Tom Pittman's Professional Goals



I have one long-term secular goal in life, which is to make the world a better place, preferably by using my unique and God-given skills and resources to their best advantage. Lacking independent means, I must accomplish this within a nexus of circumstances where I find myself, by adapting those circumstances to serve the goal rather than yielding to impulses to gratify short-term selfish motivation.


I have a PhD in "Computer and Information Science". The name is significant. The department name when I started was "Information Science" because we deal in information. Computers are a technology, information is the science behind the technology, the way electrical engineering is a technology built on the science of physics. Unfortunately some people were confusing the science of information with the lesser degree in "Information Systems" which deals with business uses of computers, so they added the word "Computer" to the department name and the degree.

I have a mind uncompromised by mind-bending substances. The PhD is evidence of its use, but not proof of its continued availability. That can only be inferred from a lifetime of creative productivity.

I have been fluent in several languages over the course of my life, which exposes my understanding to a diversity of perspectives and ways of seeing things. The beauty of logical and mathematical sciences (such as used in computers) is that they are consistent. Any proof not based on fallacy can prove the same theorem. People who have difficulty reasoning along one track, can arrive at the same theorem by another track. Recognizing this universal consistency in a context of absolutes (otherwise known as theorems and tautologies) enables me to help people the way they need to be helped.


The world is made up of people, so encouraging and training people to think (use their minds productively) is the best way to make the world a better place. Teaching is a profession that achieves this end.

The most effective mode of teaching is Socratic, one-on-one elicitation of the reasoning capabilities of the student by leading questions. The lecture method of teaching is a good way to get them started with the basic facts and framework they need to build their rational processes upon, but independent directed research is the final objective.

There are also technologies that changed -- and can still change -- the world for better. The computer is one of those, but only as it became affordable in the mid-1970s. There are several technologies that worked together with Moore's Law to give that result. As a peripheral participant, I was close enough to see how the confluence of events and purpose achieved that end, but far enough to be free to pursue my own contributions.


The first generation of computers were organized around (1) lights & switches. The second generation began with the unix insight that everything is a (2) file. Apple invented the third generation with the (3) event-driven model in the Macintosh, but then retreated (apparently for financial reasons) to the older unix model, while Windows continues to evolve slowly towards the third generation. I would like to pick up the baton Apple dropped and carry it forward to where the next great insight can build a fourth generation on it. This vision is described in OS for People, with an early prototype described in MOS.

There are side trips into bioinformatics, usable programming language design and machine translation of natural language. There is more to do than I can accomplish in a lifetime, so I can afford to focus on something compatible with the agenda of whoever is willing to work with me.

Tom Pittman
2008 October 18