?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Inefficiency

There have been so many times in my life that I have bemoaned inefficiency. Both my own and others. I look at my long list of unfinished projects and the semi-chaos of my office, and I wonder if I am worth what I am paid for the amount of useful knowledge I produce.

I don't know whether to feel better or worse as I scan the contents of the dozen or so journals I look at on a regular basis. My reaction to 99 out of 100 articles is usually, "Who would give a shit about this?" There was a phrase from a book I read decades ago that I think represents the triviality of most of what academics produce, something like, "Laboratories labor and bring forth microscopic mice."

I try to comfort myself by reminding myself that this is just the way life is. Thousands of scientists flounder about, exploring things from a variety of angles, and only rarely will something of great value emerge from all of this activity. If we had a formula for guaranteeing great scientific discoveries every time we undertake research, we could just apply it and very quickly increase useful knowledge.

In some ways, the progress of science is like the evolution of life itself. Amongst all the varieties, some are better able to cope with the challenges of survival and reproduction and therefore become more frequent in the next generation. But the surviving forms are far from perfect, full of useless junk DNA. They are only "good enough" to get into the next generation, just as some articles are "good enough" to get into the journals.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
queenlyzard
Feb. 27th, 2010 08:33 am (UTC)
I like that analogy!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )