(Does nature ‘run programs’? And, if it does, are the ‘algorithms’ any good?)
So, what is an algorithm?
No, not that; this is a far more fundamental question. What IS is algorithm? Animal? Vegetable? Mineral? Ah …
OK, start with something simpler; often the first class discussion on a pure maths degree … What IS a number? How would you answer that? Now, if you’ve pointed at something, perhaps even pictured something, you’re wrong. Continue reading
It’s generally accepted that making education ‘relevant’ is a good thing for the classroom. Usually, this means finding practical applications for theory. But how much of a problem is it when our ‘real world’ examples aren’t as ‘real’ as they might appear? How important is the ‘Reality Gap’?
A universal complaint of students, whether at school, college or university, is that they often don’t see the relevance of some of the material they study. “When am I going to be doing this in a real job?” is a typical question. There are three broad categories of response from the teacher; bluntly and clumsily characterised as follows:
- “You’re getting an education that shows your capability at this level. The content doesn’t matter. You’ll be trained to do a particular job when you’ve got one.”
- “You might only use about 10% of what you’re learning now in the real world but you don’t know which 10% it’s going to be and your 10% will be different to everyone else’s 10% so we have to do all this stuff.”
- “Well, here’s an example of how this might be used in the real world.”
(A good teacher would add a considerable degree of finesse to these answers, of course.) Ignoring the merits and demerits of 1 and 2 entirely, how best to achieve 3 presents some interesting challenges because, much as we might like to pretend otherwise, the real world is a terribly complicated place, in which the textbook usually only gets us so far … Continue reading