Becoming a public intellectual

Few computer science academics have become public intellectuals. What is a public intellectual (PI)? Alan Lightman and Stephen Pinker explained it pretty well:

Such a person is often a trained in a particular discipline, such as linguistics, biology, history, economics, literary criticism, and who is on the faculty of a college or university. When such a person decides to write and speak to a larger audience than their professional colleagues, he or she becomes a “public intellectual.”

They went on to describe three levels of PI. At level 1, the PI speaks and writes for the public about his own discipline. At level 2, the PI speaks and writes about how his discipline “relates to the social, cultural, and political world around it.” At the level 3, the PI becomes a symbol for intellectualism and is invited to speak and write about diverse topics. Level 3’s include Noam Chompsky, Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrass Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Paul Krugman and – of course – Albert Einstein.

Becoming a level 3 PI is tall order. However, like aspiring to win a Nobel Prize, pursuing it makes for a great career even if you never quite make it. And besides, there’s no Nobel Prize for information systems or software engineering. Consequently, I’m starting this blog to record and promote my attempts at bringing design thinking and systems thinking into the popular lexicon.