Thursday, May 25, 2017

Some Introspective Per ACM-ICPC World 2017 Finals.

Some people abroad sometimes ask: how come that Russia whose population is hovering slightly above 146 million mark still remains in a race in many truly hi-tech fields globally. Well, there is no secret here. Admiral Hyman Rickover knew it all along with his "Russian educational menace" as early as 1960.   
Obviously, many things go into the competitiveness, but one of the pillars of this competitiveness remains national educational level in STEM--Science, Technology, Engineering And Math. Mind you, not in journalism, music or political science. One of subdivisions of this STEM is the field of programming languages and software engineering. So, yesterday, the results of World Finals in International Collegiate Programming Contest 2017 have been published. Here is a screenshot of first 10 places.

Out of 10 first places, 4, that is 40%, are taken by Russia's colleges. Out of first 20, 7, that is 35%, are taken by Russians. This is what is called a preponderance. This absolutely doesn't mean that while traveling somewhere in Irkutsk (a lovely city, very sophisticated) or in Magadan (former capital of GULAG) and seeing Russian gopniks,    
This is a basic Russian model
These are Czech gopniks at their convention in Prague
you would expect them discussing peculiarities of formal logic going into program languages or methods of OOP (Object Oriented Programming). Not at all. But you may expect a very tough STEM curriculum in any Russian institution of higher learning in appropriate field and, also, in many public schools, including those in Magadan. Russians simply know how to prepare own elite. It is really very simple, basic statistics. As Clausewitz' dictum goes: the more nation is involved in war, the more numerous are the instances of military genius. The same applies pretty much to any field and it just happened so that it is STEM--always was, is and will remain so--that happens to be the most important of them. Humanities follow, in the end--the best philosophers are very often produced in the field of precise sciences. Be it Rene Descartes or one of the fathers of Russian Cosmism (and the father, one of, of spaceflight) Constantin Tsiolkovsky. So, technical nerds do have this knack for serious generalizations which transcend the world of pure numbers. Many of them wax philosophical and do it very often better than some Ph.Ds in philosophy. Indeed, who knows them other then some pretentious nerds, yet Doctor Michio Kaku is known globally and the whole world (yours truly included) reads his books and find them compelling not only in scientific but in a larger philosophical sense. 

So, there you go--some of the "secret" to Russians still being around in military, science, technology, economy, high art, what have you--teach them well, they will later pay it back by becoming excellent engineers, scientists, teachers, designers of name it. 

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