Friday, October 22, 2010

The Thin Line

There's a thin line between scepticism and cynicism. Since it's our occupation to be on the leading edge of scepticism, we researchers often tend to cross that line. To be brieft, scepticism is good, because it earns us our bread. Cynicism is bad, because it makes us bitter, suspicious (of people, not just concepts), sometimes bitter and almost always unapproachable.

In our lab in IISc, I feel, we all used to suffer from the highest degree of cynicism. People were too eager to be looked at as top-notch computer scientists to each other. Lest they appeared as something else, they would refrain from talking anything else with each other apart from computer science, that too cutting edge. The show of intellectual vanity was rather ugly. And to see some really good, likeable people (author included) being consumed by it was disgusting. There could be, and happened, only one consequence. We were hardly interacting but in the shallowest of matters, because we just didn't have so much computer science in us that we could talking about only that. The plight was such people did their work as well-guarded secrets. I didn't have a clue what my neighbours were doing. I am sure, the ignorance graph was complete. The situation explains to a large extent why researchers are so often associal geeks. Being a researcher myself (of whatever calibre), I can vouch for it that no research subject is designed to make a person callous and ignorant about his physical surroundings and fellow-beings. It has to be a result of a deep insecurity which forces one to recede into a shell, to carry their laptops to meetings, and to get their coffee to their desks!

Researchers are humans. More than anyone, they ought to remember it themselves. And they shouldn't shy away from interacting with their peers on terms which don't re-inforce their image as authority in their field of study. There are other more valuable aspects of one's personality. Why not be comfortable with them?

What's this anxiety?

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