Why not? With such a huge potential we would be done in a week or so 🙂 But more seriously: there is nothing wrong in moving to or discovering new fields quickly — this have a potential to discover a new point of view to “old” problems. Bad, perhaps, is only leaving these “old” fields much too quickly. Mathematicians counted these “moving phases” in centuries. We count them in years …

Actually, I don’t see that “Noam’s vs. Lance’s” view at the role of conferences is so much different. Noam says that “From my point of view the unique role of top conferences in CS is that of INFLUENCING THE AGENDA of the field.” And this is true! Lance says “By deemphasizing their PUBLICATION ROLE, conferences can once again play their most important role: Bringing the community together.” And this again true! These two opinions do not contradict but rather complement each other: influence the agenda and, at the same time, try to keep the community together. Let conferences just be what they should be by definition: “A meeting for consultation or discussion an exchange of views.” Not a place for “collecting boons” for ones carrier. N.B. I understand pretty well that this is only a doubtful wish …

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Actually, can you give some good examples rather than just patting ourselves on the back? There are also some examples of us NOT seeing the connections between fields. For example, the paper below claimed to solve a longstanding open problem in algorithms, but didn’t know it, so they thought their solution was correct:

“Vickrey Pricing and Shortest Paths: What is an Edge Worth?”

Thus, they may well have made some superficial connections, but that is about it.

]]>Indeed. We should all be working on proving lower bounds for multiplication.

Less sarcastically, we have in fact said several reasonable things in new fields. We have sometimes used old methods in new places, but we have also developed several new methods. We have also given back to math when we borrowed tools from it, and some of the new methods have found other surprising applications. Of the list above: “modern cryptography, quantum computation, online algorithms, streaming algorithms, and algorithmic game theory”: one can mention lattice-based crypto, Shor’s algorithm, tree embeddings, compressed sensing, PPAD as just a few examples of new methods. I think you are subconsciously comparing the best of your-favorite-area to the worst of “new field”.

On a related note, I think one thing our community values and does well is to make connections between seeming different questions. This happens so often because we go to the same small conferences and see each others’ talks, techniques, problems. This is another benefit of the current conference system that is often overlooked.

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