Seth Roberts and research

Seth Roberts was one of my favourite bloggers. He recently passed away.

Seth was an original fellow. He completed his PhD and went on to secure a job at a leading university… only to effectively reject the academic model. He retired early.

I have exchanged a few emails with Seth over the years and was even featured on his blog once. I think I am not too far off if I describe Seth’s principles for good research as follows…

  • Be willing to spend a long time (decades) on one problem before you get results.
  • Seek useful ideas, not prestige.
  • Dare to attack problems as an outsider.

Was Seth a success in the end? His recent work certainly did not earn him any favours within academia. Yet I think that Ben Casnocha expressed how many of us feel:

Like many who knew him or read his stuff, I’ll miss Seth. He was a one-of-a-kind thinker.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

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

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