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Computer Science quote

Thought I would share this interesting quote I read at http://www.dotpoint.com/xnumber/mechanical1.htm

"For it is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labour of calculation which would safely be relegated to anyone else if machines were used."

Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz - 1685

Matthew Lock
Thursday, June 06, 2002

VERY cool quote!

Nat Ersoz
Thursday, June 06, 2002

Working for THE MAN, that's what the quote is really saying.

It could be requoted as:

For it is unworthy of rich men to lose hours like slaves in the labour of calculation which would safely be relegated to slaves if machines were used.

Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz was a fascist.

Tony
Thursday, June 06, 2002

Tony really does go to the library  :)

Me, I haven't read much... guess it shows.

Nat Ersoz
Thursday, June 06, 2002

Even though I agree with Tony's interpretation of the quote I would not go so far as to call Leibniz a fascist. Rather he was a man of his times, when social status, wealth and education of a man were closely connected.

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Thursday, June 06, 2002

Sorry, I don't think the Leibniz quote has anything to do with real slavery.  As most of you probably know, Leibniz was a mathematician and a philosopher. (Invented/developed calculus at the same time and independently of Newton.)

Anyway, the quote seems best understood as saying something like this: 

"It doesn't seem right that a genius should have to waste his time doing simple manual calculations, when a clerk could be paid to do them if there were a machine available to do the calculations."

He's not talking about putting anyone in slavery to do calculations.  He's just saying that manual calculations need to be made in order for the mathematicians to work out and test their great insights, and that it wouldn't take a mathematician to do these calculations if somebody would make a machine for it.  Thus, mathematicians would be "freed" to work on the really interesting things if machines were available to hire non-mathematicians to do the numerical calculations.  It's a simple division of labor idea.  Nothing to do with "slavery" at all. 

In the present day, his idea would be akin to a very common practice:  many professional people have secretaries.  The secretaries devote their time to aiding the professionals on tasks where the specific knowledge of the professional isn't needed, thus allowing the professionals to devote their time to "higher" tasks.

There's a little dig in Leibniz about "excellent men" dealing with "higher ideas".  That doesn't seem too bothersome to me, although I guess it's not "politically correct."

Herbert Sitz
Thursday, June 06, 2002

It would be a waste of time for the people who created the http spec to create actual html pages!

Daniel Shchyokin
Thursday, June 06, 2002

Yes maybe you are right Daniel, a world class chef does'nt dice carrots.

Tony
Thursday, June 06, 2002

>Yes maybe you are right Daniel, a world class chef does'nt dice carrots.

At least not any longer :-) You can be pretty sure though that he did dice thousands of carrots till he got there.

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Friday, June 07, 2002

OTOH, dicing carrots -- as part of being a low-level cook in a kitchen -- is part of the process of proving that one is willing to go through the less interesting jobs to get to the more interesting ones.  It's part of the natural selection process of selecting people willing to *work* at being a chef.  But a good chef doesn't have to go through the process of dicing carrots, or stirring soups, or whatever, to be able to invent tasty recipes.

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, June 07, 2002

I would say that the there are two big differences between
Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz  and the chef/http spec thing:

1. Most people on this board would say: dice carrots first-> become great chef, Leibniz probably meant some people are born (as in nobility/privilage not talent) to be chefs, others to  dice carrots (thats why we have liuetenants in the army).

2. That the goal of becoming a great chef/thinking high and mighty thoughts is to benefit oneself (cultivate oneself) not to help society or even make a buck (nobles don't need to make money)

I think the quote still holds water in the modern context though

Daniel Shchyokin
Friday, June 07, 2002

Tony, read about Leibniz philosophy conception. Your underestanding of the quote tell only about your ignorance.

Sergey
Saturday, June 08, 2002

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