永遠二十三歲

1994年,經濟學家Avinash Dixit回首自己28年的研究生涯。他發覺在自己的學術起步階段,經濟學界陷入一片混亂:

… research was almost required to be “relevant.” Most theorists were affected by the atmosphere…

但,”Looking back on those years, one sees that much of the ‘relevant’ research in economics left little lasting mark.” 即使Dixit自己當初迎合潮流的作品也難逃厄運:”My ‘relevant’ work is mostly and justly forgotten.”

Dixit給新人的建議是:選擇題目的時候,不要考慮問題的social importance,而應該做”what captures your intellectual interest and creative imagination.” 當然,如果你感興趣的問題剛好重要,那就謝天謝地了。

持有相同觀點的還有物理天才費因曼(Feynman):

There’s no importance whatsoever. I’m just doing it for the fun of it… And before I knew it… I was “playing” — working, really …. It was effortless.

科學史領域上無人不曉的Thomas Kuhn也認為,對一個領域做出突破性貢獻的人通常是那些從事常規研究(normal research)的人:

Only investigations firmly rooted in the contemporary scientific tradition are likely to break that tradition and give rise to a new one…. At least for the scientific community as a whole, work within a well-defined and deeply ingrained tradition seems more productive of tradition-shattering novelties than work in which no similarly convergent standards are involved. How can this be so? I think it is because no other sort of work is nearly so well suited to isolate for continuing and concentrated attention those loci of trouble or causes of crises upon whose recognition the most fundamental advances in basic depend. … The scientist requires a thoroughgoing commitment to the tradition within which, if he is fully successful, he will break.

Dixit的好建議不止這些,但千言萬語,他認為最重要的一點是:

Always work as if [you] were still twenty-three.

(以上文字多數摘自:Dixit, A., 1998. “My system of work (not!)” in Szenberg, M. (ed) Passion and Craft: Economists at Work. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.)

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