Do you really have to throw up to be a researcher?

Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.

— Dante Alighieri

I recently listened to a talk about somebody’s experience as a computer science researcher. The argument was that research is ultra-competitive, because you fight against people that are smarter than you and work harder than you (think nights and weekends) for very few available positions. Therefore, you have to consider yourself as a professional athlete, i.e. choosing a lifestyle that serves your only purpose in life: succeeding. Also, professional athletes throw up when they train really hard but then they train even harder. So much for elegance.

Needless to say, this vision of life is disgusting from every point of view. Ok, in academic research the hours are long and the pay is low, but what about the joys one could find in science? There was nothing about the beauty of a proof, the elegance of a piece of code or the fun of technology. Apparently there is nothing more to life than getting a better position, and to me this is about as un-inspirational as it gets.


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