Monday, April 07, 2008

Why didn't I ask some of those questions?

Warning: Sweeping generalizations follow. Please avoid if sensitive.

I just finished reading 'The Elegant Universe' by Brian Green and its one of the best books that I have read in a long time.

Apart from the theory itself which I shall save to another post what really caught my attention was the lack of references to Indian or for that matter any Asian names. Is it that we do not really work on such cutting edge research or we don't bother ourself with such work when there are matters of feeding oneself pending or quite simply among other things we just lack the basic faculty of asking the right questions?

There are lot of Indians in the US, both as citizens and students, this somehow seems to indicate to me that our innate ability to learn is more hard wired towards rote than anything else. The answer for this could simply be our traditional method of learning or this could be ingrained as a function of economic mobility.

By economic mobility I mean that innovation/thought always tends to gravitate towards the basic instincts of survival first and then to higher pursuits later. Different parts of India are perennially under a race, some a race for social mobility and others a simple race of survival, in such a scenario can cutting edge innovation occur? Sure it does, but it would be more likely to solve problems of everyday life rather than advanced theoretical physics. No offense to either.

Of course this is a rather simplistic view to take, characterizing a population with traits of an individual. The other explanation is probably more compelling, the learning by rote allows India to produce the worlds largest pool of 'English' educated labor, but does it mean that this pool can really work on all aspects of cutting edge technology?

My own personal sense of this is a firm no, the learning style it always occurred to me never gave me too many options of asking 'Why?'. It never prevented me ( thats why there are so greats in the country, its despite their training not because of it) from asking questions but does not really encourage it.

We are good, but we may not be good everywhere.

1 comment:

Pathik said...

I agree with you totally. Infact after reading Brian Greene's work I began thinking on similar lines. And at that time I could infact even compare my own situation- here I was, trying to forge a research career and do science, but everyone I met cared more about when I will finish my PhD ( for them PhD is like any other course, which you should 'finish and move on', and moving on meaning find a lucarative job) and when I will marry!! there I had it all - security- job, family, life- was more important to most people I encountered, than excellence in science or the joy of discovery.