[FOM] Re: Example of beef: nonrigorous heuristics

Timothy Y. Chow tchow at alum.mit.edu
Wed Oct 29 20:58:42 EST 2003

Stephen G Simpson wrote:
> The program sounds interesting.  However, until somebody carries it
> out, or at least makes a start, there is no beef here.  What you are
> calling beef is purely imaginary.

Fair enough.  But let me suggest an analogy.  We are typically more
forgiving and encouraging of children than we are of adults.  If a
professional artist sells a careless scribble for a million dollars,
I might decry the state of modern art.  But if a four-year-old gives
me a similar scribble as a birthday present, I certainly do not sneer
at its inferior quality.

Similarly, I think that contributions to subjects that are still in
their infancy should be judged with more leniency than subjects that
are more mature.  Many successful endeavors exist today only because
a pioneer had the courage to take a promising but untested and immature
idea, and work at it for a long time (perhaps without success at first)
until it yielded fruit.

Not all of us are pioneers; there is nothing wrong with wanting to
focus attention on mature subjects.  It's also good to be skeptical
of untested ideas and to ask, "Where's the beef?"  However, I think
that some degree of tolerance should be exhibited towards new ideas
that might eventually lead somewhere, and that they should not be too
quickly and summarily dismissed.  I try to be tolerant even of people
that I don't think are comparably tolerant of my own favorite subjects.

I think you've shown some degree of tolerance in that you've taken the
time to consider the alleged "beef" that people have presented, and I
applaud this.  I think, though, that some of the more timid lurkers on
this list might be more willing to develop these preliminary ideas into
something more substantial if your comments focused more on the positive,
rather than emphasizing the inadequacy of the current state of the art.


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