Overproduction: a modern-day curse

Will is reporting on the upcoming death of print media: the current year seems to be a bad year for the printed media. The problem, of course, is that there are many good journalists who earn their salary by writting articles for newspapers. I think they are safe since I still enjoy very much reading Le Devoir at least once a week.

What bugs me is that I haven’t seen so much printed media since the web arrived. When I take the subway, there are people standing there and handing me out free newspapers. Once inside the subway, there are more free newspapers. Once I exit the subway, still more free newspapers. It seems we have more magazines than we ever did. Is there an overproduction crisis lurking?

Overproduction seems to be the curse of our era.

Universities in Montreal are building and building and building. They claim to lack room to store their labs and students. When you look at the actual statistics, you see a very slow growth in the number of students for some schools and, very often, a slow decrease. What happened in Canada is that the federal government got very excited about research in recent years: it so happened that they overtaxed us and they like to spend the money rather than return it. So, the government spent and spent and spent on hardware, new laboratories, new research chairs and so on. However, our good old federal government can’t sustain this level of activity nor does it claim it will. What do you think will happen when our government will stop investing in research? The universities will be left with large buildings filled with aging gear and they will have to suffer large maintenance costs while they’ll have less students than ever. What do you think will happen then?

I could also talk about the number of Computer Science conferences that keep on growing as if it is out of control. I could talk about a department’s home page reporting having over 120 Ph.D. students as if it is a great thing.

I predict that the next ten years will see many overproduction crisis. The net result is that simplicity will become fashionable in 2010 or 2015.

I’d be very surprised if we decided to hold fewer Computer Science conferences though. But maybe we can hold more virtual conferences? I know I could do without the air trips.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

One thought on “Overproduction: a modern-day curse”

  1. When I moved to Canada from Southern Africa back in 1986, I was given Globe and Mail and Toronto Star in the flight. One thing I distictly remember about these papers were how boring the writing was! First of all, the papers contained more than 60-70% ads. The rest of the articles were written by very bad writers. I had to force myself to read these newspapers. No wonder why the circulation of news media is going down in north America. Contrast this with South African paper. Relatively, they cost a lot more (5 rands when I last bought them, when teachers were making 600 rands per month). It is difficult to put down these papers when you start reading them.

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