Thursday, 30 August 2012

INDIAN ROLE MODELS - A COMMENT




 Hi Ajithan, 

Very good set of articles. I enjoyed reading them. Lot of original thinking and lucid write-up. 

I especially liked the one of intuition. There is a fair amount of research going on currently in cognitive psychology on this subject. I've done a couple of studies in this area. If you wish to, could send some references about the current thinking in this line of research. I think you would enjoy reading about "dual process" theories of cognition, that tries to link tacit-associative mode of perception and judgement with conscious-analytic mode. Recent studies in this area try to theorize and test on how these two modes are not necessarily at tension with each other, but rather, are constitutive of one another. [Akin to what Poincare once said: logic is the instrument of demonstration; and intuition, the instrument of invention. Demonstration and invention often co-evolve.] 


Regarding some of comments that I see in the blog - especially the one on making falsifiable claims/statements.. ... I think it is better to ignore them. These are typically made by "bullies" who hold onto a very idealized notion of science. What is currently happening in academia is that people's thinking is constrained, as they try to come up with "testable" hypothesis from the very outset. That stops them from making long stride associations. Indeed, the "science of association" is the mother of all sciences. Yes, falsifiaility is important in science, but that shouldn't in any way constrain initial theorization. Most modern scientific theories started with hopelessly un-testable hunches and imaginations. Finding a way to test it comes much later.  So, don't ever listen to people who ask you to "discipline" yourself and utter only "falsifiable" statements etc.

I also found this line in your blog about the lack of Indian role models in Science. While this might be true 20-30 years back, it is no longer the case. There are a number of Indian scientists - both in natural, behavioral and social sciences - who are well renowned in their own fields. 

For instance, in Physics, there are people like Ashoke Sen, T. Padmanabhan and others who have made original contributions. In Math and Statistics, there are people like C.R. Rao, Anil Nerode, and Thomas Anantharaman who are revered in their respective fields. In fact, Anantharaman's work on Bayesian inference is fundamental to modern  statistical theory. In Life Sciences, there are plenty of prominent figures such as Imran Siddiqui,  Sangeeta Bhatia, Ashtoush Tewari and more. Needless to say about Computer Science & Engineering, where Indians have made great stride in making fundamental, paradigm-changing contributions - from microprocessor design to computational algorithms. Even the current head of U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) is an Indian - Dr. Subra Suresh. There are also other important social and behavioral scientists. Social psychologists such as Nalini Ambadi and Mahzarin Banaji are doing wonderful research in the area of implicit cognition and bias. Their research on rapid decision making and spontaneous social judgement (via the "thin slicing" methodology that they had created ) is now having a big impact within entire social sciences.  sciences.  (see http://ambadylab.stanford.edu/index.htm and https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/). 

The issue is that we don't pay any attention to them. Indeed, how many of us have heard about Venkat Ramakrishnan before he won the Nobel?  Even V.S.Ramachandran was not at all known in India in his heydays, when he was already a big name in brain-behavior research. He became popular in India only in the recent few years, after his mainstream books and TED talks became famous. Other wise, he would also have remained in the dark.  

Most of the people whom I listed above don't write popular books or give TED talks. Their primary outlet is their specialty journal. But they do sometimes write in popular scientific magazines and blogs (Scientific American, Edge.org, thesituationist.wordpress.com etc.) to a general audience. In this Google age, it is very easy to find and get access to these articles and blogs. 

So yes, there are plenty of Indian role models in science. It is up to you to pick and choose on whom you want to emulate and whom you want to go beyond... 

All the best. And please be in touch. 

Regards,
Arvind
Dear Arvind,
       Thank you for your appreciation. And thank you for introducing a  lot of Indian research scholars and scientists seriously involved in scientific field. seems like I have been gravely ignorant, probably because my reading is largely limited to popular science as of now. I would sure try to follow most of them.
Affectionately 
Ajithan.J    

4 comments:

  1. no need to take this as a sign of ignorance or anything like that... at your age, i only know the names of cricket players.

    as a country, we have this hidden inferiority feeling that we haven't achieved much in the sciences. though there is definitely an element of truth to this, one shouldn't get overtly bogged down. i have seen people who got angry/bogged down by this fact slowly become dormant and de-generative, instead of being generative and productive. strange workings of the human mind, i guess!

    which is why i thought it is a good idea for a young and upcoming scholar to look at the works of other scientists and scholars who have accomplished something. would give us a frame of reference to work with/work towards..

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  2. http://scottbarrykaufman.com/article/study-alert-are-there-geniuses-among-the-apes/

    just stumbled..thought this will interest you..check this out aji..

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