We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How much smart is enough smart ....Is smartness contextual?

Are PhD's bound to be really smart people? I struggle with this question many a times. Largely because of the type of activities that I see many PhD's getting into.

A PhD is supposed to give a person exclusive depth of knowledge in a particular area. A PhD is supposed to bring out new knowledge and expand the horizons of already known knowledge.

However, how about common sense and general knowledge? Should a PhD who is so well equipped in a single subject not have interest in other subjects? For example lets consider a Science PhD student. The advantage of being a scientific PhD student is other areas of studies such as the Social Science, Humanities could be understood by these students, unlike the other way round. So a Science PhD student can understand what social science states by reading relevant books, but a social science student can not understand lets say what a Computer Science PhD subject states. If this is the case, do PhDs with Science background really take interest in other studies and try to have an impact in the general fields like common problems that many societies face? I know some Computer Science PhDs getting interested in socio-economic problems and trying to make an impact, but they are a very small minority.

A PhD in any subject is supposed to give the person the training to do research .  Research is supposed to be driven by curiosity and a drive to understand the answers to unknown problems. However, how many PhDs try to take it beyond their subject matter?

For example. as a PhD student one often rides bicycles. Some of these bicycles are really really crappy, so much that the amount of effort put in to go from place A to place B is enormous. Only if the student pays a little attention to get it in better mode, the outcome would be by and large much better. However, many times I have observed total lack of ignorance to such simple things. So the PhD student might be doing a PhD in optimization theory and publishing papers in related areas, but he might not apply it to solve his daily optimization problem of making a better cycle. Is that smart?

I have always come across these kind of examples. What kind of explanation could be given to such kind of a behavior? Is it that these things do not matter, as these people are so engrossed in their bigger vision kind of things. Really? I have no rational explanation.

This brings me back to my main question how smart is really smart. And how should smartness be quantified. 

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