cooled chips that fit on breadboards and had 8-bit registers. The economy-line computers of the day had 32 kilobytes of RAM, and the ultra deluxe PCs had a wopping 64 kilobytes of RAM.

Vertically-integrated behemoths (Intel, AMD) simply did not exist anywhere in the world. So the two guys in the garage were tasked with designing an Instruction Set Architecture, or "ISA". In less than two months, Pohlmon and Morse designed 8086 instruction set. Everyone involved believed this product would sell for about 3 years, and then go belly up after everyone got their profits.

Nobody in their most feverish of nightmares could have seen what was about to happen. Instead of going belly-up, the PCs of the 1980s exploded like a nuclear bomb. By 1996, the x86 instruction set architecture was the de facto industry standard of personal computers. If the "guys in the garage" had the slightest inkling of an idea that this was going to happen, they would have paused the design of x86 ISA until they could get the input of academic experts.

Second anecdote. Linux is the operating system that powers every Android smartphone today. Linux is also used in numerous rack servers that undergird the internet. The server for this very website likely runs Linux. So it would seem that Linux must be some sort of super Operating System designed by dozens of academics and industry experts in a giant international consortium held at the Hague. .. or so common sense would dictate.

The reality. Linux was born when a (single) student at a community college in Finland wrote a kernel for 80386 computers. His name was Linus Torvalds. (Linux is a portmanteau Linus+UNIX) The year : 1993.

Computer science was a fun, free, and open discipline from 1980 until about 1997. Anyone with a book on BASIC or FORTAN could code on the weekends and be a "hacker". Software was a cottage industry. A couple guys in an office could constitute a "game company". Laymen could contribute. Nobody was excluded. The discipline of computer science was in its immature phase.

Computer science has matured. Today we live in a world of Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. (for a brief review Zuckerberg=facebook, Bezos=Amazon, Musk=paypal ) Computer science lost its innocence more-or-less around the time when microsoft was sued by Netscape for attempting to bundle a web browser with Windows 98.

Today, in 2020, landing a programming job is extremely difficult. It so difficult in fact that "coding interviews" are a type of formalistic game played on recruits. Many books have been written about this "recruiting internship game". In silicon valley, young 20-something IT guys essentially live in packed dorms and sleep in bunk beds. The reason is because the rent in the San Fransisco Bay Area is outrageously high.

The IT discipline viciously excludes laymen. It is not sufficient to know a programming language today. A programmer is expected to know 3 or four languages fluently. And some frameworks like SQL database and git and VCS, and be able to navigate Linux, macs, and Windows fluidly.

The discipline is a boy's club. Tainted and soured by executive board rooms. Defiled by capitalism. Forget trying to enter the hardware market (as the 2 guys in the NY garage did)... to even enter the software sector requires enormous start-up capital.

One might suppose that the gaming industry is stil innocent and mostly like a cottage industry. They aree video games after all. How could such a thing become tainted?

Well, the game industry has also been defiled. Gaming lost its innocence again at a watershed moment. That moment was when the parliament of Belgium decided that the game Star Wars Battlefront II was quote "gambling targeted at children." The game was then banned nationwide. For those who follow such things, this was the epitome of paid DLC. (paid downloadable content). I will remind you that it was not some hothead on the subway saying this is gambling for kids. This was the fricking parliament of the nation of Belgium.
Last edited by hyksos on May 25th, 2020, 3:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: maturity of disciplines

Postby hyksos on May 25th, 2020, 2:18 pm 

Mathematics
In the most general terms, what a working mathematician does is write theorems. A theorem is essentially some true statement connected with its support by a formal proof. In course language, a mathematician writes proofs.

In 1890 proof writing was still considered a black art. It was supposed that what a was happening was the intuition and intelligence of the mathematician would work its magic, and his insights would lead the way. Math of the day was fancy and fashionable. Concepts like infinity were known, but were considered fuzzy philosophical things on the very edges of human understanding.

In 1890, mathematics was still innocent. It was an immature discipline. Some inklings of maturity existed at the time in Group Theory and Abstract Algebra -- but only as inklings.

By 1931, mathematics was fully matured. Proof writing , previously considered a fancy flourish of intelligence and intuition, was now codified as a system of rigid deductive rules on individual sentences. Proofs had been mechanistically formalized down into the individual characters appearing on each line. Mathematicians now called the system of connected theorems a Formal Deductive System. They had long since reasoned about how deductive systems operate and what they could do -- almost as if the system of mathematics were a giant machine. (...even a "computer" if you will)

Infinity (traditionally considered the most exquisite of philosophical ideas) was completely formalized in terms of the cardinality of sets. Mathematicians of the mature age could prove that there are different sizes of infinity. Different sizes of infinity , and further, that this idea is formalized : such mature reasoning excludes a sizable portion of the laity.

The latest demonstration of the maturity of mathematics, was the whole debacle surrounding Fermat's Last Theorem. The modern proof of that theorem is simply impossible to read for laymen. Many graduate students can't even read it.

The other anecdote showing the maturity of mathematics : Cryptography. In the 1990s several cryptographic algorithms were considered weapons by the United States DoD. A computer scientist was arrested and charged for posting a hash function online. His crime was the export of munitions without license. He was able to subvert the law by printing out the algorithm and publishing it in book form. Ironically, the First Amendment of the Constitution protects him from litigation. (long story short. the Federal government can't ban books).

In some sense, we are decades beyond maturity in mathematics. Laymen who may have felt formally excluded, now publicly express their own self-exile. "Everyone" knows how difficult higher math is. It's not a secret. There is no public shame in saying you are terrible at it or don't know it.
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Re: maturity of disciplines

Postby hyksos on May 25th, 2020, 2:22 pm 

Physics

Physics entered its mature phase in 1905 with Albert Einstein and relativity.

I present 85% of the text on this forum as supporting evidence.
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Re: maturity of disciplines

Postby hyksos on May 25th, 2020, 2:56 pm 

Cosmology

Image

The book shown above acts as a historical pincushion in the history of the discipline of Cosmology. Hawking's Brief History of Time acts as the pinnacle of Cosmology in its immature, fun, welcoming and inclusive age. In much the same way that the 1969 Woodstock festival acts the pinnacle of the innocent age of Rock-and-Roll. There were no police at that concert. No security gates. You came. You set up a tent. You smoked some mary jane, and listened to the music.

There is a perfectly good reason why Stephen Hawking's Brief History was famous in the time in which it was published. THe 1970s and 1980s were the innocent immature period of cosmology. Zany crazy ideas about the Big Bang, the beginning of time, the nature of space, were not only valued, but were openly invited. Anyone with a typewriter could submit their edge-of-academia ideas. The submissions would be read, and even make it to print.

Hawking's Brief History gives the reader a hefty and palpable sense of being engaged and included in the scientific enterprise. As you make it through the chapters, you feel as if you are literally walking alongside Hawking's wheelchair as you trapse around the campus of Cambridge --- whimsically discussing the nature of the universe.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the doors of cosmology were not slammed in the face of layman. Cosmology was not a boy's club where only the educated elite could enter. The reason is because the discipline had not matured.

Cosmology today is cold, exclusive, and feels like a military base surrounded by concrete barriers and barbed wire. Laymen and their ideas about time are not being openly censored (as some would protest) , but instead such zany philosophical ideas are simply no longer valued.

Image

Cosmology has entered a completely different phase in its history. It is in a mature phase now. No longer valuing the crazy zany ideas of laymen, for better or worse, the discipline is now heavily data-driven. Cosmologists are obsessed with billion-dollar telescopes kept in low earth orbit. Several of such floating telescope labs perform galaxy surveys. The surveys take years to complete as the satellite telescope sweeps over swaths of the sky. These observations are beamed to a laboratory below, where they are backed up into gigantic databases. Statisticians and technology gurus pour over this data, attempting to glean insights from them only obtainable with statistical software suites.

To some degree the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope marks the watershed moment where cosmology turned to its new historical phase. When the Hubble started producing images, cosmology quickly turned mature.

One galaxy survey generated so much data that there were not enough human beings in the lab to digest all of it. So they turned the database over to the public by publishing it online. Teams of laymen, with no credentials at all, examined the database and found things unknown to science. One example is the discover of green pea galaxies. These are galaxies that, for one reason or another, have an unusual amount of elemental oxygen. This causes them to appear green in true color photos. Green peas were not the discovery of academics or researchers. They were found by people outside of academia.

One might wonder if this is all bad, or to what degree that layman can participate, if they can participate at all. No private sector endeavor can hold a candle to the billions of dollars required to design, construct, launch, and then curate and commission an orbiting telescope. Nevertheless, the internet has shown me beautiful photographs of the sun, the moon, galaxies and even nebula that were taken by long-exposure telescopes. Telescopes of reasonable price in people's back yards.

Here is a recent example : https://www.reddit.com/r/space/comments/gpwh3m/i_was_fortunate_to_have_been_photographing_this/
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Re: maturity of disciplines

Postby hyksos on June 1st, 2020, 2:02 am 

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Re: maturity of disciplines

Postby hyksos on June 6th, 2020, 5:23 am 

He built his own observatory in the desert.

https://www.reddit.com/r/BeAmazed/comme ... _so_i_can/
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