Browse Prior Art Database

Interviews with Edward Teller and Eugene P. Wigner

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129610D
Original Publication Date: 1989-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 2 page(s) / 17K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

JEAN R. BRINK: AUTHOR [+3]

Abstract

Question: Professor Teller, I wonder if you would like to say a few words about what you think are characteristics of our current educational system, things that you think might be improved or at least that we ought to recognize and evaluate. Teller: There is a very real problem. The United States used to be, by a big margin, the world's leader in technology. This is no longer so. We hear in computers a lot about competition, for instance, by the Japanese. That, I think, in part, is due to mistakes, not sufficient emphasis on theoretical and applied science in our educational system. But I think it is not just the educational system. It is a general cultural problem of which all schools and universities are a part. And I have two complaints: One is that people can be ignorant of very basic facts such as entropy, that it is growing all the time; such as the irreversibility of events, or even about relativity. We understand that if a person cannot spell, he is uneducated; but a person can be considered highly educated and intellectual and still not know simple facts about the physical world in which we live. That is a problem of sorts. There is another issue, and it is even more serious. People are saying to a greater and greater extent, or at least very loudly, that technology is dangerous. Today somebody came to me and asked me if computers are developed more and more, will that not be a danger? I believe the Japanese and the Soviet Union and many others have a great advantage; they know that technology is necessary for a good life, for many other things, even for intellectual growth. When I came to the United States more than 50 years ago, I believed that then technology was valued too highly in the United States. I have changed my opinion. I don't know whether I changed or the world changed. I believe, today, that in the United States, technology is not valued highly enough. And something I hope our universities will do is to tell the young people how very important the development of science and technology has to be and that science and technology are, in fact, inseparable.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1989 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Interviews with Edward Teller and Eugene P. Wigner

JEAN R. BRINK

C. ROLAND HADEN

Question: Professor Teller, I wonder if you would like to say a few words about what you think are characteristics of our current educational system, things that you think might be improved or at least that we ought to recognize and evaluate.

Teller: There is a very real problem. The United States used to be, by a big margin, the world's leader in technology. This is no longer so. We hear in computers a lot about competition, for instance, by the Japanese. That, I think, in part, is due to mistakes, not sufficient emphasis on theoretical and applied science in our educational system. But I think it is not just the educational system. It is a general cultural problem of which all schools and universities are a part. And I have two complaints: One is that people can be ignorant of very basic facts such as entropy, that it is growing all the time; such as the irreversibility of events, or even about relativity. We understand that if a person cannot spell, he is uneducated; but a person can be considered highly educated and intellectual and still not know simple facts about the physical world in which we live. That is a problem of sorts.

There is another issue, and it is even more serious. People are saying to a greater and greater extent, or at least very loudly, that technology is dangerous. Today somebody came to me and asked me if computers are developed more and more, will that not be a danger? I believe the Japanese and the Soviet Union and many others have a great advantage; they know that technology is necessary for a good life, for many other things, even for intellectual growth. When I came to the United States more than 50 years ago, I believed that then technology was valued too highly in the United States. I have changed my opinion. I don't know whether I changed or the world changed. I believe, today, that in the United States, technology is not valued highly enough. And something I hope our universities will do is to tell the young people how very important the development of science and technology has to be and that science and technology are, in fact, inseparable.

Question: May I also ask you, since this particular symposium is a commemoration of von Neumann, if you want to mention the kind of creativity, scientific creativity, that he represented.

Teller: Von Neumann was a man who loved to think. To think about everything, wherever logic or mathematics or thinking or even plain memory could be applied. Whenever his brain could get into action, he got an enormous amount of enjoyment out of it. I have a belief which I cannot prove; I am firmly convinced that talent is nothing more than enjoying that in which you are supposed to be talented. If you enjoy it, you will do...