Cause area : Fundamental Research

by amit.chilgunde1 min read6th Apr 20213 comments

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I believe Fundamental research i.e. research into fundamental fields WITHOUT a prior agenda (of solving a specific pre-determined problem) is one of the, if not the, most important field we as mankind should be investing in. It is only this kind of research that has the best chance to produce solutions for problems that we currently face, and more importantly for new problems we will face in the future. 

The example physicist David Deustch gives is that of how research into the esoteric properties of uranium in the early 20th century (just for the sake of research i.e. curiosity, without a prior agenda) led to nuclear energy a few decades later. 

We currently face several existential threats- climate change being one of them. However to think these will be the last existential threats or that we know of all possible future existential threats would be naive. Our best defense against future unknown existential risks is again - fundamental research - which helps us understand the nature of reality and in the process come up with solutions for problems.

So here's to research for the sake of research into the fields of physics, biology, chemistry, material science, engineering etc. - our best bet to secure the future of humanity.

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Sorry, but I've downvoted this post. Generally speaking, I think that it is very possible that some fundamental research is extremely important but I don't think that this post adds value to this discussion.

The two major problems that I see in this post, besides its brevity (which might actually be good in some cases!), are

  1. One-sidedness. This post seems to try and persuade that fundamental research is important, rather than assess it truthfully. I find that such posts usually don't help me, because I expect there to be counter arguments which are omitted.
  2. Lack of engagement with relevant arguments. This topic has been addressed before, and I heavily encourage you to search more on the forum (you can start with this tag).

I would really like to see more discussion on this topic and I definitely encourage you to read and write more about it! (A potentially fun experiment I'd like someone to do is to have a Change My View thread about such a topic; Perhaps you can have one on the importance of fundamental research. I'd also naturally be very interested in any independent research or a synthesis of information on this topic if you are up to do more work).

  1. I understand your critique about the "format" of the post. Perhaps it could have been better with a more detailed analysis,  or perhaps brevity is good.
  2.  However, my intention is to highlight this topic and prompt a discussion, and  disagreements with the ideas themselves (rather than the format and the structure of the post).  So in essence this can of course be a Change my View thread without explicitly having the need to mention that. I guess that is what forum posts are for - to prompt a discussion. 

I have searched on the forum, and while there are discussions about scientific progress and its importance, I haven't seen a post with the argument that I am making i.e. fundamental research (without a set goal) is important (or maybe this was discussed and I just haven't managed to find it).

I take your points, but would rather hear your thoughts about the idea itself :)

You can read some of my thoughts on relevant issues here, an analysis of the value of medical research here, and very relevant discussions under the Differential Progress tag