Response to: The Value of Theoretical Research
Reading paulfchristiano's article the other day, I realized that I had had many similar discussions with myself, and have been guilty of motivated stopping and poor answers to all of them.
However, one major roadblock in my pursuing better answers, is that I feel that I have been "locked in" to my current path.
I am currently a mathematics Ph.D. student. I did not have a minor. I don't have significant programming skills or employment experience. I know nothing about finance. I know a lot about mathematics.
There is a shortage of intelligent, rational people in pretty much every area of human activity. I would go so far as to claim this is the limiting input for most fields.
However, "most fields" is not a very good tool for narrowing my search space; I have spent my entire life in school, and I like having structures and schedules that tell me when I'm doing productive things and that I've progressed to certain stages. I'm not ready to drop out and do whatever, and I don't have a particular idea of what whatever might be.
On the other hand, I currently have a variety of resources available to me. For example, I have a steady income (a grad student stipend isn't much, but it's plenty for me to live on), and I have the ability to take undergraduate classes for free (though not the spare time at the moment.)
My current intent is to continue and finish my Ph.D., but to attempt to take classes in other subjects, such as linguistics, biology and chemistry, and computer science which might lead to other interesting career paths.
Has anybody else had a similar feeling of being "locked in"? How have you responded to it? For those who have studied mathematics, are you still? If you continued, what helped you make that decision? If you stopped, what about that? What did you end up doing? How did you decide on it?