Online communication channels
I find myself unable to participate in most of today's the online conversations. What's the future of Twitter? I don't understand all the fuss, no matter who is the owner, fundamentally, nothing will change. The fundamental societal issues remain the same.
I don't have an opinion about other topics widely discussed online, either. And, excepting YouTube, I don't use any of the major social platforms.
Yet, being someone who uses the Internet every.single.day, I can't avoid the fuss and noise to some extent. Today, the same fuss and noise reminded me of a piece about email Prof. Donald E. Knuth wrote on his website.
If you want to write to Prof. Knuth, you have to use post mail. He does batch mail processing ... every six months. Write succinctly about The Art of Computer Programming (TAOCP), and he might reply—otherwise your letter will be used as scrap paper.
His secretary manages an email address. But then, he also warns you:
I DO NOT ANSWER UNSOLICITED EMAILS, nor do I respond to emails that were sent to my colleagues with a bothersome request for them to communicate with me.
Too grumpy, cocky, even arrogant?
The core of this article, in my opinion, is the reason he provides for doing all the above:
Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration. I try to learn certain areas of computer science exhaustively; then I try to digest that knowledge into a form that is accessible to people who don't have time for such study.
As email is now obsolete—for most people, not me. We can replace “Email” by Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, etc.
I recall this paragraph from time to time because, at the core, I am someone whose “role in life is to be on the bottom of things” as well. I am not as smart (genius?) as Prof. Knuth, it would be naive to pretend otherwise. Something as magnificent as TAOCP is definitely a tall order for me. Still, I feel I should concentrate on a single problem and spent the rest of my life trying to solve it—or somehow contribute to the solution.
Focusing on a smaller and reachable goal, proportionate to my own capacities, and remove all distractions, the noise.
What that is? That remains unbeknownst to me today.