Charles Pillsbury III

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Ph D? Probably not for me

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To earn a Ph.D., one must accomplish two things. First, one must master a specific subject completely. Second, one must extend the body of knowledge about that subject.

[From Notes On The PhD Degree]

This is a great concise definition of a Ph D. I would love the process of mastering a specific subject, but mostly I’m a generalist. I like to learn a lot about a lot, but rarely do I want to learn everything about anything. The part I would enjoy the most is the extending the body of knowledge about a given subject. I understand that a large part of why they require you to master the subject first is because otherwise you’re prone to doing a lot of re-work that others have already done.
While this is beneficial to using a Ph D as measurement of how much an individual knows about a given area, is this the best way to extend the knowledge in the fields? Obviously undergraduates, and even high-school kids, can contribute to the body of knowledge, but is there a propensity for knowledge gained by Ph D students to be more the iterative type than the revolutionary type? Is there a readily available (hint hint Google, this is a perfect project for you) means of gathering the information needed in a given area? I guess that a master list of “things we don’t know” is less useful for revolutionary knowledge expansion than a list of “things we don’t know that we don’t know” would be.
As a side note, I would love to see a book or course available that would give a baseline apocalyptic rebuild scenario. If 80% of the world died in a plague, and all of the technologies stopped working today, how long would it take “us” to rebuild society and technology to a level that would be even vaguely close to what we have now? I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to smelt iron ore (hell I’m not even sure I phrased that right), let alone develop the processes enough to be able to build an engine, let alone develop microchips.

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August 10th, 2008 at 7:38 am

Posted in Blog Entry, Misc

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