Is Email Making Professors Stupid?Roundup
tags: education, historians, technology, History Profession, professors
Cal Newport is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University. He is the author of six books, including Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (Grand Central, 2016), and Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, just out from Portfolio.
Donald Knuth is one of the world’s most famous living computer scientists. He’s known for his pioneering efforts to bring rigorous mathematical analysis to the design of computer algorithms. An emeritus professor at Stanford University, he’s currently writing the fourth volume of his classic book series, The Art of Computer Programming, which he’s been working on since the early 1960s.
Given Knuth’s renown, many people seek him out. If you’re one of those people, however, you’ll end up disappointed. On arriving at Knuth’s homemade Stanford homepage, you’ll notice that no email address is provided. If you dig deeper, you’ll eventually find a page named email.html which opens with the following statement:
“I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address. I’d used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime.”
Knuth does provide his mailing address at Stanford, and he asks that people send an old-fashioned letter if they need to contact him. His administrative assistant gathers these letters and presents them to Knuth in batches, getting urgent correspondence to him quickly, and putting everything else into a “buffer” that he reviews, on average, “one day every three months.”
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