September 28th, 2005

pce

The Age of Trivialization

Visit the local bookstore and you would see many books whose title says:


Learn XYZ in 24 hours

A kid who was in the 2nd year of Engineering (and who it was later learnt had never written anything more complex than a `factorial') comes to me and says:


I have finished C and C++ in school and want to 
move over to something more advanced - do you have anything to offer?

A final year CS student placed with a big MNC comes to me and says that he wants to `improve' the C compiler on Linux as part of his project - that too in one month's time!

Do we see a common pattern here? We live in a world of astounding technological complexity - something as commonplace as the mobile phone is the result of advances in mathematical and physical sciences a proper understanding of which would require advanced degrees and many many years of toil. Read the source code of the GNU C compiler and you will see atleast one file which contains a few pages of comments referring to articles in prestigious journals - the theoretical background required for understanding the code! It's not surprising that the common man is not aware of these things; but what is really pathetic is the fact that most students of technology themselves tend to trivialize technology.

What might be the reason behind this? Of course, ignorance plays a big part. Next comes the print as well as visual media where technology is `glamourised' and is presented as something `easy'. This is carried over in part to the teaching profession also where the emphasis is on watering down things to such a level that even the least intelligent student finds everything `easy' - the objective of teaching seems to be shifting from challenging the student intellectually to making him `happy' and satisfying his ego. I am beginning to see the birth of a new generation of students who sincerely believe that what they don't know is not really worth knowing - I am frightened!