何毓琦的个人博客分享 http://blog.sciencenet.cn/u/何毓琦 哈佛(1961-2001) 清华(2001-date)

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已有 4906 次阅读 2020-5-10 06:58 |个人分类:S and T|系统分类:海外观察

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More on “Tutorial on Solving a Complex Problem”

I wish to say something about the origin of the writing of the above mentioned article http://blog.sciencenet.cn/home.php?mod=space&uid=1565&do=blog&id=1232111 . My last research topic known as ORDINAL OPTIMIZATION from 1992-2009, and in my own humble opinion, is the most practical and useful thing I did in my career. My grandson-in-law to be (due to postponed wedding date on account of the pandemic crisis), Easar Forghany and a young rising engineer, asked me to explain what I do/did for a living. Naturally I was happy to oblige. In the course of discussion, being in industry he ask a simple question as to how this (Ordinal optimization) might be applied to the current national problem of the pandemic crisis. This caught me off guard since I was so intent to explain to him the beauty of my proud theory, I momentarily forgot the ultimate customer my theory supposed to serve – the public. This brought back memories of my several decades of consulting for industry. Thus, instead of dismissing the question as irrelevant and speculative, I began to think as a consultant who is being paid to solve the problem of the client. 

More importantly, this question/answer illustrates one important point. In our school life and education, almost all our training are exercises in answering question (i.e., solving problems posed by others). Schools seldom (and only until in a good ph.d program) train us to ask the right questions which is often more than half the battle. If I did not start to answer this question about “what the theory is good for?.  My blog on “Tutorial on Solving a Complex Problem” would not have been written. Judging from the readers’ responses since posting, I am finally starting to answer the important question above as well as serving the purpose of my profession

As of this morning (less than 50 hours since posting), my article has racked up nearly 3000 reads. Thus, writing the article clarified my own thinking and taught myself something - how to apply the theory to a real world problem - a question a theoretical or academic engineer should never forget. Unfortunately, the reward system of Academia do not emphasize this point enough. I want to thank Easar sincerely for bring me back down to earth.

As to the original blog article, one more point worth re-emphasizing, and I shall quote my answer to one of the very valid comment therein

“When you come down to it, “Operations Research OR” is just intelligent common sense plus some elementary mathematics. Smart officials can practice OR without knowing the terminology and/or discipline. I am not surprised. What an academic discipline does is to codify the tradition and experience so that even not as smart people can learn and practice them. Thus experience are turned into knowledge. You don’t have to re-invent and re-learn them each time.”

That is how progresses in civilization were made.




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