A Day's Worth
"Make someone's day better!"
...was my parting words to a friend today, as she left for her afternoon shift at the Science Center IT help desk. I meant them sarcastically. Everyone knows that IT help is useless, and that the people who go to the help desk with problems will never find help in this world or the next. (I may or may not still be being sarcastic, and should probably mention it before aforementioned friend murders me in my sleep...)
But it got me thinking. What am I doing with my days to make (other) people's days better? What is the marginal happiness that results from an hour of my time spent working on heterogeneous-source, free-text medical data mining? (For those of you who don't know, MDM was my summer research, and it's stuck around as a part-time thing I do sometimes during term-time.) What's the absolute utility of one hour spent ballroom dancing? Teaching at OGPS? Giving private tours of Harvard? Blogging? How about my CS degree? What's that worth to me? What's it worth to the world?
I don't have answers right now, but it seems like the matter is worth a good deal of thought. After all, it might be that the Operating Systems course I'm taking currently is going to change the world by giving me the tools to conduct serious academic research, get me a foot in the door of the Next Big Thing, and give me the leverage to change the course of the future. Or maybe I'll just never touch systems research again, and it's not worth my time to torpedo my GPA with a graduate-level course outside of my real field of interest. (For the record, I expect that both of these are exaggerations, and the truth lies somewhere between.)
If I'm not making the world better with my days, is that capital-w Wrong?
Again, it's a big question -- one that I'm likely to start plumbing in some depth as I get more comfortable writing about personal, philosophical topics. Stay tuned, as I try to articulate (over the coming weeks and months) the way I'd like to live my life.
As a spoiler, though, I do spend a great deal of time talking with Ben Kuhn, and his recent op-ed in the Harvard Crimson says a lot of intelligent things that I think are worth thinking about. In any case, it seemed mildly relevant. At some later point, I'm sure that I'll dive into the issue myself, in great depth.