Panel discussion ARS'97

Wolfgang Slany (ars97@dbai.tuwien.ac.at)
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 21:45:58 +0100


I would like to propose the following subject as theme for the panel
discussion (forum with sandwiches) at ARS'97. Please take it with a
grain of salt :-)

IMHO, research in computer science fields such as "Approximate
Reasoning in Scheduling", and maybe in science in general, can
basically be split into four categories that do not much overlap:

[] the Magi in their Ivory Tower: people therein produce beautiful,
even wonderful theories (l'art pour l'art), their main aim being the
pursuit of happiness (and the publication of their theories in
high-impact journals :-), while holding in contempt the messy other
parties, and rightly so!

[] The Potato Growers: those people are mainly interested in solving
real applications. They do not expect much from the other parties,
which is based on their bad experience. They can be very blunt in
their methods: I recently went to visit some manager from industry who
had a huge poster with Terminator II: Judgement Day behind his desk,
where Arnold's face was replaced by the one of that manager.

[] The Techno-Bills and System-Dilberts: they usually just believe in
their own method, often quite unaware of what is going on next
door. Basically, they have a hammer, and everything looks like a
nail. Actually, most people in computer science are locked in
here. The hammer could be "object-orientation" or you-name-it. Now I
feel very guilty myself :-)

[] The Good Ones: A minority interested in ethical and social
issues. Usually ridiculized or, more often, totally ignored by the
other three groups. Do they matter?

There are people and projects that try to cover all four
categories. Some have been very successful in doing so, but required
an enormous effort to make them happen. A (typical?) instance could be
the Manhattan project. Well, anyway, I think that we should try to
converge to the center of the four disjoint categories in order to
really produce something of value. Others may of course violently
disagree (that's perfectly all right with me), arguing for instance
that theory should absolutely be left free; or that, in reality, the
real work is all done by the Techno-Bills, and that the only method
that really works is probability theory; or that ethics really matters
most; or that, actually, the only thing that counts at the end are the
applications; whichever you prefer ...

I choose this subject because I really believe it touches everyone, is
highly relevant (e.g. for funding), is currently hotly debated on the
internet, and simply could be a lot of fun to discuss. Therefore,
please do not be be offended by the satirical tone of my words. They
are formulated in this way on purpose to spark controversy and init a
successful panel discussion at ARS'97.

If you want to read on about above debate (with statements from more
serious voices), please take a look at the following references:

Theory of Computing: Goals and Directions, by Aho, Johnson, Karp,
Kosaraju, McGeoch, Papadimitriou, and Pevzner.
(Motto: closely link theory with applications)
ftp://ftp.cs.washington.edu/tr/1996/03/UW-CSE-96-03-03.PS.Z

Theory of Computation: A Scientific Perspective, Goldreich and
Wigderson.
(Motto: don't mess with theory, it's just perfect)
http://theory.lcs.mit.edu/~oded/toc-sp.html

More links and ongoing discussion (theory oriented):
http://www.eccc.uni-trier.de/eccc/info/actual.html

Now, in order to make this truly a _great_ panel discussion (I have
already witnessed some, so I know how it _can_ work and how not), I
would like to ask everyone of YOU whether YOU would like to
participate as a panelist. If yes, I would like to ask you to send me
a short statement with your position regarding above subject (max. 10
lines) until the end of this year so I can organize a well-balanced
panel.

Comments or proposals for other subjects are welcome and can be sent
either directly to me (wsi@dbai.tuwien.ac.at) or to the ars
mailinglist if you want your opinion distributed to all participants
and interested persons (ars@dbai.tuwien.ac.at).

Best regards,

Wolfi

--
Wolfgang SLANY, Email-address: mailto:wsi@dbai.tuwien.ac.at
Technical University of Vienna E184-2 TEL: +43-1-58801-6123
Paniglgasse 16, A-1040 Wien, Austria     FAX: +43-1-5055304
WWW homepage: http://www.dbai.tuwien.ac.at/staff/slany.html

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