"You and Your Research" – Hamming Watch/Discuss Party



This Sunday join a watching party for Richard Hamming's famous talk "You and Your Research" then discuss it with other LessWrongers.

Richard Hamming was a researcher at Bell Labs, who worked beside people like Claude Shannon and Richard Feynman. In this talk he gives advice, based on observing these people for many decades, on how not to merely do good work, but Great Work, the sort that Nobel Prizes commemorate.

It is a 45-minute talk that has been influential on many LessWrongers.

We're meeting in Walled Garden at noon PM (PDT) this Sunday:


13 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 2:07 AM
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Thanks for reminding me about this talk! I read it one more time just now and was struck by passages that I completely missed the first couple times:

Ed David was concerned about the general loss of nerve in our society. It does seem to me that we've gone through various periods. Coming out of the war, coming out of Los Alamos where we built the bomb, coming out of building the radars and so on, there came into the mathematics department, and the research area, a group of people with a lot of guts. They've just seen things done; they've just won a war which was fantastic. We had reasons for having courage and therefore we did a great deal. I can't arrange that situation to do it again. I cannot blame the present generation for not having it, but I agree with what you say; I just cannot attach blame to it. It doesn't seem to me they have the desire for greatness; they lack the courage to do it.

It seems an optimistic note, that some of what one lacks in ability or work ethic, one can make up for with courage, which one can train. And also:

For myself I find it desirable to talk to other people; but a session of brainstorming is seldom worthwhile. I do go in to strictly talk to somebody and say, ``Look, I think there has to be something here. Here's what I think I see ...'' and then begin talking back and forth. But you want to pick capable people. To use another analogy, you know the idea called the `critical mass.' If you have enough stuff you have critical mass. There is also the idea I used to call `sound absorbers'. When you get too many sound absorbers, you give out an idea and they merely say, ``Yes, yes, yes.'' What you want to do is get that critical mass in action; ``Yes, that reminds me of so and so,'' or, ``Have you thought about that or this?'' When you talk to other people, you want to get rid of those sound absorbers who are nice people but merely say, ``Oh yes,'' and to find those who will stimulate you right back. 

In other words, to be a good collaborator you have to contribute to the babble.

You're welcome. And wow, they're both great paragraphs. And I didn't remember either of those paragraphs either.

If you're fence sitting I've watched this talk in the past and it is quite good!

There's also a transcript: https://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.html

I've re-read it at least 5 times, highly recommend it.

The garden event (i.e. the url linked) says the event is at 11:00. I assume it's supposed to be noon, since both this announcement and the facebook event say so.

That’s right. I put the link earlier so people could get in before it started, but didn’t realize that makes the event say 11 too. Oops.

Is the idea to watch it when the event starts or to watch it beforehand?

Watch it at the event.

I will miss the beginning of this meeting. Can you share a video link so I can watch it in advance?

Unfortunately this is a bit too early for me at 4 am japan time but I'd be interested in similar future events. What's a good way to be alerted on future discussion events?

We do an event every weekend at this time, and we just make a post on the LW frontpage. We do this time because it's the best for both US + UK people, but I realize it doesn't work for folks in Japan alas.

We sometimes do events in the US evening (e.g. we did a New Year's party where like 200 people showed up) and that would be more like 12 noon Japan time.

I'll keep an eye out for any US evening events then, completely understandable to focus on americas/europe since most people there